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

The Problem with Perfectionism

‘My weakness, I suppose, is that I’m too much of a perfectionist’.

This is the trite response my school suggested offering as a ‘weakness’ if asked to name our biggest failing during a job interviewe. It’s the sort of answer that thinly veils a strength so that you don’t leave the interviewer with a negative memory of you (and so you don’t tell them your biggest weakness is that fifth shot of tequila on a night out). Of course, these days it’s used as an example of what you should avoid ever saying to an interviewer – an answer so clearly rehearsed that it prevents the interviewer from seeing the real candidate.

However, perfectionism is a very real thing for many people and while it can be a strength that helps you push yourself further, work harder, live better, there are those for whom the desire for perfection is a real problem. Their idea of ‘perfection’ may be so unrealistic that it takes a dangerous toll on both physical and mental health.

2010 report stated that perfectionists are more likely to suffer from conditions like post-natal depression and OCD. It can even increase your risk of early death. The impact it can have on your health is something to which I am no stranger. By 2010, when I first experienced symptoms of M.E, I was so focused on doing my job, not just well but better than anyone else could possibly do it, I was under immense stress. I maintain it is a key reason I developed the condition, and the multiple studies in recent years that conclude ‘Type A’ personalities (those who are driven, focused and perfectionists) are the most commonly affected by M.E and Fybromyalgia seem to support this.

But is it always a bad thing? After all, the desire for perfection is behind many healthy habits such as the #cleaneating movement. It is a major reason athletes work so hard – not for mere accolades but to prove they are the best. If you do exceptionally well at work and are promoted, it is likely you would not have achieved such dizzying heights had you not worked so hard. A study published earlier this year on perfectionism and its effects on flourishing found that while ‘perfectionism can undermine flourishing and stand in the way of emotional, psychological and social well-being’ (Stoeber, J and Corr, P.J, 2016), this effect was often limited to those who viewed the need for perfection as a social requirement. On the other hand, it concluded that those who see perfection as important personally ‘feel that their life is more fulfilled, purposeful and socially related’.

This finding is particularly interesting. When I was striving for perfection in the workplace, I was very aware of how other people saw me, and I distinctly recall feeling that I was not good enough. On some bizarre level, I believed that working harder would change their opinion of me (‘they don’t like me but if I’m a hard worker and do everything right, they’ll have to change their opinion’). This plan was flawed from the start; nobody likes the brown-nosing kid that always puts their hand up when the teacher asks a question, but clearly, my need for perfection here was rooted in social requirements.

These days my drive for perfection is rooted more securely in my sense of self. Much like an athlete-in-training, I look at the previous day’s diet, last week’s exercise and my recent writing attempts and try to do better next time. Except this is the interesting part: I don’t feel any better about it. I still berate myself for my failings. I still feel bitterly frustrated when I am unable to do something, or when I am late, or make a mistake. I am not alone in this. Many of my friends battle an overwhelming need for perfection (one in particular – you know who you are) and the inability to achieve it in everything, creating a constant and undue sense of failure.

At some point we will all need to learn that perfection is not always attainable, and when it isn’t then good enough MUST be good enough. We have to learn to be okay with doing our best, especially when it falls short of our screwy ideals. Maybe if we can get the hang of it we can learn to appreciate ourselves for being perfectly imperfect. It might just save our health.


The Problem with Perfectionism

It’s a Good News Week

We may be seeing the last rays of the summer sun and the school runs may be back but this week I am all about the good news. And it is because of this news that I delayed this week’s blog post. Why?

Let me explain.

In August, as you know, Husband and I had a holiday in Rome, filled with blissful (and large quantities of) food, drink and a large amount of sight-seeing. Although much of the enjoyment was down to the edible delights in the land of food and adventure, what really helped me was seeing how much I can really do now. I could walk for miles, I could cycle, I could appear to everyone as a perfectly normal, healthy young(ish) woman and I loved that.

Now, if you’re a friend on Facebook (hi! Thanks for reading) you’ll probably already be aware I did the Glow in the Park 6k fun run at Longleat last Saturday. If you’re not a Facebook friend (hi! Thanks for reading), here’s a pic that captures the fun a little:

This was a HUGE achievement for me. Even 6 months ago I couldn’t have imagine I’d be able to do something like this by the end of the year and okay, I didn’t run for more than about a kilometer but the point is I DID IT. Five years after my M.E diagnosis and I’m still working hard to prove I can have a great, fun-filled life. And it’s given me a hunger to do more, so my friends and I are signing up for the Run for Chocolate in February. It’s slightly less entertaining than Glow in the Park, which involved a thick covering of UV gunge, a foam party and lots of UV stuff but you do get a chocolate goody bag and a luxury hot chocolate at the end.

But there’s more good news!

When Husband and I got back from Italy, I decided maybe I was well enough to return to the world of gainful employment. This is easier said than done, since I need something that I can do part-time, leaving space and energy for working towards my degree, volunteering at the RSPCA and helping my friend run his pub quiz. Also – and this part is crucial – I need a job I can love.

And would you believe it? We’d been back less than a week when I came across something that fit perfectly. Pets Corner, close to my home, was looking for part time staff. I love this place. Not only do they have reptiles (I’ve adored snakes and lizards since I was very young), they are also the most ethical, animal-and-customer friendly pet shop in the UK. They sell high quality products and if they don’t meet their exacting standards, they don’t sell it. I fell on the application like a dying man in the desert falls on an oasis. I filled it out and then made myself forget all about it.

Roughly two weeks later I was invited for an interview, my first in almost 14 years (yikes), and I had fewer nerves on my wedding day! It was quite a fun interview in the end but afterwards, I had no idea how it had gone. Worse, there was a young lad applying for the same job…and it seemed there was nothing he didn’t know about animals. AND he was built like a quarterback. And I couldn’t even resent him because he was genuinely lovely. I found myself almost hoping he got the job!

Well, yesterday, I received an email offering me a job at Pets Corner. It’s not quite what I had gone for, as it will be five hours on Saturdays, but I don’t mind at all. It’s a foot in the door and who knows? Maybe I’ll be great and they’ll let me increase my hours at some point. I emailed back immediately to accept the position and now I’m holding my breath (figuratively because that would be stupid) to find out more about when I can start. Of course, in the meantime, while there’s radio silence I am torturing myself with thoughts that maybe they emailed me in error. Maybe they’re trying to work out how to tell me they’ve changed their minds. But that aside, I’m SO excited!

So there is this week’s good news! I just wanted to wait until I heard back about the job before I posted, so I hope you’ll forgive me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I should start a ‘Going Back to Rome’ fund for my wages…

It’s a Good News Week