How To Lose Weight

Do you feel less like your arse is attached to you and more like it’s following you? Have you reached an age where you look in the mirror and think ‘what the hell happened?’ Do you find yourself  holding in your stomach to try and avoid fat rolls and muffin tops? Have you gone from slinky and seductive to baggy and comfy? Have you got wobbly bits that you’d rather you didn’t have? If the answer to any of these questions is yes then you’re probably thinking that you could do with dropping a few pounds…..

Do you feel less like your arse is attached to you and more like it’s following you? Have you reached an age where you look in the mirror and think ‘what the hell happened?’ Do you find yourself  holding in your stomach to try and avoid fat rolls and muffin tops? Have you gone from slinky and seductive to baggy and comfy? Have you got wobbly bits that you’d rather you didn’t have? If the answer to any of these questions is yes then you’re probably thinking that you could do with dropping a few pounds…..

DietIf that’s you then, firstly, stop thinking about ”weight loss”; ‘losing’ something has very negative connotations, instead think about gaining health and life as that’s what you’ll actually get if you’re carrying too many extra pounds. How great is that? You’ll actually be getting something and not missing out on something! Also, forget the concept of ‘going on a diet’ as this won’t be something that you’ll start and then stop when you’ve reached your goals, you’ll be making changes, doing a few things differently and that’s all…

Secondly, ask yourself the question ‘do I really want to lose weight’; there’s a big difference between thinking that you’d like to do something and actually wanting to do it. It’s a reason why a lot of diets fail, you need to make a commitment to changing your eating and exercise habits and a half-hearted effort just isn’t going to get you there.

If you’ve made the commitment then the next thing is to be honest with yourself about what you eat and how much exercise you do. Many people find that writing down what they eat and drink (yes most drinks have calories toois a good wake up call and makes them realise quite how much food they’re taking on board on a daily basis. The same applies to exercise: if you sit at a desk for 8 hours a day and then go home and sit on the couch in front of the TV all evening, be honest about it!

Dear meOnce you’ve got a clear idea in your head about how much you eat and how little you exercise don’t beat yourself up about it. Feeling bad about yourself is not a good starting point for weight loss because, if you stray from the path towards a healthier you, you’ll feel guilty and pissed off with yourself and that can then lead to comfort eating. Instead, accept that your body is what it is at the moment and focus on how good you will feel when you’re not carrying around extra pounds – your back and legs will ache less, your breathing will be better, you’ll be able to move more easily, you’ll be cooler in the summer, your clothes will feel more comfortable etc etc etc. You’ll have your own great reasons for wanting to shed the weight so focus on those; concentrate on how amazing you will feel as you see the changes that you make to your body.

Now you’ve got the right mind set, it’s time to look at what you eat and drink. There will be no doubt that you eat too much, if you hadn’t you wouldn’t have gained a lot of weight, but you probably eat too much of the wrong types of food. You could eat mountains of carrots and broccoli without really gaining any extra pounds but, if you have pizza for dinner every night you’ll find yourself going up a dress size pretty damn quickly!

Real food

There are three things that are responsible for most people’s excessive weight gain:

Refined Sugars: think cakes, sweets, ice-cream, donuts, biscuits etc etc

Junk food: think burgers, fries, pizza, fried chicken etc,

Processed foods: think crisps, sausage rolls, breakfast cereals, pies and ready meals.

If you are looking at that list and thinking that’s pretty much your diet at the moment you’ll probably be panicking a bit and wondering what the hell you’re going to eat now! If that’s the case then think back to the reasons why you want to lose weight and visualise the happier and healthier you. If that doesn’t work and you’re still craving burger and fries with a couple of donuts to finish off then you have a choice – eat what you want but also accept your body and the problems that come with it or find a middle ground……

Turkey burgerWork out what it is that you like most about burger and fries – is it the texture of the meat? The taste of the sauce? The cheese or bacon? The crispiness of the fries? The taste of the salt and ketchup? The fact that you can dip them in a sauce? Trust me, if you really think about it, there will be a primary reason why you like to eat burger and fries. So, let’s imagine it’s the meat that you really enjoy, the taste and texture of ground beef; could you enjoy that without the bun and the sauce, could you be satisfied with ground turkey meat instead of beef? If the answer is yes then try turkey burgers between two portobello mushrooms; it’s still meat, the look is similar, the texture will be similar but it will have far fewer calories and be much healthier for you.

If it’s the fries that really do it for you, could you be satisfied with baked sweet potato wedges? If it’s the crunchy crispiness that you like could raw carrots sticks work? I know that sounds weird, burger and carrot sticks, but why not? It’s just a change, something different, you don’t need to have it for every meal, it’s just a way of educating your taste buds so that you will feel comfortable moving away from the unhealthy to the healthy.

Moving on to dessert; this is where things can get a little trickier because sugar is addictive and that’s why so many people struggle with weight loss. We often have the idea that cakes, sweets and biscuits are a ‘treat’ (remember your mum or dad saying if you’re good you can have a……something with loads of sugar in it) so the thought of not eating them can have the inverse effect and make us feel as though we are being punished in some way. Excessive amounts of refined sugars are anything but a treat for your body but you can re-educate your taste buds to appreciate the sweetness of fruit for example or, if chocolate is your thing, eat a couple of squares of very dark chocolate (70% plus cocoa); it will satisfy the craving.

On top of educating your taste buds, you can also re-educate your mind and your stomach; how often do you feel slightly peckish but tell yourself that you’re ‘starving‘ or ‘famished’? Try this little experiment – next time lunchtime comes around just say to yourself ‘I could do with a little something to eat’. Your mind has told your stomach to expect some food in the near future but just enough to satisfy it, it’s not on red alert because you’ve told it you’re going to die from lack of food and waiting for half a cow to descend….

half-finished-glass-of-beer-and-pie-with-meat-on-plate-at-table_7yyj9nho__F0000.pngLastly, think about leaving food. Many people were brought up with the idea that they absolutely must finish everything on their plate. It usually comes from parents or grand-parents and comes with the phrase ‘think about all the poor people starving in the world’. No-one will be any less starving because you decide not to eat every scrap of food that’s served to you; you really don’t need to feel guilty. If you get a disappointed look from a waiter in a restaurant just be honest – tell them it was delicious and you enjoyed it but the portion was just too big for you. This is another positive affirmation, telling yourself and other people that there’s just too much food there will get your mind and your stomach used to healthier portion sizes.

Once you’ve got the food angle sorted out think about how much you move and how you could move more. You don’t need to join a gym or start hurling yourself around a tennis court; walk to work, take the stairs and not the elevator, don’t sit at your desk at lunchtime, take a stroll around the park or shops instead, go and play football with your kids, dance while you’re doing the housework. Exercise will make you feel good and, as the pounds come off, you’ll want to do more of it and you’ll find the right programme for you but, until then, just move more!

If any of you out there are planning on making some changes to your lifestyle I really wish you the best of luck and I’d love to hear how you’re getting on….

Lisa x

 

How Generous Are You?

Do you think that you’re a generous person? For example, if someone had a life threatening condition would you dip your hand in your pocket to help them out? Would you cough up, say, £50 a week to give them a chance at a happier and healthier existence?

Do you think that you’re a generous person? For example, if someone had a life threatening condition would you dip your hand in your pocket to help them out? Would you cough up, say, £50 a week to give them a chance at a happier and healthier existence?

The latest proposal to help curb obesity is for YOU (the taxpayer) to pay for weight loss classes and/or meal replacement diets for those who are dangerously overweight; how do you feel about that? Apparently weight loss programmes and/or meal replacement diets are cheaper for the NHS to fund than stomach stapling and are definitely the safer and, arguably, healthier option for the patient but is it something that the taxpayer should be coughing up for?

You can say that obesity is self-inflicted and that any health problems result from personal food choices so why should you have to pay for someone else’s bad decisions? The problem with that is that, although obesity related health problems are a strain on the NHS, so are smoking related health problems, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, health issues caused by stress and illnesses that result from genetics or for no other reason than it’s just luck of the draw. At some point we will all need the services of doctors and nurses and, in the UK, it’s the tax payer that will foot the bill for our treatment.

What would happen if that were not the case for people who were morbidly obese? Some would argue that making life more expensive for those who are overweight with a ‘sugar tax’ or a ‘fat tax’ (higher prices for larger sized clothes) or the withdrawal of free treatment would improve their condition. Has that worked for smokers, drug addicts or alcoholics? No, so why would it work for any other kind of addict?

If the NHS wants to reduce their costs that are attributable to obesity perhaps they should consider dealing with the cause rather than the symptoms – instead of putting together programmes that recommend different foods or smaller portions, wouldn’t it be better to look at WHY people are over eating in the first place? Many of the problems with the body originate in the mind so why not start there when we’re looking for answers?

My feeling is that by concentrating on the emotional reasons for over eating as well as the addictive element, long term solutions to obesity could be found rather than people suffering the effects of yo-yo dieting or invasive surgery. Is THAT something that the NHS should be paying for? In my opinion yes but what do you think?

Should the NHS provide treatment for ‘self-inflicted’ illnesses? I’d love to read your comments

Lisa

x

Exercise is Good For Kids!

We all learn from experience after all and those we have as children are the ones that will shape us as adults so, yes, the headline is right, exercise is good for children but why oh why do we need a newspaper to point this out?

Who knew!?!! Is it just me or does the media, when reporting on obesity and health issues, do nothing more than point out the bloody obvious? It’s been reported today that children who walk or run a mile a day are healthier than those who sit on their backsides; do we actually live in a world where people really don’t know that exercise is good for their kids? If the answer is yes, then is it any wonder that we have an obesity epidemic?

Kids running on hilltopWhat’s worse is that the headline says “children who are made to walk a mile a day”; when I was a child I needed no encouragement to go roaring about all over the place – getting me to sit still was the problem. Was it the same for you? Didn’t you long to be out in the fresh air playing with your friends? Was being told to sit still and not move the cruelest of punishments?

What’s changed? Is it really the case that children would prefer to live in the virtual world rather than experience real life or is it that the parents are too afraid to let them outside in case something awful befalls them? Is it more simple than that? Is it that  the parents don’t care if their kids are obese because they themselves eat unhealthily and live a sedentary lifestyle? If we have bad habits would we prefer that our children followed our example or do we realise that we make bad choices and would do anything to stop them making the same mistakes? Fat kids computer games

Maybe the answer is not to make kids exercise, but to encourage them? Perhaps we could take the time to explain why exercise is beneficial to their physical and mental well being. If we explained just the positive benefits of eating healthily and encouraged them to chart their personal progress in terms of energy and fitness levels, wouldn’t that be better than telling them – “this is good and this is bad”? We all learn from experience after all and those we have as children are the ones that will shape us as adults so, yes, the headline is right, exercise is good for children but why oh why do we need a newspaper to point this out?

I’ve never had children and I could be way off base here so I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this; if you’ve got a spare 5 minutes, please let me know what you think

Lisa x

 

No S**t Sherlock.

I wonder how many more ‘studies’ will need to be commissioned and how many more campaigns chefs will have to embark on before people realise the simple truth – if you feed your children fattening foods and don’t encourage them to exercise – they will get fat?

Apparently if parents and grandparents are obese then, the likelihood is, that the children will be obese according to a recent study; shocker! The researchers didn’t speculate as to why this may be the case but the newspaper that published the study was kind enough to point out that it could be something to do with the adults having a preference for fattening foods! Feel free to join me in a collective eye roll…..

shocked babyIn another shocking discovery – children who are severely overweight will be more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes in later life and, wait for it, if they lose the weight as they arrive into adult hood the risk is then the same as everyone else’s; well I never! I wonder how many more ‘studies’ will need to be commissioned and how many more campaigns chefs will have to embark on before people realise the simple truth – if you feed your children fattening foods and don’t encourage them to exercise – they will get fat?

Kids learn from their parents and other adults in their lives; they watch and they listen to everything that is said and done. As youngsters they don’t have the intellectual capacity to differentiate between the things that will benefit them and those that will have a negative impact. For instance, if a child is told that they are loved and that love is demonstrated by hugs and smiles, it’s something that they can easily relate to; we all like to be told that we’re loved and it’s a fundamental need in most human beings.

Love burgerHowever, what if the child then hears from the people that they’re learning from “I just love burgers and fries, I could eat them for every meal” and what if they see the same smiles adults use when they say they love them bestowed on a giant, jelly filled doughnut? The same applies to negativity. Children pick up on facial expressions and exclamations of dislike or distaste; if your little ones are trying to find our how much toothpaste is in a tube by squeezing it all over the bathroom, sometimes just a look of intense disapproval can be enough to make them reconsider their actions. What if you have that same look on your face when your restaurant meal arrives with vegetables that you don’t like? If you turn your nose up at salads and look aghast when your local takeaway has run out of coco-cola do you think that your children are going to lecture you on the nutritional benefits of healthy foods v high sugar sodas? No, of course not, they’re going to copy you because that’s what kids do….

Fat mum and childRates of obesity in the UK and the US are increasing with each generation and everyone is bleating about it, wringing their hands and wondering what to do. In the UK the Government is considering implementing a programme in schools whereby kids are routinely weighed and, if they’re considered obese, they will receive home visits and free gym classes (well paid for by the tax payer but you get the picture). It’s something I suppose but it can only work in the parents are on board and, if the parents see nothing wrong in eating junk food or ready meals every day then what’s going to change? The same applies to exercise – if the parents are couch potatoes who encourage their children to spend their free time in front of a computer rather than in the park playing football, from whom is the child going to learn the health benefits of exercise.

Yes, schools can make children aware of the need for a healthy diet and exercise but who’s going to educate the parents? I don’t know what the answer is for such a large scale problem other than to promote the positives of a life style that’s more McMotherNature than McDonalds………..

Diet Decision

Weekly Slothing Time

The human body is pretty canny and, whilst your brain is busy telling you that exercise = feeling great, your body is saying ‘hang on a minute I’m knackered’. At this point, as our bodies are infinitely more intelligent than we give them credit for, they will force us into a period of rest whether we like it or not.

Is it just me or does anyone else find their weekly rest days a struggle? We all know the benefits of not working out every day of the week: training breaks down your body tissues and weight training can cause teeny tiny tears in our muscles so we need time for all this stuff to mend but I find the psychological break from training much harder to deal with than the physical.

Warning exerciseI made the mental connection between physical exercise and stress relief many years ago and it’s never really left me. I suppose it’s because when all our attention is focused on what our body is doing our mind doesn’t really get a look in; if you’re stressed about something it goes on the back burner when you’re trying to push out that last rep or get to the end of the 5km with muscles that feel like hot jelly. The fact that exercise causes serotonin and dopamine to go rushing around your brain probably doesn’t hurt either; these chemicals are known to improve our mood but can also give a kind of high that’s difficult to reproduce without the aid of artificial stimulants so, that in itself, tends to be addictive. I find that I can go to the gym tired but after half an hour of cardio and a few reps with the weights I’m buzzing with energy and can sometimes be found having a little boogie around when I think no-one is looking. It follows then that, when I don’t feel great I will look to exercise to make me feel better and, for the most part it works.

keep-calm-and-don-t-obsess-over-calories-1The other slight issue is the ‘I can go out to lunch today because I know I’m going to the gym later’ logic. Although calories in and calories out is the basis of any diet, it can become something of an obsession and, like any obsession, common sense tends to go out the window when it takes hold. If your only goal is pound shedding then it’s certainly sensible to slightly lower your calorie intake if you know that you’ll be inactive for a couple of days but, if you’re trying to build muscle this can be counter-productive as our bodies need food, especially protein, to grow and develop muscles. I understand the principal but there is always a little nagging voice on my shoulder saying ‘if you eat that today, you’ll be fat tomorrow if you don’t burn it off’ (it’s a kind of sing-song voice which is really irritating!).

Therefore, between genuinely missing the feelings I get when I work out and the completely irrational concern that I’ll suddenly gain 10lb if I don’t exercise for a day, I do find sometimes that I’ve gone 8 or 10 days without a break and then I’ll get my wake up call. The human body is pretty canny and, whilst your brain is busy telling you that exercise = feeling great, your body is saying ‘hang on a minute I’m knackered’. At this point, as our bodies are infinitely more intelligent than we give them credit for, they will force us into a period of rest whether we like it or not. They might decide to catch a cold or to suddenly take that mild niggle in your knee and turn in it into raging agony overnight. This is not your body being unkind, it’s merely trying to attract your attention and tell you that you’ve been over-doing it.

img_1439-1.jpgHaving been through this cycle more times than I care to remember I have come to realise that, like them or not, rest days are an essential part of my exercise regime. Gentle yoga stretches, some deep breathing exercises and 30 minutes or so of meditation will usually be enough to calm my mind and allow my body the rest that it needs or, failing that, a Sex in the City marathon or a day’s sunbathing ;O)

Do You Just Want it or Really Need it?

The thought of either agony or ecstasy are extremely powerful motivators, ‘I’d really like to….” just doesn’t quite cut it unfortunately. 

I came across a really interesting piece in the paper this morning which told of a woman who lost 230lbs in just 14 months and has maintained her weight loss for the last 6 months. She was morbidly obese and her health was suffering but she was inspired to change her lifestyle when she realised she was just too heavy for her scale. She shares her story here:

Basically she reached a tipping point – the psychological pain of the weight that she was carrying far outweighed the pleasure that she got from over eating. In many instances it’s not what we do that will enable us to shed unwanted pounds, it’s how we think and this is a case in point. Noelle reached the conclusion that the negative things in her life that resulted from her obesity, such as not being able to play with her children, were enough motivation for her to turn her life around.

It’s pretty much the pleasure/pain principal; Noelle’s mental and emotional pain was strong enough for her to make a big change in her life. We could also argue that the desire for pleasure i.e. the thought of being able to be physically active with her children was also a big motivator for her. This process is how we make many of the decisions in our lives; a desire  to do something is often not enough, it’s the difference between wanting to do something and needing to do it.

ToothacheFor example, let’s imagine that you really hate going to the dentist, all the while that your teeth are getting more and more yellow and beginning to decay, as long as you feel no pain, you’ll avoid going to the dentist. You want to be able to go because your smile is being ruined and you’ve noticed that the people close to you move away slightly when you breathe on them BUT your fear is sufficient that you’ll still resist going. However, if years of neglect means that you end up with chipped and cracked teeth and a sneaky little bacteria creeps in a gives you an abscess you will start to feel pain. You might put up with it for a few days because you still have that long held fear of dentists but, at some point, the pain will become so bad that it will overcome your fear and you will face your fear.

The physical act of losing weight is not rocket science – you eat less (ingest fewer calories) and you exercise more. You can try any weight loss plan that you like but that is at the root of all of them. What is more difficult is the psychological aspect and that is what stops many people from starting a healthy eating plan or makes them give up half way through. What we really need is something to attach to the thought of losing weight that will either give us a huge amount of pain or a huge amount of pleasure:

  • Obesity is thought to have contributed to more than 4 million deaths worldwide; imagine having to explain to your children that you won’t be with them as they grow up because you heart cannot cope with the stress of carrying around all the extra weight that you’re carrying Morbidly obese woman
  • Imagine the pride and delight on your children’s faces as you stand next to them on their wedding day a picture of health and vitality because, a few years previously, you decided that you wanted to change YOUR life.
  • Imagine, if your one dream is to see the world before you die, that you are prevented from air travel because your body has simply grown too big to fit into the seats on an aeroplance
  • Imagine yourself, free and healthy, enjoying all the sights and sounds of the place that you’ve wanted to visit your entire life, the place you dreamed of visiting as a child.
  • Imagine the utter humiliation of being told, in front of a shop full of people, that the dress you’ve saved up to buy for months and months, just doesn’t come in a size that big
  • Imagine the pleasure you’ll feel when you hand over your hard earned cash for the dress that you’ve so admired that looks absolutely beautiful on you and fits just perfectly. Beautiful dress

All of these are just examples, we are all motivated by different things after all, but, if you do want to lose weight and feel healthier and happier make it something that you really, really need and not just something that you want. The negatives that I’ve given here might seem harsh and even cruel but, if we want to make an enormous change in our lives that’s what we need to do. The thought of either agony or ecstasy are extremely powerful motivators, ‘I’d really like to….” just doesn’t quite cut it unfortunately.

Mother Nature’s Gym

Walking uphill is a great workout for your glutes (those muscles that keep your bum firm and pert) plus it’s a great way to get your heart pumping but the best bit is seeing the view from the top

Human beings tend to be creatures of habit and that’s as much true for exercise as anything else. Some people are in the gym five days a week and panic if they miss a day or have to change their routine by going on holiday and enjoying themselves for a fortnight (alright, yes, I do tend to pick hotels that have gyms – guilty as charged!). Other people choose to do 30 laps in their local indoor pool every morning or can’t bear the thought of missing their twice weekly hit class. However, we often forget that Mother Nature has provided us with the perfect training ground and, better still, what she has to offer is free!

step machineFor instance, if you are a big fan of the step machine in the gym, have a look at your surroundings, pick the highest point and walk there. Walking uphill is a great workout for your glutes (those muscles that keep your bum firm and pert) plus it’s a great way to get your heart pumping but the best bit is seeing the view from the top. Not only will you get a different perspective of the place where you live but you’ll also get a great sense of achievement when you realise quite how high you’ve climbed – you’ll literally be feeling on top of the world! IMG_0978

If you spend all your time on the treadmill listening to your i-pod or watching a video on the little TV screen in front of you try taking yourself off into the countryside. Walking on a surface that is not level or even is a much harder workout for your muscles than walking on a flat surface as you constantly have to adjust your pace and stride according to the terrain. Not only that but being in and feeling a part of nature is incredibly beneficial for our emotional and spiritual well-being.

The same applies if you do your cardio in the gym on a bike; whilst it is an effective exercise and you can adjust the resistance on the machine to make the workout more strenuous, it’s not the same as taking an actual bike through the hills and dales. Not only that but, with a static bike, you don’t get that amazing feeling of free-wheeling down a hill which evokes such wonderful feelings of childhood for so many of us.

swimming poolAlthough it’s not a gym exercise, swimming is hugely popular and a great all-body workout; it uses virtually all our muscles, is low impact and it makes our hearts and lungs work hard. However, lengths up and down the pool, for me at least, is not the most interesting way to pass the time. Swimming in the sea, however, is a whole different ball game; it is physically harder as you are having to work against the current and adjust for the constant movement of the water but it also has the effect of making you feel at one with something beautiful and powerful. The surface of the water is also ever-changing as is whatever is moving about underneath which means that it’s rarely, if ever, boring!

IMG_5235

The weather won’t always allow us to get out and about and maybe you don’t feel that you live somewhere that’s worth exploring but Mother Nature always has something to offer us. I love going to the gym but, as soon as the sun comes out I want to be out there soaking up the vitamin D and enjoying what this wonderful world has to offer.

Unleash your Inner Cave Man (or Woman)

Although they risked being mauled by whatever it was they fancied to eat that day (which makes me wonder how many of them decided that vegetarianism was a good option), they didn’t risk heart disease from ingesting refined sugars, refined carbs and trans fats.

I’ve recently been reading up on the Paleo diet which seems to have captured public imagination in a big way. Whilst I have a problem with the word ‘diet’ in general because it implies:

  1. That you will have to give something up or, in other words, deprive yourself of something you enjoy
  2. That it’s something you will undertake as a ‘journey’ i.e. there will be a beginning, a middle and an end, after which you will have finished your ‘journey’ and can go back to eating as you did before

this healthy life choice is certainly one that I approve of and, without realising it, have been pretty much following for the last few years.

I won’t bore you with the details as there is bucket loads of information on the internet about it but, basically, the eating plan is ‘natural’. paleo fooThe basic premise is that you eat what would have been available to cave men – meat, fish, fruit, nuts and vegetables. Whilst cavemen had many trials and tribulations I am sure, one of them was not trying to avoid all the additives and chemicals that are responsible for many of the health problems that we have today. mammothIf they were hungry they killed something or picked something from a tree or a plant; their nutritional needs were met by what they had available at the time. Although they risked being mauled by whatever it was they fancied to eat that day (which makes me wonder how many of them decided that vegetarianism was a good option), they didn’t risk heart disease from ingesting refined sugars, refined carbs and trans fats.

I try to eat foods that have not been ‘mucked about with’ as I like to put it – nothing processed and very little junk food (although I do have a penchant for Pizza Diavola and will indulge on rare occasions). This combined with plenty of exercise has ensured that my weight has stayed the same, give or take a couple of ounces, for the last 4 years. Personally, I’m happy to live like a cave woman except for the ‘cave’ part; indoor toilets and a front door are a must for me I’m afraid ;O)

 

Want to Live Longer?

you can learn to accept peacefully what you cannot change, smile at this wonderful life we’ve been given and enjoy it for as long as possible.

If the answer is yes (and I’ll assume that it is) then…….smile! Yes, I’m perfectly serious; a recent study has found that there is a direct link between how long we live and how happy we are which is great news for the optimists among us. However, another study, by the Office of National Statistics, suggests that ‘ratings of life satisfaction and happiness were at their lowest, on average, for those aged 45 to 59’ so, the question is, how do we deal with the problems that face us in middle age so we can stay happy and live to a ripe old age?

The first thing is to think about the concept of a ‘problem’ and to remember the words of Reinhold Niebuhr:

Grant me the serenity

Some things that we view as ‘problems’ and which therefore give us stress, we cannot change. For example, many middle aged people worry about their grown up children leaving home; it’s a major life change and is known as ‘empty nest syndrome’ but, realistically, what can you do about it? Do you want to keep your children at home with you forever and deprive them of the opportunity to find their own way in life? No, of course not! So, you have a choice, you can accept that it will happen regardless of how much worrying you can do or you can keep worrying and then accept, after the inevitable has happened, that it changed nothing. Unfortunately, by that point, you will have put your body through untold stress and it won’t thank you for it.

We know that the body will often respond to what the mind believes; this has been demonstrated in many ways over the years: people dying of voodoo hexes for no other reason than that they believed they were cursed, people being cured of illness by taking a placebo or spontaneous remission in cancer because people trust that God will cure them. The effect of stress has been studied in depth by Dr Sheldon Cohen, professor of psychology, and he discovered that “”When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease. Because inflammation plays a role in many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders, this model suggests why stress impacts them as well.”

Lissa Rankin M.D. has studied what is known as the Nocebo effect, the placebo effect in reverse. We all know that placebos are often used in scientific experiments as a control; some people are given medicines and some are given sugar pills and no-one in the study group knows who has taken what which means that the results cannot be effected by ‘perceived’ benefits. The Nocebo effect is the negative outcome stemming from a negative perception e.g. when a doctor tells you that you have a low chance of surviving a particular illness, the idea can be lodged in your mind and your body will respond accordingly; a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will.

There are many, many studies which deal with our mind’s ability to influence our body so why don’t we use it to our advantage? Stress and worry are effectively our minds playing the same scenario, or worsening scenarios, over and over again so we need to find ways to disrupt this pattern and the easiest way is to do something that requires complete focus. People often find that they relax while playing their chosen sport; they concentrate so hard on what they are doing that there isn’t room in their minds for anything else so whatever was causing them worry or stress is, temporarily, forgotten. Woman practicing yogaMany people have turned to yoga and meditation to relieve stress and anxiety; indeed it has grown so popular that scientists are beginning to study the positive effects of yoga and meditation on certain mental illnesses. The other benefit of yoga is that you don’t need equipment, or to go to a gym and you can start at any age.

We can also consciously interrupt the patterns in our mind that cause us stress. Our imagination creates images and scenarios that are not true, have not happened but our bodies respond as if they are quite real so we need to view those images as if we were watching a film; interested but with a certain detachment. We also have the power to change the images so that they become more positive and therefore less stressful. If you have recurring mental image that’s disturbing you run it through your mind with a funny tune, introduce a quacking duck, an explosion of fireworks or anything that will distort and therefore dis-empower the image; think about how Harry Potter and Co beat the boggart!

There is more and more evidence to suggest that stress and death and happiness and longevity are connected; you can be miserable, suffer physically and mentally and risk dying prematurely OR you can learn to accept peacefully what you cannot change, smile at this wonderful life we’ve been given and enjoy it for as long as possible.

Rock the House!

…..there are some fantastic bum toning exercises that you can do at home which will eventually leave you with two perfect peaches.

If you don’t fancy the idea of bedecking yourself in lycra and strutting your stuff in front of the gym bunnies why not try a home workout?

When we get to a certain age there are a few areas of the body that need a little extra care and attention. Things that were once firm and perky become loose and saggy but there are  number of exercises that can be done in the comfort of your own living room to help raise and tighten………

This video is only a few minutes long but it focuses solely on getting rid of ‘bingo wings’ or flabby triceps and, when you’ve finished doing the exercises, you’ll definitely know that you’ve been working those arms!

This is one of those niggly problem areas for older women as it can make you self-conscious about wearing sleeveless or short-sleeved t-shirts in the summer. It’s worth spending a few minutes every day doing these exercises just so you’re not sweating your socks off in long sleeves during July and August!

You may find that your arms ache later in the day or the day after but this is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. You’ll certainly forget about any achy muscles when you see the super results that you can achieve in just a short time.

If you want to tighten you tummy muscles this is a great way to start – simple exercises that you can do whilst sitting down in a chair. Once you get these muscles engaged and working well you can move on to more challenging exercises such as sit-ups or planks.

Once you get the muscles working your tummy will appear flatter and more toned and then you can replace those baggy hide everything tops with something altogether more slinky.

Another problem area that seems to creep up on us as we get older is our bum. Actually it doesn’t creep up so much as sag down and the pert bum we had in our youth starts to resemble a deflating balloon. Never fear, there are some fantastic bum toning exercises that you can do at home which will eventually leave you with two perfect peaches.

This video talks you through some awesome exercises step by step, telling you exactly what muscles you need to be working and what position your body needs to be in. There’s no funky music to distract you from what your bum is supposed to be doing; you can listen to that when you’re shaking it on the dance floor!

Last but definitely not least – how do we keep our boobs front and centre as we get older? You’ve tried all the super uplift, supporting, padded bras but when you take them off gravity takes over – know the feeling? Try these simple exercises to strengthen the muscles in the chest and improve your posture and you’ll feel and see the difference in no time!

Again, if these exercises are new to you, take it easy in the beginning and then gradually increase the number of repetitions. You’ll be so happy you made the effort when you are buying pretty and lacy rather than over the shoulder boulder holders.

All these exercises are designed to target the specific areas where we need a bit of help and improvement as we get older. You can do all of them together as a complete work-out a couple of times a week or you can choose to do just one every day if you don’t have as much time to spare. They can all be done in your own home and, once you’ve got the hang of how to do them properly, you can listen to music and just enjoy the feeling of your body getting firmer and leaner. After a few weeks you’ll be amazed at the changes you’ll see when you look in the mirror, your energy levels will be higher and you’ll be ready to get out there and shake your super stuff.