Completed ‘The Psychology of Weight Loss’ with @beyondchoc

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You’ll see from previous blog posts that I’ve been interested in Beyond Chocolate since around 2009. I can’t remember how I first came across the books, but after reading, ended up going on a day course where I remember Audrey’s face as she described a ‘fun-size Malteser’ packet, learnt to reconnect with our bodies as we drew around ourselves/described ourselves, and experimented with new recipes and the thought of having food as something to enjoy, rather than something to be limited/restrained or feared. Prior to the course, post-chest-infection, I’d been putting on roughly half-stone every 6 months – 6 months after this one day, I’d stabilised and food had regained some of it’s fun and adventure (scales have since gone, so judging by clothes)!

I ticked along with this, read Beyond Temptation, then in 2013, decided to go to another day in Leeds, where the outstanding exercises in my mind were eating foods veeeery slowly to reacquaint with the taste (rather than shovelling it down), and encouraging people to say out loud to the person next to them the things that they say to themselves (e.g. you fat, lazy cow) – demonstrating how you wouldn’t to others but you would to yourselves!

In 2014, I went on a whole weekend, which was a great opportunity to take time out from everyday life, and undertake a series of exercises – including eating food in silence, and comparing to the next meal with conversation, having meals with lots of choices/limited choices, having ‘unlimited’ quantities of food that one is not ‘relaxed’ about, looking at one’s journey with food, and lots of fun and conversation! By this point, I’d already started sharing a range of stories on the Beyond Chocolate Facebook page (over the last 8 months we’ve increased from around 900 page members to over 1500, with a regular flow of stories ‘of interest’ to the group), and started road-testing a new online course known as “The Psychology of Weight Loss” (and yes, lots of discussion about using weight loss as part of the title when it’s about having a good relationship with your body – whether you are small or large – but it’s something people are looking for, so then encourage people to say this is not where your emphasis should lie!).

Anyway, I have just FINISHED part-1 of the course, and it’s been really helpful (especially the 1-2-1 inputs from BC), as there’s been time to do the material, then think about it, before diving in to the next session: aside from anything else, I’ve realised how much my relationship with food and my body has changed over the past few years, even if, in the world’s eyes, I am “overweight”.

Doing this online course has encouraged me to try a few more things, in tune with my ‘give me new stuff’ way of thinking, and against that thinking of “I need to do this, and I need to do this for ever” mentality of many a diet. I give something a go, reflect on it, then decide if I want to do it again. It may become a habit, or I may decide it’s not for me…

The intention is to do it within 3 months, but there are extension packages available if you want longer-term e-mail support. See an overview of the course here, and you can try the first lesson for free! Only £67 if you just want to undertake the course, or £350 with 1-2-1 support! 

#Decluttering Near Completion

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This, 10 more of the paper archive files to scan in, 6 more photo albums to create on Bonusprint, and 2 ‘childhood/schooldays’ boxes in the attic are all that I have left to declutter! After I properly started about 15 years ago (that’s frightening in itself), and recently went at the digital spaces, this feels so close…

Over time, I have learnt to mend lots of things, the bins have taken a hammering, charity shops have (hopefully) enjoyed what has been donated, and Freecycle has been used – there’s an opportunity for you guys – there’s a few more items on Amazon and Ebay - please do have a look, and see if you know anyone who’d like them!

The Bank Cook by @HJulienne

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Thank you so much to Hortense, as this special parcel arrived in the post last week. I enjoyed watching Hortense’s experiments with food over Lent last year, and it’s wonderful to see the care and attention that she has poured into this book – as her ‘about’ page indicates “I hope that the quality of the work done within the pages will make the user feel valued and loved”. There are lots of great hints and tips as to how to make the budget stretch (on as little as £5 week), with lots of little tips regarding nutrition (although p17, I’m still not taking up celery!!). Thankfully, I am fed my main meal most days during term-time, but there’s some ideas here I want to try – particularly nice looking Vegan Chilli Con Carne on p26, though I’m not sure I need a Scotch Bonnet pepper! Well done Hortense, don’t stop inventing!

Download a PDF copy of the book, and consider giving food alongside your weekly shop, or if, like I do, you don’t do big shops often, consider donating to The Trussell Trust, and they can buy what they need!

Enjoyed Reading ‘Year of Biblical Womanhood’ by @RachelHeldEvans

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I have really enjoyed reading this book over the past week (thanks Bryony for lending it to me) – had me chuckling and thinking at alternate moments, and occasionally reaching for the iPad to take note of a particular paragraph, as outlined here:

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Early morning prayer? How can I expect to have a civil conversation with God?

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Be yourself. Take risks. Work Hard. Make mistakes. Keep Going. Surround with cheerleaders.

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Faith is believing in the midst of uncertainty. Don’t wait for certainty.

equality

Women should not have to pry equality…

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Thinking about what we buy… and how it affects others… (one of the most impactful Lent things I did was give up purchasing in supermarkets & seeking to ‘shop local’ more – changes eating habits a lot!)

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Remember the historical context in which the Bible was written.

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Church – an off-putting place for women?

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The Bible isn’t an answer book, set of rules of a self-help manual, but a sacred collection telling God’s story

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Do we find what we’re looking for?

Thanks Rachel – lots to chew on (as someone who came from a Brethren background!)!

Work less, do more, live better (@timeshighered)

botanical-garden-gazebo-1430498-mI am SO EXCITED to be reading this piece in Times Higher Education – over the last year I’ve been seeking to work in a healthier pattern (although ironically this week has been a 6 day-week & I need to do some more over the weekend so that I can take a week off… to write a book proposal … carefully planned this is though!)

Great Intro:

Some years ago, I heard that a colleague characterised me as “someone who didn’t work weekends”. This description was not meant as a compliment. It’s true that I make a concerted effort to keep something approximating normal working hours of 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. But I haven’t always worked like this. As a postgrad, I anxiously counted my hours and consulted with fellow students, worried that I wasn’t spending enough time at my desk. Eventually, I allowed myself one full day off weekly. When I became a lecturer, I stayed in the office until seven or eight in the evening, in part imitating the working patterns of my new colleagues, and continued to work weekends. Yet when I reduced my hours at the desk some years ago, my productivity did not decline. Instead, my mindfulness to follow regular hours means that my productivity is the same as or even greater than it was before, when I worked 50, 60 or whatever hours it was per week.

Further down, there’s a series of historical figures, and their living styles (most were writers)

The common feature in these workday schedules is walking, bipedalism, that form of locomotion that distinguishes us from the other primates. Walking and thinking seem to go together so naturally that perhaps it’s walking that made us thinkers. Aristotle famously taught while walking along the colonnade connecting the temple of Apollo and the shrine of the Muses. That link between philosophy and walking has stuck and was memorably parodied in Monty Python’s sketch about the Philosophers’ Football Match. Rebecca Solnit, author of Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2000), concurs that walking is good for thinking: she concludes “a desk is no place to think on a large scale”.

Exercise and sleep are highlighted as of key importance to being creative (and I’ve certainly been working on my sleep), and then  How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (2007) is quoted: 

His suggestions are simple: write and do your research daily in small blocks of time (schedule it in and don’t cheat on that schedule); keep track of what you do in that time; stay attentive to your writing goals and, ideally, get yourself a group that will help you keep to these goals. You might protest, what good are small blocks of time? But small, regular amounts of work build up to significant productivity. A few pages often make a big difference. If you were learning how to tap dance or play the French horn, you wouldn’t set aside one full day a week for practice or cram it into your Saturday afternoons; instead you’d practise for short periods, daily. Why should research and writing be any different?

As academics, we are used to research, so we should research our own habits (oh yes – and being ‘completely detached’ from the good and the bad of a job – is key) –

It is in our best interest to not only be productive but satisfied with our work, because work is vital to our identity and self-definition. We need work not just to put bread on the table but to feel of use, to serve, to contribute, to make and to connect. But the long-hours culture and the cult of busyness saps meaning away, as we tick through never-ending “to do” lists, becoming chronically tired and working less efficiently with each overtime hour.

There’s mention that even in the factory shorter hours have demonstrated increased productivity .. and I remember this from my research in the Second World War – it was SO essential to get arms out, that an extra day was added to the ‘week-cycle’ … productivity went down! And, even in times of crisis, this is key:

Before, Red Cross workers put in as many hours as necessary until the job was finished. Now the Red Cross recognises that workers need breaks in order to be able to respond effectively to the humanitarian crises they face.

Yes, yes, yes… (read full article – and also the opinion piece Know Your Worth).

30 Things: Living Life to the Full

Circulating on Facebook

Circulating on Facebook

This year I’ve been particularly working on “living life to the full“, and after hearing about a young man who has died today, this  article came into my inbox – the first is:

  1. Remember you will die. Maybe even today. Don’t forget that. Don’t forget to be thankful for your health. For the ability to walk. For the time you get to spend with the person you love. For your siblings. For whatever it is that you have today. It’s not yours, it can be stolen away at any moment. So while you have it on loan, cherish it.

Read the full post… most of the rest are worth thinking about too.

Female Self-Sabotage

self-sabotageReally interesting article – and I want to be able to find it in future so…:

Self-sabotage can take obvious forms, like self-injury or addiction. But for most of us, we work against ourselves in far more subtle ways: being perfectionists, avoiding conflict, procrastinating, focusing on the trivial. In the case of my friend, a seemingly noble quest to serve others communicated to her superiors that she was a nice enough woman capable only of handling trivial tasks.

Many women first learn the art of self-sabotage when they’re growing up. Heidi Grant Halvorson described a studycomparing the way in which bright fifth-grade girls and boys responded when they were presented with challenging material to master. The brighter the girl was, the more helpless her response tended to be. Grant Halvorson said, “The only difference was how bright boys and girls interpreted difficulty – what it meant to them when material seemed hard to learn. Bright girls were much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence, and to become less effective learners as a result.”

Read full article.

 

“Women on Your Bookshelf” by @MaggiDawn

maggi-dawnI saw this post come through my feed earlier today, stuck a bookmark on it (I was being focused on #bigread14 … for which I do need to Skype Maggi to get a recording of Evensong – and which I’ll be reading alongside Maggi’s Giving It Up!) and thought, great to go and look back at next week – and then tonight realised that I was mentioned on it (just published in time!), which is a great encouragement to go to sleep on – especially looking at some of the other women on the list!!

 

[VIDEO] 2 Minutes to Eradicate Self-Doubt?

Spotted this heading around Facebook (thanks Merry), although not convinced it is this simple … but this is part of the reason that I like the extras on films… it shows the need for failure, etc. to lead to success (‘instant success’ is very rare). It also reminds me of past coaching advice … focus on excellence, rather than perfection. OK is often “good enough”:

We all hide in closets?

This has been going around Facebook over the last few days – “we all have closets” – and we don’t need to compete about whose closets are “hardest”, they are all just “hard” [and we don’t need to make it harder for each other?]

It would be easy to mock people for not understanding the “politically correct hoops that I’d brought with me”, point out where they fell short, a lot harder to meet them where they are and understand that they are trying.

“That is their story, not yours”

[BOOK REVIEW] Am I Beautiful by @ChineMbubaegbu (with @beyondchoc)

am-i-beautiful-post-cat-6I ordered this book as soon as I knew it was in the offing .. and then was even more chuffed to win a copy through the following tweet:

‘Beauty is … learning to love ourselves as God made us … and then turning that love out to our neighbours!’ @drbexl

So, what follows is potentially rather vulnerable (as is Chine’s book) – for some reason, it’s easier to share about depression (that invisible illness), than it is about feelings about my body (which is clearly visible!). I was going to review the book anyway, but hear that those who benefit from @beyondchoc are often too embarrassed to share their stories, so here’s part of mine…

I’ve never been skinny (in the way the world would like us to be), but after joining the gym at 18,  my brain capacity improved no-end, with the side-benefit of being pretty fit, although I joined Slimming World in 2006… which I think mucked up my brain pretty thoroughly. In 2008, on a trip around Europe I got a chest infection, piled on the weight, and never quite found a way to lose it. At the end of 2009, tired of beating myself up (and never really becoming a ‘dieter, aside from that spell with Slimming World) I went to a session with the Beyond Chocolate sisters, and then to their roadshow the other weekend, sharing how they have sought to free themselves from the diet/body obsessed mentality of our culture, learn to accept that we come in a range of sizes and shapes, and that our bodies, if not buffeted by society’s strictures about “should”, “must” and “will-power”, and the odd things that we eat because diet companies say that they are good for them… will settle into where it was designed to be. Since going in 2009, I stopped piling on weight, though I’ve not shrunk … but one step at a time…. Watching a range of women of all shapes and sizes, writing down things that they say to themselves, and then saying that publicly to the person next to them starting with “You” was pretty powerful… we would never dream of saying such things to other people!

So, with that, and with my time with Hannah Jean, and an assorted collection of inspiration online, I sat down to read this book, particularly interested in the Christian perspective on this topic, and finished it in one sitting. A brief extract:

When we look in the mirror, as many as 8 out of 10 of us are not happy with the reflection peering back at us – and more than half of us will be seeing something that is not a true reflection of what we look like. Eve was really lucky in the Garden of Eden as she had no one to compare herself to. We, as twenty-first century women, are not so lucky. The advertising, media and entertainment industries bombard us with images of an ideal towards which we strive as the ideal moves further and further away from us and becomes less and less achievable. As a result, many of us are living with this constant feeling that we have failed; that we are inadequate and undesirable. This can affect not just what we see in the mirror, but how we relate to the outside world.”

I’d like to read it again more slowly, but a few thoughts:

  • We are all (men, women and children) made in the image of God. (Have you seen the wonderful UGLY Models Agency?)
  • We need to be honest about our struggles, and build each other up (not beat each other up with ‘diet tips’).
  • Our bodies, and our feelings about them, should not stop us from fulfilling our God-given potential in this world… nor from standing-tall and confident!
  • Why are we spending all that energy worrying about ourselves/our looks when we could be using that energy becoming ‘world-changers’.
  • The difficulty of looking at ourselves naked in the mirror… without the covering of clothes (as did Adam & Eve), and the story of Kjerstin Gruys who took 12 months without a mirror (love these vintage pin-ups on her blog).
  • Some are prepared to wait for eternity to feel beautiful, but the Kingdom of God starts now, so seek a true picture of ourselves, and be satisfied with it now..
  • How much do we spend on hair and beauty products … and would we bother if no one could see us?
  • “… just because I don’t feel beautiful, it doesn’t mean that I am not beautiful. Feelings have never been given the task of seeking truth.”
  • We cry over the shape of our bodies, we go to extreme lengths to get them to a shape that conforms to our own perceptions of ‘beauty’ which are so strong in our culture…
  • The world tells us that we should constantly be dissatisfied with our image – Romans 12: 2 says otherwise.
  • We have been conditioned to believe that external beauty = lovableness … so if we see images of Jesus, they are always ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ type images … but people turned their faces from him… was any of this to do with a lack of physical beauty?
  • Wow, the pain that Chine went through in getting corn-rows of relaxants into her hair … to conform to an afro-carribean standard of beauty.
  • Food is never just about ‘eating’, it’s either under or over eating .. especially when food forms the basis of so much of culture.
  • The dangers of living in a comparison culture – we could be happy with what we have – but we see what someone else has and it seems better, more attractive than ours/us.
  • The single life, feeling the need to ‘be beautiful’ – despite Christian culture saying its about the beauty within, see few Christian men praying for a ‘Plain Wife’…
  • The moment of putting up a new Facebook photo, and waiting for people to ‘Like’ it… a form of affirmation.
  • What can we do to change things for the generations to come – how do we ensure that they don’t suffer the same mental traumas that we have…

The only thing I’d really have loved to have seen changed in the book was where at the beginning/end of each chapter there’s an image of a conventionally beautiful woman – of the kind we see in health & fitness magazines … I would love to have seen a collection of different women there! An inspiring read for many women (and men) who are caught up in our culture’s obsession with ‘the body’ and dieting… and yes, let’s talk about it…

And a thought from my own book (coming February 2014):

In 2010, a Home Office report warned that the “drip-drip” exposure to sexual imagery – including pornography, “lads’ mags” and sexual imagery in advertising – was distorting young people’s perceptions of themselves. They reported it was “encouraging boys to become fixated on being macho and dominant, and girls to present themselves as sexually available and permissive.”[i] Too much emphasis in porn on ‘the perfect body’ is leaving young people unhappy when their own bodies don’t match up.[ii]


[i] ‘Should children be taught that porn is not real?’, Vanessa Barford & Nomia Iqbal, BBC News Magazine, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20042508, 24/10/12

[ii] ‘Internet addiction: Cybersex and pornography’, Helpguide.org http://www.helpguide.org/mental/Internet_cybersex_addiction.htm#Internet_pornography

As Chine says, she’s not got this all sorted either … but we don’t need to be sorted to share each other’s journeys. And yes, I still go to the gym, but I tend to go to classes that I enjoy and swim a lot!