30 Nov 2009

Tackling middle Age Spread The Atkins Way

Over the past year, I have put on almost a stone and I couldn't understand why - I had not eaten more, drunk more and in fact, now we have a dog, I was doing more exercise than I used to.
Off I go to the doctor who says this weight gain is entirely, she says, due to the fact that as a woman 'of a certain age,' my body is no longer handling carbohydrates in the same way as it used to.
Now, I realise that as someone who went from a UK size six to a size eight, no one is going to be weeping for me over this weight gain and in fact, my face looks, if anything, better for the extra pounds. My body however, felt like it was splitting its skin. At 5' 3" and a very petite build, the extra pounds felt more than I should be carrying around. I wanted to 'stop the rot' - ignoring those first few pounds will make it more difficult to tackle when the next few pile on.
So what to do? I've never dieted before and had no idea how to start. My doctor recommended a low-carb diet, such as Atkins. So okay, I buy the book,Atkins Made Easy: The First 2 Weeks, buy some shakes and morning bars and off I go.
For the first three days I had the headache from hell. Right behind my eyes. Withdrawal from caffeine (no more Pepsi Max), sugar and carbs, combined. I was tired and weak, though not hungry. And by the end of those days I had lost only half a pound.
But I did not give up - for what alternative did I have - for me it wasn't a question of eating less or eating low fat - I was already eating small portions of low fat food before the diet and had only put weight on.
By day four and five, the headache had gone, I was actually eating more than I used to and I had lost one and a half pounds.
Now, three weeks in, I have lost five pounds - not the huge weight loss Atkins is famous for, but as a percentage of the 12 pounds I wanted to lose, actually pretty great. I felt good too - I don't think about food outside of meals, I found it easy to stick to - just substitute salad for pasta and still have the tasty sauce, have the sunday roast but without the potatoes. This meant I could still cook for the family while not having to do a whole different meal for myself. Decaf coff - with cream! Fantastic!
I haven't missed the carbs at all - though I know that as per Atkins programme, I will need to add some back in to find my 'critical cabohydrate level' ie, the amount of carbs I can eat without putting weight on. You are not supposed to go back to 'regular' eating, it is an approach for life.
I think people who criticise the approach tend not to know what it really involves - you aren't supposed to stuff your face with huge amounts of bacon and eggs every day or tank up on large portions of allowed food and you do need to take a nutritional supplement (I use Multibionta).
I realise that I may have found it easier because I didn't overeat in the first place - I just needed to change the balance of what I was eating but it has come as an eye opener that it can make such a difference.
I no longer feel bloated and stodgy after meals - and not because I haven't eaten as much but clearly, wheat doesn't particularly agree with me.
The hardest thing I found was giving up my nightly whisky and hot water. Now I drink a cup of Redbush tea. But I find it a lot easier to get up in the mornings, to look at myself in the mirror without feeling old and pudgy and to know that adding years doesn't have to mean adding inches.
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27 Nov 2009

New Look for NotAsAdvertised

What do you think of the new look for NotAsAdvertised? Just fancied a change and the new three column layout gives me more flexibility.
Let me know what you think!
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26 Nov 2009

Dare To Be Different This Christmas

I do PR for Hampshire Farmers Markets. They have a great idea this Christmas - ditch the turkey and try trout or goose or game.. see below

Dare To Be Different This Christmas – Hampshire Farmers Markets Will Show You How.
Does the prospect of turkey again this Christmas leave you cold? Ever wanted to try a goose or a pheasant or even a whole trout but been put off because you don’t know how to do it?
Help is at hand this Christmas at Hampshire Farmers’ Markets, where the very people who produce the food are right there to show you how to prepare your Christmas roast to succulent perfection.
Be adventurous and leave the supermarket bird on the shelf this year. Instead, head off to one of our seven markets being held in the run-up to Christmas. You can also choose from turkey, beef, free-range pork, game, hog roast or even buffalo meat. You can pre-order your chosen lunch centrepiece and get a lesson from the stall-holder, who will have reared the produce themselves, in how to make the most of your choice.
If you’re set on turkey, you can still pre-order a home-grown bird at the Farmers’ Market, knowing that your choice will be locally reared without added water and sold to you direct from the producer.
While you’re there you can also pick up unique gifts for your family from a range of locally produced preserves, confectionery, wines and ciders, lavender, soaps and plants. You could even make up a hamper using a small decorated box or wicker basket for a fabulous gift your friends and relatives will love.
Ordering from Hampshire Farmers’ Markets means you can be sure that you’re treating your family to a locally produced, high-quality, succulent Christmas lunch as well as being a great way to support your local economy.
Also available at our December markets will be traditional Christmas wreaths and poinsettias to give your home that festive feel.
Our Christmas markets take place at the following places:
Sunday, November 29, 2009:   9am-2pm Winchester Farmers Market
Sunday, December 6, 2009:     10am-2pm Petersfield Farmers Market
                                                10am-2pm Romsey Farmers Market
Saturday, December 12, 2009:  10am-2pm Alton Farmers Market
Sunday, December 13, 2009 :   9am-2pm Winchester Farmers Market
Sunday, December 20, 2009;    10am-2pm Andover Farmers Market
                                                 10am-2pm Southsea Farmers Marke
Obviously if you're reading this from afar, you can just go to your local Farmers' Market - but supporting our local economy is a great thing to do..
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16 Nov 2009

Know Your Pulse - It Could Save Your Life

One of my clients is The Arrhythmia Alliance, the UK's leading heart rhythm charity. It has today welcomed a new campaign by the British Heart Foundation highlighting the problem of Atrial Fibrillation. The BHF campaign is great news as Atrial Fibrillation is a condition often thought to be non-life threatening but the fact is one in three people with AF will suffer a stroke - which as we all know can indeed be deadly.
Arrhythmia Alliance has itself been running a very successful 'Know Your Pulse' campaign for some time.
Here is the press release I have written for them on the subject. It's well worth reading because you may be suffering from AF without realising it - you can tell by simply taking your pulse. Further down is a link to Sir Roger Moore showing you just how to do that:

The UK's most common heart rhythm disorder, Atrial Fibrillation (AF), is too often ignored or underestimated in its potential to cause misery and death.
The Arrhythmia Alliance and The Atrial Fibrillation Association, leading charities on heart rhythm disorders, are welcoming The British Heart Foundation (BHF) joining the initiative to highlight the problems of Atrial Fibrillation, a condition often thought to be troublesome but non-life threatening.
Atrial Fibrillation is a major cause of stroke. In fact, 1 in 3 people with AF will suffer a stroke, so it is vital for people suffering from an irregular heart rhythm to be accurately diagnosed and treated.
We all have a 1 in 4 life time risk of developing AF. The condition can cause few physical symptoms or it can be seriously debilitating. Even if there are no symptoms the risk of stroke remains It is thought to affect almost 1 million people in the UK and is costing the NHS one percent of its total annual budget.
AF can be detected by a simple pulse check. Arrhythmia Alliance is currently continuing its successful 2009 "Know Your Pulse" campaign with the long term goal of ensuring that pulse checks become routine. The two-week campaign by BHF, starting today, will further endorse their long term goal to raise awareness of the condition and help save more lives.
To see Sir Roger Moore demonstrate how to take a pulse, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0dAlo0MEEA. For more information, visit www.atrialfibrillation.org.uk and www.knowyourpulse.org

Atrial Fibrillation Fast Facts:

• AF affects almost 1 million people in the UK and costs 1% of the annual NHS budget
• An episode of AF can last from a few minutes to many weeks and being a progressive disorder, up to 25% of initially self-terminating AF will become permanent in 5 years, and 50% by 10 years.
• There are 16,000 strokes annually in patients with AF in England which result in: 4,300 deaths in hospital, 3,200 discharges to residential care, 8,500 deaths within the first year.
• The annual cost of stroke to the UK economy is £8.9 billion - that is £44,000 per stroke victim (Saka et al, 2009). So detecting AF and reducing the risk if stroke by effective management is Very cost efficient.
• The easiest way to detect AF is, to feel the pulse.
Contact Information
Arrhythmia Alliance: Jo Jerrome
01789 450787 joanna@heartrhythmcharity.org.uk www.heartrhythmcharity.org.uk
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10 Nov 2009

This Last Summer - I wrote a novel

I haven't mentioned this before but I don't just write blogs. I have also completed two full length novels, the first one about 15 years ago which I did nothing with and the second one, This Last Summer, which I finished last year. The book is contenporary women's fiction and the blurb is thus:
"Life is finally going well for young TV reporter Madeleine Chambers. Despite a disrupted childhood she’s looking forward to a bright future. Then one day out on a story, she stumbles upon a discovery that throws her family’s lives into disarray.
Her mother, who abandoned her young family and was thought to be long dead, resurfaces at the scene of a fire Maddie is sent to cover. Maddie tries to make sense of her discovery, while trying to maintain her focus on work, making her way in a newsroom filled with the treacherous and the lecherous.
But it isn’t long before her family learn about Maddie’s discovery and now they must all work out if they want their mother back – a decision made even more difficult by the devastating news that she doesn’t have long to live."

The book was uploaded last week to Authonomy.com, a site run by Harper Collins for aspiring authors to showcase their work. You can read it here:  http://www.authonomy.com/ViewBook.aspx?bookid=13370.
The story came to me when I was studying for an Open University Social Sciences certificate. I was trying to make notes, but this idea kept nagging at me so I turned to the back of my notebook and wrote down fifteen hundred words of what would be the original prologue for the book.
That prologue has now been discarded but it got me started on the next 92,000 words, written over the following ten months. It is set in the summer of 2007, such as it was, and draws directly from my former experiences as a regional television reporter with Meridian Television, from having two children with Asperger Syndrome and from the emotions of having a parent dying from a nasty and almost always incurable form of cancer.
I don't know whether it will ever be published but so far it had garnered lots of nice comments from the Authonomy community and as we speak it is Number 3 on the weekly Chick Lit chart and Number 17 on the weekly chart for all books. Of course this will have changed for better or worse by tomorrow as it's just a current snapshot.
Still, putting it 'out there' has given me more confidence that I haven't wasted my time in writing it and that I should try harder to send it out to publishers/agents, which scares the life out of me!
If you ever have time, I'd be delighted if you would take a look at it. You can comment as well if you like but you have to be a member of the community to do so. If you are a writing something yourself, take a look at the Authonomy site for inspiration!
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7 Nov 2009

Off To Market We Go

I am about to start a part-time job working as PR for Hampshire Farmers' Markets in the south of England so today, I decided to pop down to the local market at Alton and have a look at what's on offer.

I took my eldest with me and I have to say, the visit didn't start off well because after we parked, I got something out of the boot and as I shut the boot door, it clipped his head. For a few minutes, I thought we were going to end up going straight back home but after a few tears, he pulled himself together and off we went.
Hampshire Farmers' Market is a not-for-profit organisation that Hampshire producers can apply to join if they grow, rear, bake, bottle, pickle or otherwise produce their goods wholly within the county or ten miles of its border.
Among its produce are meat and baked goods, organic fruit and veg, buffalo meats, fish, game, cheeses, home made sausages, honey, Hampshire's famous watercess and all sorts of preserves.
My eldest did a fair bit of tasting and made a few recommendations for purchases which, as he'd been so brave about the head injury, I went along with. We bought, amongst other things,cakes, sausages, watercress, some cheese, a large focaccia and my son had a burger that he was very impressed with.
Going to the Farmers' Market is an adventure, a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, seeing all the different foods that aren't available in the supermarket. It's a great way to educate your kids that food has an origin that doesn't have Tesco or Sainsbury's on the label.
Many of these producers have thought up innovative products such as watercress pesto from Cresson Creative which I meant to buy but I forgot as I so impressed with the watercress flatbread - next time I'll get some.
I think it's really important to support your local Farmers Market- even if you can only afford to buy one item, you are helping not only the local economy, but doing your bit for the environment as well. The food you buy there has to be fresher and have used fewer food miles than supermarket produce. It doesn't pretend to be a total replacement for your weekly supermarket shop but it does offer a unique opportunity to buy something incredibly tasty that hasn't travelled half way across the world to get to you.
I'm really looking forward to helping Hampshire Farmers' Markets promote its members. As well as the website: www.hampshirefarmersmarket.co.uk, where you can find out about the producers, they're also on Twitter so you get up to date information about markets and events.
And the markets are held come rain, shine, sun or snow on the dates advertised, so if you haven't been to your local market lately or even at all why not give it a go - you know it makes sense.
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2 Nov 2009

Oh to be 18 again.. er, no thanks

My late Grandmother once said that although she was in her eighties, she still felt the same inside as she did when she was 18. I related this remark to my older sister the other day who said that was true for her too and asked if I could say the same for myself.

But even though I'm only half the age my Gran was when she said it, for me, the answer is definitely no and thank God for that. When I was 18 I felt like I knew it all. Like I was embarking on the big adventure of life without need to listen to the advice of anyone else because, of course, they were old and what did they know anyway?

Although in the still of the night, alone, that wasn't what I really felt. I would never have admitted it at the time, but I was unsure, untried, untested, not even knowing who I really was inside, definitely not knowing anything worth knowing about the world. But ignorance is the beauty of youth.

If we really had an idea in our heads of what was in store, we might just pull the covers over our heads and never get up again. The sheer number and variety of events, good and bad, that happen to us over the course of even half a lifetime would be too overwhelming.

At 18, I hadn't a thought in my head of what it might to like to have real responsibility, of worrying about someone else instead of just yourself, of making a marriage work through its inevitable highs and lows. The thought of dealing with the estate of a newly-deceased parent, would be terrifying wondering as you combed through the accumulated belongings and papers of a whole life, if you ever really knew them.

Although many women know this already by the time they're 18, for me, the thought of motherhood wasn't even a flash of consideration. How I would deal with two children who had special needs? If I'd thought of that one, I probably would have approached the whole concept of motherhood with a lot more respect.

As I think back to myself at 18, I cringe at the thought of how much I thought I knew, compared to how little was actually going on in my head at the time. And yet, despite that, when you are 18, every little event is a great drama, you, the star of your own life.

But now, at 42, I realise that the progression through life, gathering experiences, gaining and losing family members making good decisions and huge mistakes, is what makes you who you really are - that person you couldn't have possibly known about when you were 18. Times can be great, times can be tough but it's the grace with which you handle both those things that matters. Sometimes I succeed in this and sometimes I fail but in everything, I learn that I didn't know everything when I was 18 and I certainly don't now. Grace is something else I didn't have much of at 18.

I actually envy my Grandmother feeling she hadn't changed over the course of a lifetime but I don't think she was right. The wisdom she had at 87 comes as the product of experience. I don't have the energy, the body or the enthusiasm I had then. I was, at 18, what a new adult should be - a blank slate on which to chalk the happenings of a life to come. But, for me, what has replaced youth and fearlessness is so much more fulfilling that I don't envy my younger self at all.
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1 Nov 2009

Smashing Pumpkins

November dawns, sheeting down with rain as gusting wind tears the remaining leaves from the trees. Winter is definitely on its way. I don't really get along with winter but the first of November means that at least another Halloween is over.
My boys love Halloween but their constant nagging of  'can we take them trick or treating' (ie, door to door begging) drives me insane. And the answer is always no. I don't mind if someone else takes then, but the thought of traipsing around the neighbourhood in the cold and dark, in the hope of grabbing some tooth-rotting sugar is frankly, hideous.
Last year they went with the next-door neighbours who love the whole event. And to be fair, we always carve a pumpkin and buy a couple of bags of mini-treats to fill a bowl for those ringing our doorbell. It's just the going from house to house that I loathe.
I have always seen Halloween celebrations as an American thing, where it's a really big event. The media and retail sectors here have grabbed the day by the throat and tried to replicate the whole thing here but it always strikes me as a bit half-hearted. That said, it's hard just to ignore the whole thing when the TV is wall-to-wall Halloween.
Saturday was spent with my youngest, scooping out the slimy innards of  a Sainsbury's carving pumpkin and then letting him get on with his design. I, meanwhile, made chilli pumpkin soup and chilli-roasted pumpkin seeds (delicious and very moreish)
He was scheduled to go to his friend's house for 5pm and spent the whole afternoon asking me what time it was and was it time to put on his ghoulish make-up for his zombie outfit.
My eldest, who had spent the day in London with Dad seeing the Michael Jackson exhibition (£16 each and he still got to the gift shop in under 45 minutes flat), was staying home to dish out the sweets but had also carved a pumpkin of his own to light and put outside the house.
In the end, we had twice the amount of pumpkins than visitors. Is everyone as boring as me? Was everyone sitting at home with their candy waiting for visitors who never materialised? It appears that Halloween may well be just over-blown retail hyperbole designed to sell as much tat and as many multi-packs of sweets as possible and we reserved British are only half-convinced. We don't mind buying the goodies but going round to people's houses? I think the majority are with me on that one.
Even the little girl dressed as a witch who came to our door didn't manage to actually say 'Trick or Treat' but just looked sheepish as she held out her cauldron. Her pot was full, so presumably I'm not the only one who stocks up waiting for the writhing masses of spooky-themed youngsters to descend.
As if the lack of visitors wasn't tragic enough,  the evening was topped off by my husband who, on his way to collect our youngest, reversed over one of the pumpkins, leaving it splattered across the lane. A fitting verdict on the whole non-event perhaps?
So, goodbye Halloween for another year and hello November, onwards towards that other big waste of money.. Bonfire Night.
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