Middle Age: Time To Stop Worrying About Our Bodies And Start Focusing On Our Brains

I’ve had a mixed reaction in my circle about my decision to shed a few kilos. There are those friends who have been supportive – in that they understand the need to manage my weight gain through menopause, if possible. Then there is the other “life’s too short to be miserable” camp, who don’t believe I should worry about a few extra rolls at this stage of my life.

Photo by Jairo Alzate on Unsplash

Truth be told, I’m not so vain that a few extra kilos worry me, but I am conscious that carrying extra weight at my age is no good thing. I had also reached that point where I was climbing the dress size mountain a little faster than I wanted and was starting to feel the effects – physically and psychologically. There were several nights over Christmas when I had a ‘nothing to wear’ crisis, because nothing fitted.

Middle-age is hard enough when it comes to style, but it’s that much harder when you are heavier than you want to be.

However, I do believe that it’s important to put your health goals into perspective. It comes down to that balance thing that’s so hard to get right in life, which is why it saddens me so much when my girlfriends admit that they hate parts of their bodies. Because while none of us are immune to the ridiculous pressures of perfectionism created by women’s magazines and reality tv shows, I do feel that at some point we have a right (and it is healthier) to age and accept our age, along with the inevitable leaks and creaks that go with that.

I’ve mentioned before the glorious sense of liberation I have taken from the invisibility that has come with middle-age. I feel much freer when I go out without makeup, when I’m not wearing a bra, or can happily swan around the house in my pjs – and I’m loving the fact that I can get on public transport late at night without having to worry about being harassed.

In general, I feel much more confident in who I am.

However, there is no denying that we are the product of the expectations placed on our gender by the media. And many women have been victims of men who take their best years, use them as a vessel for their children, and then discard them during their mid-life crises for a younger model, thereby diminishing their confidence.

My body is a physical map of my life, that bears the scars of childbirth amongst other experiences. I am not ashamed of the physical evidence of that miracle of life or the way the intensity of my love has cracked the skin on my face. But I would point out that when it comes to ageing, there is no gender divide, and the old man’s body bears the same ravages of time as mine.

But imagine if women left men when they started to lose their hair?

I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t like to fit back into a size 10 and have the choice of high street fashion, or that I wouldn’t like my teeth to be whiter or my jowls to be less like my dog’s – BUT WHY? I’m fifty-four, not twenty-three.

And for the record, I wouldn’t want to be twenty-three again.

So does it really matter if the skin under our arms swings with the wind or if our faces looked like crumpled paper? I’m satisfied that I made the most of the beauty of my youth, and I wouldn’t choose to turn back time. But now is the time for my brain to shine.

Losing Weight: Who Knew Salmon Was Such A Traitor?

I was listening to a podcast with Clare Bowditch on Conversations this morning (about her book Your Own Kind Of Girl) and it made me question exactly why I’ve started another diet. Like her, I came to the conclusion a while ago that weight is unimportant (as long as it is within a healthy range and not affecting your health); that it’s what’s on the inside that counts; and that society needs to bloody well grow up and accept that most healthy women do not fit the skinny model stereotype promoted by magazines – hence the popularity of Celeste Barber.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash.com

In general, I manage to maintain my Reubenesque figure by compensating for my food and alcohol over-indulgences by working my butt off on walks and runs. However, the toll from Christmas this year has been grim and I’ve been sucked into a diet by the vanity of the old man who says he feels uncomfortable being overweight.

Imagine that?

Neither of us wants to get down to the sort of unrealistic weight that means that you start rocking in a corner when you think about a Magnum, but we’d like to lose the weight we’ve gained over the last two years – to avoid the slippery slope of unfair weight distribution that happens to so many people in middle age.

I blame our Christmas visitors for the last few kilos I’ve gained – skinny visitors who ate as much as us, exercised less, and still manage to remain thin. Also, any host knows how impossible it is to eat mindfully when you have guests in the house and you have to show off the enviable lifestyle of Australia (bushfires excluded). And in Sydney the food is as spectacular as the beaches. The day only starts after one of THE BEST BREAKFASTS in the world, followed by – as a result of our wonderfully diverse population – a veritable smorgasbord of international feasting to choose from over the rest of the day.

Worse, when you have guests (particularly at Christmas), any rules around drinking fly out the window. – so even though we weren’t officially on holiday, we were happy to use the rellies as an excuse for extra bevvies.

Hence, I find myself fitting a little too snugly into my size 14 clothes, and albeit that left to my own devices I would probably have continued to ignore the extra tire around my middle and hoped for the best once I get back into some sort of routine – When? – I am sadly married to a man obsessed with his weight.

So we’ve hooked up to an app called Easy diet diary which is basically a calorie counting tool that works like this: You put in your weight, height etc and tell it how much weight you want to lose and in how much time, and then it suggests a daily calorie intake to achieve your goal. Each day, you add in every morsel you eat, every drop of liquid you drink, and every kilometre you sweat – although I’m not counting calories burnt during exercise as that me permission to drink more.

It is unhealthily competitive and we are learning to be cunningly strategic – which is the only fun aspect of a diet – but it has given us something to talk about over the past few days i.e. like how f…ing hungry we are. And on a more serious note, we have started to think about what we put in my mouths, particularly when it comes to portion sizes. You can imagine my pain one morning when I had to put a large slice of watermelon back in the fridge because it meant I would have to forego a glass of wine that night.

And talking of wine, basically what feels like a mouthful of wine (100mls) equates to around 80cals, so on drinking days you really have to be careful about how many food calories you consume or switch to spirits which are generally kinder.

It’s amazing what you discover. I won’t bore you with the calorific content of every food faux-ami – i.e. foods we thought were healthy but turn out to be wickedly calorific – That’s right SALMON, I’m talking about you – but who knew that trail mix, coffee, and chocolate were so bloody fattening? Or that a shot of Cointreau is a whopping 91 calories?

Where the fun really comes in is seeing how much yoghurt or muesli you can squeeze into a quarter of a cup; or how many units of alcohol you can fit in without starving; and what you can eat with those precious six calories left at the end of the day – suffice it to say, I’m still trying to work out the value of a single M&M.

The experience has certainly been an education – one I won’t be repeating as soon as I get down to a svelte size 12 over the next week or so.

Can I Suggest Eating Mindfully This Christmas Rather Than Dieting?

Let’s make a pact and enforce a community embargo against dieting this Christmas.

I won’t be dieting. In fact, I will be eating all of the pigs-in-blanket, swigging the whole jug of brandy custard, and scoffing every one of the purple Quality Street!

In Joanna Nell’s book, The Single Ladies Of Jacaranda Village, her doctor advises 80-something Peggy not to diet, but rather to ‘start eating mindfully.’ He elaborates: ‘I want you to think about every single thing you put into your mouth. I want you to taste it as you chew and listen to your body so you can work out when you’ve had enough.’

Easier said than done, I know – particularly at Christmas and when you’ve been raised by a war baby. And yet, the words of Peggy’s doctor really do make sense. He wants her to think more carefully about her relationship with food along with other adjustments to her lifestyle that will help her maintain her weight, rather than increase it.

No one should be miserable or deny themselves at Christmas, but it’s important to recognize when you’re full, make smart choices about what you eat, and exercise.

I’ve been trying to find that balance for a while. In calorie-speak, I have learned that when if I want a wine or two at night, I need to sacrifice bad carbs (such as potatoes or rice) with my dinner; I know that drinking water during the day fills me up and that chewing my food more slowly helps me feel more satisfied. I am also aware that the first mouthful of food is like the first sip of wine – it’s always the best!

I suppose that what I have been doing unconsciously for a while is eating more mindfully. The “eating healthily” part is easy for me – I love healthy food – although portion control, not so much. But I have also pushed myself to incorporate exercise into my routine each day. I don’t go on the scales anymore – why, when there are still women being murdered and Trump to depress me? – so instead, I gauge my weight by how my clothes fit.

Sadly, gauging your weight by how your clothes fit is becoming an increasingly difficult exercise due to the way that women’s sizing works.

The other day I tried on a bikini top in Bonds. I do not have a large bust, but because I have always carried some extra weight had a wide back (and didn’t want to spoil my day quite so early on), I attempted to be realistic and opted first for a size Large… moved swiftly onto the Extra-Large… and then, instead of beating myself up about it (and cutting up the Extra-Large into tiny pieces and shoving them down the front of the lovely sales assistant’s dress), I walked out of that shop with my head held high.

Generally, I wear a size 12-14 in tops, and yet I couldn’t squeeze my puppies into an Extra-Large. How can that make sense when the average size of women in Australia is a size 16?

So what do we do? How do we cater for the range of different shapes and sizes that women come in, without encouraging obesity? The only solution that I can see is education. 

I’m no scientist, but I’m always surprised by how little most people understand about the risks associated with processed food, portion control, sugar and the way our metabolism slows down with age. And that’s without taking into account the emotional eaters and drinkers among us or those of us in menopause.

I stopped self-flagellating over bad eating days a while ago. Like everyone, I have shit to deal with. Some days I feel on top of the world and others I want to never leave the house, and even though food is not my natural go-to substitute for happiness or self-medication – I’m wino! – I am guilty of major blow-outs like everyone else.

However, I’ve changed the way I handle them, which has nothing to do with the fact that I feel invisible anyway, or because these days I give zero fucks about pretty much most things, or even the emergence (finally) of some middle-aged wisdom. The alternative to getting depressed about something that is pretty irrelevant in my life right now – even if the magazines try to convince us otherwise – is to try to think calmly and positively for a solution to reverse the damage – such as half wine-half water, a few more salads, or some brisker walks. 

I’m already looking forward to those brisk walks this Christmas.

Have you got any other tips to share about eating mindfully? 

The Hidden Link Between Muscle Tone And Weight Gain In Middle Age

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I know I drone on about the unfairness of weight gain in middle age a lot. I don’t want to sound like some narcissistic bitch bemoaning the first-world problem of the loss of my youth, beauty, and self-esteem, (which I am…obviously), but we women of a certain age have a lot to come to terms with.

Almost a year ago, as I began to watch the weight creep on, I decided to try something new. I took up exercise again. I suppose I got caught up in the hype of wanting to look young again – thank you Revitalift – and so I’ve been secretly beavering away at some fitness stuff in an attempt to shed the kilos and keep the old ticker working as it should.

I suppose I thought I’d surprise you. If women’s magazines are anything to go by, many of us struggle with our weight at this age and I thought that one day I would put up my before and after photos and my secret to losing weight on this site and you’d all hate me. I’d sell my story about how I did it, and how simple it really was, because all it really involves is loving yourself, drinking lots of red wine (not white) and walking to the pub instead of catching an Uber. I thought I’d be one of those unrealistic representations of health that you see in photos of beautiful, young people in the gym. Only I’m no longer young and beautiful.

But then, in a moment of sheer madness, I decided to get on the scales – something I haven’t done since the last time I couldn’t do up my jeans – and to my horror, I discovered that I’d gained six kilos. This, after almost killing myself for a year.

And the problem with that is that I’m not the sort that sees the unfairness of life as a challenge. I see the world in black and white – as in I’m the type that receives that kind of devastating news and heads straight to the pantry for a six-pack of Kettle Chips and a bottle of Baileys, in spite of everything I write about accepting myself for who I am.

To be honest, I’m feeling kind of cheated right now about all that time I spent gritting my teeth through the pain in my lungs and the swelling in my knees, and my disappointment isn’t entirely linked to vanity. It’s linked to the unfairness of working so damned hard for fuck-all results. It is linked to the sacrifice and unfairness of losing not only my looks, my hair, and my memory, but of also having to come to terms with how my clothes sit on my new size 14 frame.

We’ve all heard overweight friends say things like, ‘I don’t know why I can’t lose the weight,’ and then we watch them eat and become smugly judgmental. And I will admit to enjoying my food as well. On occasion, I have been known to give in to my body’s natural bent for eating MOST of the pies, and yet, in general, I eat healthily at least five days a week.

And yes, (before The Alcohol Police remind me), I am fully aware of those naughty wine calories, which I had hoped would be compensated by my hour of exercise each day. Two glasses of wine equate to 160 calories, which by my calculations, equates to an hour’s walk. Added to which, I must lose the equivalent amount of liquid in sweat during my jogs around the park.

Cortisol can be another cause of weight gain at this age, and I admit that I have been content in the past to latch onto the excuse of stress as a result of Kurt’s antics and living with the old man. And yet I can’t even blame the boy at the moment, who has been suspiciously tame for a while now.

Which leaves only a couple of possible excuses reasons for this weight gain. 1. The first is that biologically-speaking, many middle-aged women gain weight during menopause – something to do with an extra padding of fat to protect our crumbling bones, which is vital if we want to continue to outlive men and lead the human race. Because seriously…who wants to leave this world on something boring like a fall, unless it’s in a bar, of course? But as I’m not officially in menopause yet, it has to be the second reason.

2. Muscle tone.

Cooking For A Family Of Dietary Heathens

Anyone who is responsible for cooking the evening meal knows what a mindfuck it is. It takes a lot of preparation – you have to remember to defrost, to check you have all the ingredients and that there will be enough food to go around, and if you have kids like mine, one of the fuckers will tell you at the last minute that they are going out.

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Worse, if you’re a pushover like me you end up cooking an assortment of customized variations of the same meal to keep everyone happy. Add to that the issue of staying abreast of current dietary recommendations – which seem to change as quickly as Facebook privacy regulations – and it can make the responsibility an exhausting process.

I like to think I cook healthily and creatively but there are some food trends that not even I can contemplate. Take the green smoothie. As Generation Xer, hence brought up on bacon and eggs for breakfast, I am afraid that green sludge is that step too far for me. I maintain the cynicism of my toddler years when it comes to anything green, which is that it is not to be trusted.

Last weekend, I went on a girls weekend to celebrate my sister’s fortieth birthday, for which we hired a lovely apartment for two nights. As we planned to eat out in the evenings and self-cater for breakfast and lunch, our first stop on the weekend’s agenda was to the local supermarket for a communal shop for necessities.

In hindsight, four mums on a food shop had the potential to end the weekend prematurely. As each of us manages our own homes and have, understandably, our own ideas when it comes to food, our interpretation of what constitutes ‘healthy’ was surprisingly different. My sister and the other two mums are still in the young children zone of parenting and as such are used to checking the ingredients and small print on all packaging with a fine toothcomb, hence we spent half an hour in the green juice section. While each of them Googled which was the grossest healthiest juice, I waited patiently and prayed that the one with the odd kiwi or apple thrown in for good measure would be enough to  pass their rigorous checks. Eventually, as it was my sister’s birthday, we let her choose the pond green juice, which contained something called Spirulina and smelled of poo.

If you believe everything you read, Spirulina is a blue-green alga and a super-food with loads of inspiring for health benefits, particularly for more senior folks like me because it can help lower our cholesterol,  prevent cancer, increase weight loss and reduce blood pressure without even trying. Which means, I suppose, that if my health anxiety gets a say, I will end up eating something that tastes like shit for the rest of my life.

Because, when it comes to the taste of this superfood – look online, where there are more articles about how to make it taste good than articles about its value to our body’s microbiome – it really does taste of shit. I imagine that it might be edible in a Vindaloo or Jungle Curry, but the general recommendation is that the best way to take it is in powder form – I suggest, up your nose.

Anyway, the following morning, I put on a brave face as I peered into our communal fridge in spite of the hangover from hell, silently cursing whoever ate the last piece of cheese and secretly praying that KFC had dropped a food parcel or something vaguely unhealthy to quell nausea and an unsettled stomach from the foot long Kransky sausage with all the trimmings that we devoured like animals the evening before, when our dietary concerns were compromised by alcohol.

Surprisingly, Spirulina did not meet my need-for-immediate-comfort brief, nor had it quenched the thirsts of my housemates if the line of green around the sink was anything to go by.

Healthy eating is not as straightforward as it looks when you cohabit with other people and I know this because I live with a couple of die-hard, meat-and-two-veg men. I am continually having to compromise my idealism when it comes to nutrition, and although I had thought that I had changed the three-year-old mentality of the old man when it comes to food, the other day he asked me when I was going to cook something nice after I had presented him with a plate of fresh, pan-fried Barramundi and roasted sweet potatoes in a Balsamic glaze.

I realize that the fight about how much red meat we have in our diets, or indeed what we eat, is an embarrassing first world problem to have, yet I fear it is a battle I am losing at home. Although dieticians have proved again and again that red meat is the devil’s food, I know that my son and husband would die happily (and quickly) if I rotated spag bol, Chilli Con Carne, and Shepherd’s pie through the week, and as a natural carnivore, my own willpower disappears as soon as those red juices begin to call to me from the pan. It appears that I can only keep my cavewoman/canine impulses that see me drooling in the face of a rare steak in check, as long as I don’t have to cook it or watch someone eat it in front of me.

 

So, do I?

Give in, and continue to clog their arteries slowly for a quiet life?

Endure the looks of disappointment and criticism leveled at me that forced me to add secret ingredients of Spirulina and dog food to the Chilli last Thursday?

Or, tell them to fuck off?

There’s A Sandwich Shortage In Australia

Far be it for me to take the spotlight away from Barnaby Joyce’s affair, however, Australia has a far bigger problem than a defunct political role model.

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It has a sandwich shortage.

 

When you drive through the state of NSW – that bit around Sydney and up to the Gold Coast – you will notice that the country is nothing like the way it is depicted in movies such as Mad Max ie. barren, soul-less, with kilometers of dirt, dust and cattle farms and serial killers that wait to hijack your combi the minute you step out of it for a pee. No, NSW is lush and green with beautiful beaches that must compete with some of the best in the world,

 

But long journeys are as boring AF, and what most of us tend to do when we’re bored is think about food.

 

In the UK, motorway cafes and petrol stations have remarketed themselves as fully stocked supermarkets that offer a variety of lunch options and snacks – they even sell wine. Whole aisles are dedicated to the sandwich, from the traditional egg and cress or chicken and mayo – my personal favorites – to the more exotic gourmet flavors handed down by their immigrant population. Even quinoa must have infiltrated the sandwich market at some level by now.

 

I bet that even Dean Moriarty, Jack Kerouac’s character in On The Road, found somewhere that made a decent sandwich, but in regional Australian, similar quests always seem to end in a hot pie with sauce (or “poie” as we pronounce it here) or a Maccas heart-attack fest. Mention a sandwich and the eyes of the locals glaze over – as though you just landed in one of North Korea’s practice missiles – which is kind of depressing when you think about the progress that has been made in diet and nutrition.

 

Far be it for me to knock the staple comfort food of my adopted country – I imagine that the steak pie has far more goodness in it than a super-sized Big Mac meal with a side of a chicken and cheeseburger and an Oreo sundae, which is Kurt’s lunch of choice after years of enforced healthy eating, but even with the dietary tweaks one makes on holiday, it is difficult to find anything healthy and tasty on the road.

 

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Admit it, you thought I was joking.

 

Sure, there are plenty of lollies, the sugar-fix of choice (if you can agree on whether to go sweet or sour) with six hours of barren landscape ahead of you, fights over playlists, bitching about the speed limit and which toilets to stop at. And there are plenty of (frankly) weird places to stop at in this vast country – Big Bananas, and cafes shaped like rocks where you sense that no one has ever heard of Netflix, (let alone dedicated their life to the sport of watching it), waxing or customer service, and where coffee is served via machines that all function slightly differently making you wish that IT was on the curriculum when you were at school – which all take on a heightened significance when you need to lift the tedium and pretense that there is any conversation left after twenty-five years of marriage.

 

We settled for a burger in the end. I couldn’t repeat the experience of last year when (finally) we found a café that was open and had a friendly staffer who had actually heard of the word “sandwich”, hadn’t run out of bread or only took cash. And it was only when I said the word “mayo” three times without a single glimmer of recognition of the abbreviated condiment, that all hope crumbled. When they (obviously) fertilized the egg, reared the bird and cooked it as we waited, my anxiety went into “abort mission” mode and the sandwich ended up in a bin down the street.

 

So we ended up at Maccas, again, and shared a portion of chips, one of those boring concessions to the aging process, where you allow yourself to stand on the edge of the pool of holiday-brazen-ness, but you only go in up to your waist. It’s a bitch getting old and realizing that you can’t ingest or imbibe whatever the fuck you want and that mental point system of calories in your head booms at you through a megaphone with “what the fuck are you thinking, you fat bitch?” every time you contemplate anything naughty but nice.

 

A full portion of chips is three glasses of wine to the muffin-top-challenged, so it’s a no-brainer, really.

Eating And Drinking Healthily In Middle Age To Maintain Your Body Weight

I’ve written a lot of posts about this topic in the past because let’s face it, girls, on a scale of stuff that still turns us on in middle age, (where sex with our husbands/partners is at one), food has to be at least a ten. The struggle is real. And to my horror, I recently discovered that there is sugar in fruit and wine – which is a bit rude, frankly – and a fact that has made rather a mockery of just about everything I have aspired to achieve over the past few years in my war on the muffin top.

 

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Sugar in fruit? Like, WTF!

 

The good news (this week) is that two glasses of red wine before bedtime is now good for us, according to the fat-busting scientists, which must mean that for those that are partial to a few more than two (due to mental health issues, say), that makes them virtually Roger Federer.

 

I gave up on traditional diets a long time ago, mainly because they don’t work, I can’t stick to them and they make me very dull and bad-tempered with a hunger only seen in Labradors and an irrational fixation on the breadbasket.

 

Fortunately, I am a moderation kind of girl, (Kettle Chips and cheese excluded – OBVS) and although I don’t deny myself any food groups really – except octopus because WTF and legs – I like to think that I choose wisely and healthily. I also try to balance my out my diet using a cutting-edge, self-developed point system that I stole from Weightwatchers designed for myself, that seems to work for me… sometimes – as in I don’t get the kind of hunger where all I can think about is eating other people’s leftovers in cafes and I can maintain focus on a sensible health target at this stage of my life – to maintain my drinking goals and weight at the same time.

 

Here are some of my tips:

 

If I have yogurt for brekkie, I won’t touch dairy for the rest of the day until my Snickers smoothie at bedtime.

 

If I blow out seriously on carbs, I limit myself to less than a bottle of wine that evening.

 

If I’ve starved myself with a steak and blue cheese salad for lunch, denied myself my morning tea toast and my afternoon snack of crackers and hummus, I allow myself an all-you-can-eat/all-you-can-drink week.

 

I only eat carbs when I’m hormonal, pre-menstrual, peri-menopausal, feeling fat, feeling unloved, feeling hungry, the kids hate me, or with wine.

 

You see – all pretty straightforward really. But let’s be honest, we all have those really shitty years when there’s been nothing on telly but sport for months, you’re fifty-two and still getting acne or your local restaurants decide to allow babies, and it’s hard to be virtuous all the time. Those days when all you want to do is crawl into bed with Pods on toast and an Amaretto on ice. And on those occasions – because remember, I said it’s about balance – I increase my exercise by searching out the furthest pub on Google maps and walking there AND BACK.

How The F*ck Am I A Size 16?

I know that we all have inherent body image issues to some degree, not aided by the pressure put on women, in particular, to squeeze into Barbie- sized clothes deemed acceptable by society due to the influence of the media – even though the average size in Australia is now a size 16. air-kiss-1255358_1920

But I can’t say I’ve ever really struggled with my weight – or perhaps I just didn’t care enough – until now. I’ve been a 12 for most of my life, bordering on 14 at certain times (of the month) and a nervous 10 just before my wedding day.

 

I stopped weighing myself after an over-enthusiastic two weeks in London last year, and although I consider myself a glass empty kind of gal, I am the type of woman that looks in the mirror each day and thinks I look okay. That is until  I go clothes shopping. In the past, I’ve put this anomaly in sizing down to a male-led conspiracy in the women’s fashion retail sector which means I’ve had to come to terms with keeping my eyes shut until I reach the plus size floor in Myer, but now I’m not so sure.

 

One day on my holiday,  a few cocktails in, as the tropical island spirit of ‘not worrying… about a thing’ finally took hold, I decided to go shopping for a new swimming cossie. I’ve written about this Armageddon for womankind before, and suffice it to say, my newfound holiday positivity did not help me at all to cope with the savagery of it, and twenty-five cossies later (just to make sure), I left the store with a size 16.

 

I’m still hoping that this setback isn’t karma related to all the photos I took of the old man in my bikini bottoms (here), but I’m beginning to think now, that simply maintaining my weight is almost as big an impossibility as Trump not being impeached. Don’t worry, I’m not beating myself up about it, looking at myself in disgust in the mirror or self-flagellating in front of photos of Elle McPherson each night – but I am frustrated.

 

‘It’s cortisol,’ a friend of mine explained. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is released in response to stress, which in real terms means that it instructs any excess fat in your body to move to your tummy area when you’re already feeling like shit.

 

‘I thought you lost weight when you’re stressed?’ I argued, ‘and anyway, I’m not feeling stressed.’

 

And then she reminded me about my ongoing worries about Kurt and the latest rejections of my writing, my father coming over at Christmas and how awful I looked in NC’s graduation photos – she’s a good friend – and it kind of made sense. Even though I’m not as stressed as I was…apart from the usual symptoms of anxiety that make me catastrophize over every damn thing like the crick in my neck which I’m convinced is cancer.

 

So, what’s really going on in my body? I don’t want or need to be a size 12 – I think skinny, older women can appear gaunt and look older. But on the whole, I eat healthily. Admittedly, crisps do hold a dangerous fascination, particularly around 5 pm each evening when I start on the wine, although I do make allowances for my wine by cutting out most carbs, as well as committing to my 10,000 steps each day (to the fridge, for wine) and I have even been known to pick up the pace if it’s a particularly good year. And my FitBit assures me that what’s going in is roughly the same as what’s going out.

 

So, WTF’s going on?

How To Show Restraint At The Inclusive Hotel Buffet Breakfast

fried-1789962_1920I’d never noticed before that skinny women only eat fruit at the hotel buffet breakfast, but since NC kindly (?) gave me my FitBit for Mothers Day, I’ve become much more conscious of the number of calories going into my body versus calories being burned.

 

Due to medical reasons pertaining to my mental health, I have to allocate a large percentage of my daily intake of calories to wine each day, so I need to watch carefully how much and what type of food I put into my mouth – especially with the added complications of middle-aged hormone fuckery. And possessing that level of control is not always easy on holiday where the ‘fuck it’ attitude kicks in the minute you step off the plane and all traces of accountability disappear.

 

The old man and I haven’t stayed in a hotel with inclusive breakfast for years (because…children), so this holiday has provided me with the biggest test on the food frontline since my last working lunch, when our boss used to provide enormous catered trays of sandwiches and cakes and I had to physically pinch the skin on my thighs to stop eating.

 

Since the early days of our marriage, the old man and I have maintained the same strategy when it comes to the hotel buffet breakfast – which is to eat as much as we can so we don’t have to pay for lunch. In hindsight, a strategy that rarely actually works.

 

It took me the first three days of this holiday to work out my buffet breakfast plan for the rest of the week, after a few false starts where all my self-coaching on the plane fell apart as soon as I approached the breakfast area and my natural mindset of Labrador set in. Most women will recognize that it is almost impossible to resist a line of FREE food that you haven’t had to either plan, cook or shop for – particularly one which offers a smorgasbord of food you normally deny yourself, the morning after that first night of holiday drinking – another of those traps you swear you won’t fall into until Happy Hour swings around at 4pm and the lure of half-price cocktails proves impossible to ignore.

 

I’m being hard on myself. I did show some self-control in my choice of fruit as my starter, (rather than the huge bowl of Coco Pops I would normally berate Kurt for), before I headed for the full, cholesterol breakfast, finished off by toast, no Nutella, and washed down with three cups of Earl Grey.

 

Only four mini chocolate croissants made their way back to our room.

 

I’m not sure why we live this lie each hotel holiday that the buffet breakfast will suffice until dinner, because inevitably the ‘FEED ME!’ belly grumbles always kick in around 1pm as those first wafts of lunch make their way around the pool.

 

But today I demonstrated REAL restraint. I accepted that after three hours of hard work lying on a sunbed, I have a right to feel a little peckish around lunchtime, and I refuse to beat myself up about it. I am aware that lifestyle changes – particularly in regard to diets – need to be permanent, rather than half-hearted efforts here and there. And so I became a responsible eater this morning – mature enough to look beyond the sausages and potato croquettes, to think about the bigger picture of my health and weight beyond this week of testing temptation. And frankly, the bacon and eggs were enough.

 

 

Versatile Muesli Cookies

Very occasionally, I like to remind myself (and everyone who reads this blog), that I am not perfect and that we can’t all be good at everything. It has been a while since I posted one of my epic cooking fails, but this one is a real gem that provided me with the invaluable life lesson that more free time does not a good cook maketh. 

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After Superglue

 

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Before Superglue

You see, now that I’m working from home full-time and the kids are older – although sadly, not any less demanding – sometimes I get this longing to be a ‘fifties meets modern woman’, who can earn a decent crust at the same time as knocking up a batch of something yummy during her coffee break. I must reiterate that this window of opportunity has only come about since the kids grew up and I can callously refuse to enable their Millennial bleats for help. Which means that aside from my 24hr nagging service (which is reinforced by my ‘when are you leaving home’ ringtone), basically I ignore them. Oh, and the cleaning.

 

Anyway, three factors brought on this strange desire to make my own muesli cookies last week:

 

  1. I am always hungry – a common complaint among those of us who work from home and find themselves within 24hr snacking distance from the kitchen. So when I discovered the recipe online, and the cookies looked kind of healthy, (because oats and fruit…) and I ignored the glaring fact that they are meals between meals with calories you don’t need, it seemed like a good idea.
  2. I got sick of paying $5 for them in cafes.
  3. They looked quick and easy, which meant I could slip them in between Facebook sessions.

 

I trust the TASTE online recipes implicitly, nevertheless, once a cheater always a cheater so as soon as I printed the recipe from the Internet I looked for shortcuts. I’m sure you can imagine my hilarity when I discovered that one of the four ingredients listed was ‘homemade muesli’, a requirement that catapulted me to Coles as fast as a two-for-one sale on Tena pads in search of the muesli-fail that looked as close to something I’d knocked up myself. And I found it, by paying a week’s rent for a European version – for which I’ve no doubt some poor migrant scaled the mountains of Switzerland for and was paid the minimum wage.

 

Another minor cheat was that I really couldn’t be arsed to weigh the butter (because then I’d have to wash up the scales) and at this stage in my Masterchef career, I think I know what 100g looks like. In hindsight, it was an interesting decision after flourless cake-gate last week, when somehow I forgot to add the butter completely – one of only four ingredients. Anyway, my generosity with the butter on this occasion was probably what contributed to the versatility of my cookies’, because as soon as they emerged from the oven I sensed they were special and came with a range of extra functions, meaning they could be used as a muesli breakfast cereal, drizzled over salad, used as a sweet version of dukkha (because be honest, no-one really likes the savoury version), drunk as a smoothie or added to houseplants as fertiliser.

 

That’s right, with the consistency of course sand, I needed a trowel to move them from the baking tray to my cake stand, so I can only assume that the egg and flour must have been having an RDO.

 

Perhaps I should have listened more closely to the sage advice of George Colombaris’ to one of the new guinea pigs on Masterchef this week, when he warned her not to go too far off piste in her cooking as she cried into her ice cream soup.

 

So weigh the fucking butter.

 

I’ve given you the recipe below and I’m one hundred percent confident that in the right hands, it will work.

 

Versatile Muesli Cookies 

Calories: Who The Fuck Cares

Ingredients:

3 Cups Supermarket Toasted Muesli (or 3 cups homemade if you’re ‘one of those‘)

100g Butter, melted and cooled

1 Egg lightly beaten

1/2 Cup Plain Flour

1/3 cup honey

Superglue (if necessary)

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees

WEIGH butter, then whisk with honey and egg.

Combine muesli and flour together then add butter mixture. Leave to sit for 15 minutes. Roll spoonfuls of mixture into balls and place on lined baking trays.

Bake for ten minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before moving (very important)

 

(Warning: When all the ingredients are combined, the mixture does feel really gross in your hands – kind of like when you find something soft and sticky down the back of the sofa. But the more you compact and flatten these fuckers, the more likely you are to get something hat resembles a cookie.)

 

 

Middle-Age: The Best Way To Gain Kilos Without Really Trying

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Do you, like me, sometimes look in the mirror and secretly wish you were larger? Are you disappointed when you can pinch less than an inch, or can’t find clothes that fit because you’re simply too small? Do you watch other women on the beach flaunting their curves and muffin tops, and imagine yourself in their body? 

Well, worry no more because I’m about to share with you here my secret for gaining weight. And all that’s required for you to look YOUR BEST EVER YET is to be 1. Peri/menopausal, 2. A serious food junkie, and 3. A functioning alcoholic with a positive outlook.

I promise you it’s REALLY simple.

Here are my top tips for gaining weight in middle-age:

Holidays – The more the better, because…BUFFET BREAKFAST! Every one of us knows how easy it is to eat compulsively on holiday and pile on the pounds. Somehow, it’s so much easier to forget food discipline when the sun is shining and you can wear kaftans. Holidays gives you that free pass to eat as much as you can because in your head you’ve worked hard all year and your deserve it. Scientists have proven that our mindset changes as soon as we see an ice cream parlour or a cocktail bar in a relaxed environment where there is no-one we know to judge us.

Menopause – Thank God that our bodies think of us and protect us at what could be a difficult time of our lives, and one of the hardest transition periods of the ageing process for women. But ladies, I’m here to tell you that Menopause is our friend, proven by the way it increases our appetite to make us feel mentally stronger and better about ourselves, as well as laying down extra fatty tissue to protect our bones so we are physically stronger as well.

Serial snacking, is how I like to describe the chips n’dips that I like to indulge in right before meals (as well as mid-morning and mid-afternoon). I like to kid myself that eating natural, savoury snacks like hummus and peanut butter, i.e., foods that look low in calories, really are.

Meditation – Or what I like to call ‘mind over matter.’ I use the power of my mind to think about what food is in my cupboard – like ALL OF THE TIME. Obviously, I continue to count calories, but I use a reverse psychology where I have to think about how many calories I can gain. Scientists may remain uncertain about the true benefits of sugar consumption, but what we do know is how good it makes me feel and that’s good enough for me.

Alcohol – The jury may still be out about how much alcohol it is safe to consume, so I’ve decided to empower myself and run my own research at home.

Exercise – Step away from the gym because it turns out that it is not your friend when it comes to gaining weight. Exercise turns fat into muscle, makes you drink loads of water (which fills you up when really donuts feel so much better), and worse, it makes you incredibly boring. Have you noticed the reaction of your friends’ to tales about your work outs, new gym equipment and yoga? Instead, try mentioning that Amaretto ricotta cheesecake with white chocolate shards you baked recently and ate in one sitting.

The best part about this diet is that anyone can do it. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t eaten exactly what they wanted without gaining weight. It’s almost guaranteed! No more disappointment each time you get on the scales!

The Curse Of The Middle-Aged Baby Belly: Can Women Have It All – Both Wine And Food?

A common thread of conversation among my middle-aged friends is “weight gain”. We usually begin to moan about how little we can eat these days somewhere between dessert and cheese and then wash away our concerns with wine. maternity-830683_1280

 

I have to admit that having never suffered from serious weight gain issues before – apart from when I first discovered pints of lager at university – I used to think that they were linked to poor self-control and that if you pretended to exercise and ate in moderation, it was possible to maintain your weight. But it turns out that there is some science behind the middle-aged tyre, something about protecting our bones from breaking – although which bones my layer of lard is shielding around my navel, I have yet to learn.

 

One of the biggest priorities when we were looking for our new home recently was that it should be walking distance to a local pool, because the crazy machinations of the way my brain works got used to that luxury at our old place. I’ve been swimming for a while now and I can definitely see the benefits, although up until now it was more about maintaining my mental health than trying to disperse unwanted fat. Sadly, it seems I may have to change my focus now.

 

My body has never conformed to what Dr Google says it should be doing at any given time, most recently proven when I went through one of the biggest stresses in life – moving house – and gained weight.

 

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve reneged on the one deal I had with my body which was never to go up a dress size. Again. That might be because I’m more comfortable in myself, (although more likely to be because I love my food), but I now realise that I’ve been kidding myself for a while about my weight, aided by a combination of cheats such as changing clothing brands, choosing between wine and food , in other words, pretending that I can have it all. I also stopped weighing myself.

 

But those days are gone because my clothes have become so tight that even my support pants are struggling to hold me in and sadly, I look shocking in kaftans. I’m not vain, but a wibbly-wobbly tyre around what used to be my waist is not an attractive accessory, and typically all my extra weight has accumulated in the area between my breasts and pelvis so I look like I’m in the early stages of my second trimester. Why some of those fat deposits couldn’t have ended up on my wide, boney ass or in my lips is another of life’s unfair fuckeries.

 

I repeat, it’s not so much about the aesthetics, as proven by my recent descent into wearying pyjama bottoms as late into the day as possible (a benefit of working from home) and the fact that I didn’t complain or go back when a new, more economically-priced hairdresser gave me hi-vis, zebra highlights last week. My problem is that I’m very partial to retail therapy – particularly clothes – and my stomach is compromising that pleasure. Clothing manufacturers for young women do not incorporate the sort of elasticated, room-for- growth pouch you get in maternity clothes and I don’t know how I’m supposed to maintain my youth in slacks and smock dresses.

 

So what else can I do? Obviously I’m not going to become some aerobic psycho that takes up ‘boot camp’ and risk a premature heart attack or stroke and I fear that if I give up wine I might end up like those smokers who give up and then get lung cancer.

 

Calorie-counting doesn’t work either because my adding up becomes distinctly shady after the first thousand calories of Chardonnay.

 

And I do eat healthily most of the time. Although the kebab shop at the end of the road in our new neighbourhood was an unfortunate discovery.

 

Help!

 

 

Feminism, Body Image And The Curse Of A Big Gob

And in other news to (WHAT THE FUCK?) Brexit…I’ve noticed this week and am very proud to announce that (in spite of our dysfunctionality), we’ve managed to nurture this raving feminist for a daughter, someone very close to Germaine Greer on the radicalism scale. barbie-458618_1280

 

You see, unlike her vanilla mother when it comes to fighting for the people, NC has made it quite clear to us recently that she refuses to simply settle for equal rights, she wants to quash every aspect of blatant male privilege imposed on women.

 

As she explained to me last night, ‘you can’t effect change within the current constructs of society, Mum, society needs to change.’

 

So every day some new book on feminism lands on our doorstep from Amazon, so much so that the postman now leaves them in front of the gate, and the old man is getting a major complex from the amount of shade she throws at him, even when he’s not (knowingly) being a sexist twat.

 

Of course, he blames me.

 

Frankly, I’m surprised that the Astronaut has survived this long, although she does keep him safely at arms length on some secret government mission in Canberra.

 

She’s been growing out her armpit hair for some time, (although that might be due to winter), but this week she informed me that she’s decided not to wear makeup any longer – ‘because if men aren’t expected to, then neither should she’, and when I looked at her drained face, the black rings and lank hair (because she’s been working long hours recently) and asked her if she was sure … she stomped out of my room, came back and lobbed a copy of The Beauty Myth at my head.

 

I suppose I must be more influenced by body image perfectionism than I thought. I wouldn’t describe myself as shallow, always believed that what’s on the inside is more important … but then I do love clothes and lipstick and shoes and I do try my best to stay slim, within the unfair boundaries set by my hormones.

 

Admittedly, one of the most liberating parts of middle age is to go out in public without makeup, freak out the local kids and seriously not give a fuck. Nevertheless, sometimes I still like to put my face on. Not because I feel more confident, or for the old man’s benefit (who frankly wouldn’t notice if I had a face transplant), because I honestly feel more empowered when I don’t have a mask on, it’s just that occasionally I like to feel feminine and pretty, which I do when I conceal the rings, the veins and the Rosacea and pluck the stray foliage from my eyebrows.

 

And there’s nothing wrong with that, according to my daughter, because feminism is about having choices. Just as it’s okay to opt for plastic surgery, even though personally I’m like WHY?

 

Cynics will accuse me of being indoctrinated, of course, and they have a point. I’m the biggest sucker for women’s magazines, love those shots of celebrities when they get papped without their face on, but for me it’s not about cow-towing to the demands of society or men, it’s like the secret thrill you get when you wear new lingerie. No-one’s going to see it an no-one but you knows it’s there, but it still makes you feel good about yourself. And men are not immune to using props to improve confidence and appeal.

 

Understandably though, with the evolution of social media and the popularity of the selfie, there are concerns about where this obsession with body image will eventuate. Body Dysmorphia, conditions like Anorexia and women’s growing obsession with surgery are not trends that should be ignored.

 

Mentioning our kids’ weight these days – in particular the F word – is almost as reprehensible as feeding them processed meat or pretending that ‘I feel sad’ is a normal emotion that doesn’t require an intervention from social services.

 

I remember when NC went through the podge period that a lot of pubescent girls go through between the growth spurt and metamorphosis into swan – usually when they give up serious sport and console themselves by eating all the pies when boys refuse to notice them – and I suggested over tea one evening that she might want to eat more healthily, proud of myself for being so uncharacteristically sensitive.

 

She remembers it differently, of course. She says that I told her she was fat.

 

Which I’ve never believed until I heard myself tell Kurt this morning that if he carried on eating ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner, he’ll never get Justin Bieber’s clear complexion.

 

I’m sorry, but if your child is obese (and doesn’t suffer from medical issues that cause weight gain) and their health is at risk, you don’t keep harping on about how beautiful they are, or how much you love them just the way they are; and neither do you continue to feed them on McDonalds for afternoon tea or stick your head in the sand – you get them some help.

 

Very soon I will have to affix a very large strip of Gaffer tape over my mouth to prevent me from traumatising my children any further, even though, I assure you, that I have always had their best interests at heart and just suffer from a very bad case of Big Gobbitis.

 

 

 

Shopping, Friendship and Embracing Your New Middle Aged Body

I am usually a lone shopper. I take my shopping habit very seriously and can quite easily waste an entire Saturday trying out new styles that I would never actually buy in a million years. I enjoy the beauty and creativity behind beautiful clothes, fabrics and home accessories – I like looking at them, touching them, trying them on or imagining them in my home. The benefit of my impulsive nature is that sometimes it leads me to try on wildly different styles than neither my wallet or body can really take, but even on those days I come away from the shops empty-handed, shopping is always a delicious stress-buster. buy-1299519_1280

 

And I have built up good brand knowledge as a result of so much active research in the field. I know which brands are shockingly under-sized and make me feel like I’ve eaten all the pies, and which ones are more accurate for older women. Interestingly, I have a far calmer approach to buying clothes now that I’m officially middle-aged, whereas in my forties I stressed out when nothing fitted or looked right, or when I couldn’t find the appropriate style to suit my increasing age and girth. I’m much more chilled about the process now; finally, I know what suits my body and can appreciate that rare experience for what it is, when something… ANYTHING…fits. If all else fails I console myself with lingerie and shoes.

 

Although, that approach may also have something to do with my meds, too…

 

Not so for one of my besties, however, who up until recently avoided shopping malls like holidays in the Middle East. Just as I’ve been forced to discover a new pleasure for buying underwear in middle age, my friend has transferred her shopping affections to the purchase of super-expensive cosmetics, such is her fear of trying on clothes that don’t fit or flatter her new body shape.

 

So much so that occasionally when she reaches rock bottom or has a major ‘nothing to wear’ moment, she’ll reach out to me in desperation for some guidance – I assume to boost her confidence. 

 

I agree that at our age clothes shopping can be about as as much fun as having your eyebrows threaded; not like in our younger years, when everything looked good on our pre-baby/menopausal bodies. Whenever NC and I shop together, I take a perverse pleasure in admiring just how good everything looks on her, as though it was designed for her fabulous, lithe, young body, whereas statistically I have about a 10% chance of getting the zip up on a good day.

 

Yesterday this friend joined me in the city on impulse, and although I only returned home with one purchase (much to the old man’s delight), in the form of a beige trench coat that was reduced by 50% in the Gap sale, meaning I actually saved money, it gave me the fuzzies to see how excited she became in what is normally a terror zone for her, egged on by a little help from a friend. It’s not that we necessarily share the same taste in style, (hence there was no in-store fighting over the last pair of Cue sale trousers), all she needed was a boost to her confidence; someone to push her to try things on, tell her when an outfit looked good, be firm if it looked shit, to surreptitiously steer her away from her comfort zones and force her to embrace her new figure rather than resenting it.

 

We’ve both gone up a size since our forties, although we suffer from different body issues, but we shared a mission yesterday, with trips booked back to the UK in a few weeks time – mine for Dad’s third wedding and hers an overdue trip to catch up with family and friends.

 

So we want to look our best.

 

By the end of the day, I had even convinced her to buy three new bras – once she’d finally conceded that she might have gone up a bra size since her previous purchase at Marks and Spencers in London three years ago.

 

It’s a new world out there, and we need to feel brave and empowered, not anxious. It’s a time where it’s important to draw our true friends closer, and embrace the physical embellishments of a good life lived thus far.