Life’s A Beach – One Year On

This afternoon I realised it’s been more than a year since I started this blog, so it seems like a really good time to recap the reasons I started and consider how much progress I’ve made in this time.

Originally, my M.E was still pretty bad and I was struggling to lead a normal life, so I wanted to find ways to lead as full a life as I could manage, while at the same time trying to carefully work around my symptoms. I wanted to:

  • Clean up my diet
  • Exercise at least twice a week
  • Write every day
  • Send something I’d written for publication once a month
  • Post examples of my writing here, for anyone to read
  • Focus on my studies with the Open University
  • Say yes to opportunities for fun and excitement
  • Document everything here on the blog

Now, I’m not going to lie, I certainly haven’t succeeded on all fronts. Although I’ve written a few pieces on here and posted them, I haven’t submitted anything for publication. Just. Too. Chicken. But I’ve also been remarkably busy. You see, this year I really HAVE said yes to fun and excitement…I’ve travelled to Rome, I’ve been out to pubs, ice skating, segway-riding, cycling, brunching and generally living my life again. In between that, I’ve been working hard at my OU courses and even started a Saturday job at a local pet shop! Between all of that and writing every day, I’m afraid I just haven’t had time to polish anything extra for submission.

That leaves diet and exercise. I’ve definitely been no saint on the diet front. I HAVE lost weight, going from over 10 stone to just under 9 stone, although I am yet to go down a dress size (infuriating, since it seems impossible!). I began a trampoline aerobics class, but at a cost of £8 per class, I simply can’t afford to go every week. I bought roller skates, but have yet to use them since it turns out nobody around me owns skates and I’m not keen on going alone. But it’s not all bad news. I’ve been exercising more often than twice a week for almost a month now. My diet, overall, is good (when I can say no to chocolate and biscuits) and I just need to stick to it better.

Since we got back from Rome in August, my M.E symptoms have been almost, though not entirely, absent. It’s an incredible feeling. Today I did a workout, I had breakfast, I did a heap of housework, worked on my radio script, did our shopping and my Gran’s shopping and cooked dinner. My energy gave out after that but that’s probably down to last night’s strength training (arms), since I’m rather sore! I’m trying to take full advantage of my new-found energy and that’s where my new plan comes in.

I want to get fit. Don’t get me wrong, this is not about weight loss and it is not about wishing to be skinny. I got to this point by trying to look after myself, and now that I’ve come this far it’s time to crank it up a notch. I could post one of those photos people love so much of me in a bikini or my underwear, as a ‘before’ shot but frankly, there’s no bloody way I’m doing that publicly. What I WILL do, however, is take that picture and perhaps post it at a later date, once I start to see the effects. The plan is thus:

  • High protein, low-carb meals with lots of natural produce
  • Cardio workout a couple of times a week
  • Strength training a couple of times a week
  • Severely limit the highly processed foods (aka the really tasty stuff like cakes, biscuits, chocolate, and other deliciousness)

Doing this, I hope that within the next six months I’ll be able to fit into a size 10, and start to see some real muscle definition. I also hope to be able to run a 5K…actually run it.

Lofty goals, yes, but ones I intend to keep. I’ll still be working hard with writing, studying, reading, living and so on, so this could be a really tough time. I hope you’ll join me.

Want to get into the best shape of your life, too? Join me here and on Instagram and let’s see what we can achieve together.

Life’s A Beach – One Year On

Phone-Free Focus

If you tuned in to last week’s post you’ll know that last week I decided to experiment with giving up my phone. Not entirely, I’m not completely nuts, but as someone whose hand is welded to her phone 80% of the day, I wanted to try using it only as originally intended – for phone and text messaging. My hope was that by removing temptation, I would trade the time I spent staring at the little screen for something more productive.

So how did I get on?

Day One

Every morning, I open my eyes, kiss my husband before he goes to work, then grab my phone to catch up on anything I missed during those hours of seemingly futile sleep. Today, I must have moved to pick my phone up three times before I was even out of bed, before remembering there was nothing to look at. I had new news apps, no weather apps and no social media. Without the distraction of a Facebook news feed, I was out of bed in minutes. Even better, instead of beginning my day in a fug of news-related melancholy, I did a guided meditation after getting up. I floated through my morning relaxed and feeling positive, and as a result didn’t have a meltdown when my new laptop wouldn’t boot up.

Day Two

Without immediate access to social media or news, I was able to start my day without confirmation of Donald Trump’s presidency, making my morning more bearable than most! In the evening, I helped a friend run a pub quiz and while I love doing it, I generally use the time to catch up on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds. With nothing to do but play songs I expected I’d be bored. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the experience of zoning out to the music and didn’t even notice I was being watched as I sang ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ by Billy Joel. Until I got a round of applause at the end, at least. Embarrassing!

Day Three

I cycle into town, blissfully unaware we areexpecting heavy rain showers. I cycle home later on a rain-soaked seat and end up with a seat-shaped wet patch on my jeans. Neither fun nor comfortable. But all is not lost! I escape the worst of the rain with an impromptu solo lunch at one of my favourite restaurants – Conto Lounge. I would normally spend the time on social media but instead take the opportunity to eavesdrop on my fellow diners and do some writing. I’m sure I also enjoy my meal more because my attention isfocused on it.

Day Four

Getting into this a little more now. I feel less distracted, more relaxed and the pressure to take interesting photographs or post fascinating tweets has passed. I still have my moments – watching a film leaves me itching to look up some of the actors on the IMDB app but I resist, allowing myself to simply enjoy the film.

Day Five

The majority of the day is a breeze – I’m not allowed to use my phone while I’m at work so not having it on Saturdays is no longer an issue. But when I get home I’m exhausted and desperately want to hide myself in my Facebook news feed. I do another guided meditation instead and accidentally drop off to sleep on the sofa. When I wake up I allow myself to scroll through Facebook – but on my laptop, not my phone.

Day Six

I start my day with a gorgeous cooked breakfast in bed, I study without interruption and I help my husband battle the disaster zone that is the spare room. Replacing the mindless time I spend messing with my phone with something more productive means that for the first time in months the house is looking cleaner, my work is up to date and I have time and energy for things I really enjoy. I read, I cook, I play with my cats and I spend time with my husband.


The Outcome

In all, it’s obvious to me (and probably to you as well) that although I missed having many of the apps on my phone, my quality of life definitely increased without them. I felt more alert, I had more time and I got a hell of a lot more done. But it would be silly to deny that these apps in some way enrich my life as well. Had I checked the weather app before my cycle, I could have avoided the worst of the bad weather. And as a writer, staying current with the news is important, so being one of the last people I know to discover America’s new president was Trump was disappointing. So what have I learned? I’ve learned I DO use my phone too much and that it can be upsetting to some (both my husband and a couple of friends have bemoaned my constant phone usage), but removing access altogether isn’t feasible. What I have taken from this is that it’s okay to use my phone and the apps on it, but maybe I need to use them all a little less.

Could you give up your phone apps for a week? Perhaps you only ever use your phone occasionally already? Why not share your experience in the comments below?

Phone-Free Focus

The Reboot

I’ve had kind of a rough time recently.

A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with a stomach issue that was reasonably well controlled with medication until the beginning of August when everything went a bit wrong. Then it went really wrong after we got back from Rome and it’s been getting worse ever since. Unfortunately, I’ve been told such problems are common in coeliacs. I last saw my ENT in May and I can only assume that afterwards his fingers mysteriously dropped off, rendering him unable to respond to my messages pleading for help. Poor man. In desperation (and to stop my constant whinging) my parents kindly put up the funds for me to see a private gastroenterologist, who was sure to help me.

The rushed, albeit fairly kind, lady I saw didn’t really have an answer I had hoped for. While there is an op that could (I repeat ‘could’) cure me, it would first require a manometry.

A what!??

I had never heard of such a thing! She explained they would feed a tube up my nose, down my throat, and into my stomach, while I was fully conscious. They would then leave it there and send me home to have a jolly old time eating and drinking everything that makes me feel poorly – tea, coffee, alcohol, spicy foods, chocolate. Once I was feeling spectacularly sick (and yes, able to feel the tube hanging down the back of my throat at the same time), I would return to the hospital to have the tube passed back up my throat and out of my nose. Such larks! If that sounds bad, let me tell you that experiences across the net are not favourable. Most patients report endless gagging, tolerating it only for a few minutes.

After I ran screaming from her office I decided to start looking at alternatives and settled on trying to fix my stomach through diet. Last week I removed everything from my diet but potatoes and my gluten free bread, the idea being that a super-plain diet for a time will be like pushing the ‘restart’ button on a computer. Once my stomach has rebooted, I’ll start introducing foods S-L-O-W-L-Y, each for a few days at a time, removing anything that could be linked to my symptoms. This plan was disrupted on day four, by which time I had become a bear in hibernation; grumpy, hungry, and too tired to function from the lack of nutrition. I brought back eggs, peas, porridge, Quorn, celeriac and soya yoghurt and felt thoroughly rotten again.

So now I’m back to eating relatively plainly again. The peas, Quorn, porridge and celeriac are sticking around but I’m dropping the yoghurt and eggs for a time to see if things calm down again.

With this going on, it’s been really hard to focus on anything and my studying and work is starting to suffer while I curl up on the sofa, playing about on my phone for hours on end. So here’s the plan: for the next week, I’m ditching my phone. Not completely, but after being called out by three different people for ‘always staring at that bloody thing’, I decided we need a slight parting of the ways. From tonight, I’ll be using my phone ONLY for calls and messages. To remove temptation, I’ll delete Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, IMDB, Gold, Amazon, email, BBC Weather and Fitbit. Rather than losing (what is probably) three hours a day at least just staring at my phone, I hope I’ll be more productive, more energetic and will be more inclined to give meditation and yoga another go. It’ll be like I’m 16 again, wielding my Nokia 3310 with its jelly keys while playing in the road with my friends. Except it’ll be a Sony Z5 and I’m probably too old to play in the road. But you get the idea.

Of course, I’ll still be able to access everything from my laptop in the evenings but this should be an interesting experiment in how much our current phone usage distracts us from more positive activities in everyday life.

I’ll report back next week but in the meantime, if you want to join in then please do, and it could be very interesting to look at the results next week! Could you give up your phone? Maybe you would find it too hard? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

The Reboot

Week 1: Success & Tragedy Under A New Regime

I’m officially a week into the new ‘regime’. Having finally accepted my post as general of my own life, the last week has been an effort to beat my lazy, recalcitrant inner teenager into submission.

Raw superfood energy balls

My successes, thus far:

  1. I’ve eaten a total of three chocolate biscuits in the last week, having sated the sugar fiend that lurks within with yoghurt, nuts and, when times are especially hard, a Deliciously Ella hot chocolate. I still crave biscuits but now I’m also craving nuts, which has created a whole new opportunity for innuendo-based hilarity in the house.
  2. Activity levels have, at last, increased! I’m not up to marathon (or even mini-marathon) standards but I’ve managed to cook! I’ve cleaned! I’ve gone to the shops and even out for walks. I honestly feel like hibernating but despite that, today, I’ve washed up, sorted out a cupboard, cooked (and eaten) banana pancakes, walked to the newsagents and cooked omelette muffins. This is an indescribably HUGE amount for me.
  3. Heaps of studying and writing have happened. There’s nothing I’m ready to inflict upon a general audience yet but there are things I’m happy with and that’s a first since I was, oh, 17?
  4. I FINALLY GET INSTAGRAM!!! Have you tried it? Once I got my head round it, it’s like a huge scrapbook of (carefully selected) moments from people’s lives, all perceived through the magic of filters. If you’d like a gander at my Instagram, it’s jessicavlane.
Studying Candide by Voltaire

I can’t really post this without saying something about the atrocities that occurred on Friday 13th November. What happened in Paris has been very much front-and-centre, while other tragedies have taken something of a back seat.

Over the last two days, every person from politician to celebrity to the everyday layman has shouted one opinion or another. The hashtag #PrayforParis has curried global support for survivors in Paris, yet has been shot down for using religion to fight religious extremists. While those who have suffered in the last few days try to pick themselves up, everyone is busying themselves with aggressive finger-pointing and petty arguments.

There are better ways. The incredibly outpouring of love and support from across the world is proof that in the darkness, there is always light, and when you really look at it, there is far more love in the world than darkness, if we allow ourselves to see it. Hate and anger is exactly what terrorists want, so we need to let go of the aggressive language. You can’t fight hate with more hate; you can only fight it with love and positivity. Follow the sage advice of the late John Lennon, and Give Peace a Chance.

Week 1: Success & Tragedy Under A New Regime