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.

Every Cloud…And All That Claptrap

Muslim woman looking thoughtful.
Photo by kilarov zaneit on Unsplash

Sorry, sorry, SORRY for being so lax about updating you with my own particular brand of mayhem over the past few weeks. You know what house moves are like, and then there’s the day job, and an overdue revisit to my fiction writing. Added to which, some weeks it is just so hard to pull the words together, particularly when I strive (honest!) to make good news the focus.

I know that my ramblings sometimes pertain to my personal frustrations about bad news, but on the whole, my medication and a desire to live a more harmonious life for the sake of my mental health, lead me to try and see the brighter side of life.

However…it’s impossible to ignore the dark cloud over NZ at the moment. I’ve been ruminating about it, and I’m still not certain what we are supposed to take from this shocking act of terror, other than (the fact that there are c..ts out there that don’t deserve to breathe the same oxygen as the rest of us), to acknowledge the incredible ability to forgive of those most directly affected by it.

I assume that in the wake of crises such as these, there is little choice other than to pick yourself up and go on in the best way you can…if you can. But let’s also not forget that the magnitude of some acts of evil is so great that those left behind find it impossible to forge a path ahead. No one can fail to have been moved by the recent loss of a mother to suicide after the murder of her children by their father and of the two fathers who lost their children in school shootings.

But we are given one life, and our job here is to make the most of it.

Forgiveness takes courage, faith and maturity – particularly in the face of such a terrible act of depravity as the one in Christchurch. And while I’m not a religious person – nor particularly forgiving – I do see the ability to forgive as an upside to religion – even if it does find itself so often at the core of these atrocities.

Fortunately, however, not only do such tragedies offer a reminder of the bad in this world, they demonstrate the good and the generosity of spirit in most humans, as well – no matter what their beliefs. And I am certain that the stoicism and forgiveness shown by the bereaved relatives and friends of the victims will have an influence, and ultimately makes us better people.

Obviously, I can’t move past what happened without mention of Jacinda Ardern – my poster girl for all that is wonderful in this role – and her role in picking up the pieces of those broken hearts in NZ. A woman who epitomises great leadership, Jacinda has proved once again the value that women have to offer to politics and positions of authority. And let’s hope that when Gladys Berejiklian takes up the mantle of NSW Premier formally, she follows Jacinda’s lead. We need more women like these to represent us. While Gladys’ politics may not be to everyone’s taste, she appears to be a woman who is capable, fair, and with the right amount of empathy to tackle sensitive tasks – even if, at times, her spending habits are questionable.

Perhaps, more significantly, she appears to be a politician who listens.

But back to forgiveness – a process I am struggling to extend to the scientists who admitted this week that they don’t really understand the extent of the danger of eggs on our health. Although, thanks to Egg Boy, they have been given a new purpose. And while I’m on the subject of the often questionable work of scientists and their research – space, anyone? – allow me to also extend my personal thanks to the researchers who discovered the benefits of cheese this week.

Every cloud…and all that claptrap.

If You Could Invite Any Eight People – Living Or Dead – To Dinner, Who Would They Be? And What Is On The Menu?

If you could invite any eight people - living or dead - to a dinner, who would they be? And what is on the menu?

Whenever I’m put on the spot to choose my favorite song, book or movie, I get flustered and find it impossible to narrow my choice down. It’s much easier to select a group of people to dine with – a lot to do, I imagine, with the improved conditions in my comfort zone whenever wine and good food are on offer.

I stole the idea for this post from an interview I read on The Squiz recently, because I love these types of games – especially now, as time hurtles forward, and I can appreciate the wealth of interesting people that have made an impact on the portfolio of my life.

Admittedly, narrowing the guests down to eight wasn’t easy, mainly because of my insistence on getting the balance right – to ensure that my guests would play nicely together at my fictional dining table – but also because I had to exclude family and friends – for obvious reasons.

Interestingly, as I finalized my selection, I realized how imperative for me it was to mix up the age range of the group, and it also became very clear how much I am influenced by people that touch my life in some way now, in the present, in this new, exciting phase of middle age. It is also noteworthy that I am drawn to people that don’t take life too seriously.

So, here’s my guest list, in no particular order:

Caitlin Moran – Little or no explanation required if you read my blog. Awesome writer, feminist and “ladette,” with a similarly devilish humor to my own. For this lady, I’d have to screw table etiquette and seat her at my side.

Benjamin Law – Australian writer, swimmer, activist and the person I hold responsible for my addiction to Twitter and Instagram. A thinker and a doer, he makes me laugh out loud, think deeper thoughts, and vow to do better.

Barack Obama – The imposter in me (when it comes to politics), would be honored to sit at the feet of this great man at my table with the dog. Sage, humorous, a man that exudes love and trust and who has proven to be an invaluable asset for women’s rights and discrimination, I hope that he would bring Michelle along with him.

Mick Jagger – Mick is there for his raw energy, stories, talent, and unapologetic maleness. He is my “older man” fantasy. I need someone at my table to flirt with, someone who has extracted every ounce of living out of life, with the kind of stories that make everyone’s toes curl.

Russell Brand – More raw maleness – there seems to be a bit of a pattern here. I am full of admiration for the way this man has turned his troubled past around to embrace a more spiritual, altruistic path in the public eye. The way his “different” mind works intrigues me. He reminds me of Kurt.

Graham Norton – He appeals to the undiscovered columnist in me. Secretly, I lap up gossip and gratuitous material about the decadent, torrid lives of celebrities. I have always liked Graham. He has always remained true to himself in what can’t have been an easy start for his career, and I admire the way he has leveraged his innate talent – his charisma – into a profession.

Clementine Ford – I’m Clementine’s fan-girl. I devour everything she writes and I am often moved by the power of her convictions, her bravery, and her transparency. We share the loss of our mothers at a young age, and I admire how she has used that loss to empower herself. I admire how unafraid she is to demonstrate her struggles and the emotional sides to her personality as well as her more well-known public persona, her radical side – a range that stretches from staunch feminist and activist to vulnerable partner, mother, and fellow anxiety sufferer.

JK Rowling – I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve only read parts of the Harry Potter series. Where the old man will only read books with dragons, I have never been able to get to grips with fantasy or sci-fi. NC read the series before she could walk, and Kurt wasn’t interested in them. But I’ve seen and read enough about this lady to know how much I would learn from her about self-belief, authenticity, writing, and humor.

And for my menu:

I’m will ignore the likelihood that there are more than a handful of vegetarians at my table. However, I would choose oysters for my starter as a nod to sustainability, a medium-rare tuna steak for the main – and creme caramel for dessert – a favorite since my childhood.

Tell me who I’ve missed?

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.

green-456839_1920

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?

In The End, We’re All Just Human Beans

BFG1

I had my second day-surgery last week; a procedure called an Endometrial Ablation, and the medical profession’s latest attempt to stop my uterus from going all Tarantino on me each month.  For any of you middle-aged women out there still suffering a Red Wedding-style of monthly – I’ll let you know if it works.

 

In the meantime, I thought I’d tell you about what I gained from the experience of being stuck in a hospital bed, on a mixed ward and opposite an Olympic farter, for a day. Because I’ve decided, (post-surgery), that being in a hospital has to be the best leveler, or the best reminder, as Roald Dahl would say, that we’re all just human beans.

 

Moreover, I do believe that these sorts of experiences, (once in a while), are vital for ramming home just how completely fucking privileged we are with the access we have to a medical care system that takes my uterus tantrums seriously – although trust me when I say, it never gets any easier to open your legs to strangers.

 

However, I couldn’t fault the care. In fact, if I had to rate the service with some Airbnb-style feedback, I would go as far as saying that the level of attention from my hot, thirty-something anesthetist was the stuff of dreams – although I’m certain he sees sad, middle-aged women with degrees in talking gibberish and the misguided belief that they can flirt in a barely-there hospital gown, most days.

 

Indeed, considering I was merely a number in a very busy hospital system, everyone endeavored to make me as comfortable as possible. And while I’m not naive enough to assume that my top-notch care was only about making my uterus like me a little more – I am aware that litigation is a threatening dark cloud that puts a huge amount of extra pressure and undue stress on our doctors – the name, temperature and blood pressure checks were reassuring for someone who had already made preparations for her imminent death.

 

Coincidentally – and this is possibly the best example of a segue you’ll see this week – just prior to the time that I was tidying up my lady garden in preparation for Dr. Hot’s close examination, I also signed up for a local community drive to assist in the assembly of a thousand birthing kits for women in Africa.

29468785_10156192410316788_3552530723703357440_nThis, you may be appalled to know, is the level of care those lucky women receive when they GIVE BIRTH. And while I’m not showing you this to highlight my pathetically privileged contribution to people less fortunate than myself – and I am also aware that in the grand scheme of things, my assembly of a few hundred kits (over some very pleasant chit-chat about the health benefits of Kombucha and keeping chickens with new friends) is unlikely to change the world – if my meagre contribution does improve the sanitation, experience, and outcome for a few women, it has got to be worth three hours of my time that I would normally waste on the beach or at the mall. Because, I don’t know about you, but the more I read about discrimination towards immigrants and those in poverty, the more shame I feel. And no, Dad, not just because I’ve turned into a raging feminist leftie, in spite of how you raised me. I mean, how come I get a shiny, clean white robe for a minor procedure and on the other side of the world women are still giving birth in fields?

 

Which meant that as I sat there in my unflattering white robe and socks in my hospital bed, feeling vulnerable and scared as shit, I realized that albeit just another number on the hospital minor procedures list that day, I was a number that counted. And surely everyone deserves that level of security? Seriously, all I had to worry about as I shuffled my bum nervously across to the operating table, was sucking in my muffin top and not flashing my wibbly bits to Dr. Hot. I didn’t have to consider infection, loss of power, OR BLEEDING OUT. I took my safety on that table for granted, when sadly, millions of other human beans don’t have that privilege.

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.

sandwich-2301387_1920

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.

 

big-banana
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.

 

fruit-3111745_1920
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.

Millennial Sickness, Hypochondria and Snot Levels

eye-743409_1920

There is something vaguely ironic about the recent discovery that Kurt is allergic to grass. After years of watching his eyes stream and his chest heave at certain times of the year – symptoms I originally put down to Karma for abusing his body, (because I’m compassionate like that), and the sad reality that none of the five fruit and vegetables make up Aldi’s Chocolate Pillows breakfast cereal – it turns out that the culprit is hay fever.

 

Those of you that have kids on the Spectrum might not know that it makes them much more susceptible to allergies for some reason.

 

Inevitably, the old man passed has down the man-flu gene to our son, but what not even I realized until today, is just how difficult it is to persuade a Millennial that what they have is a just a case of the common cold, which doesn’t entitle them to a sick day.

 

When you come from a one-parent family background that relies on that one salary to put food on the table, a day off work is not really an option. You dose yourself up, shove a loo roll in your handbag, and you muddle through. That is what we were taught in the UK, where an inherent toughness is vital to survive the possibility of invasion at any time or a colder summer than winter. The cold is an accepted part of life over there, almost a badge of honor, the natural order of things – a bit like how trains stop running when it snows.

 

If everyone took a day off each time they had a sniffle, unemployment levels would skyrocket and the country would face a much greater national disaster than Brexit.

 

Australians are somewhat less resilient, I’ve discovered. While we Brits know that if you have the flu, you can’t actually get out of bed without losing control of your bodily functions and scaring people away, Aussies turn up to work, sneeze in your face and use “the flu” as an excuse.

 

Now, I’m not going to tell my son to ‘man the fuck up’, because I believe that sort of sexist comment encourages male toxicity and misandry, however, I do believe that I may need to introduce my children to my mother’s snot level guide, the way she distinguished how sick we really were as kids.

 

You see, back in the day, before we had modern gadgets such as thermometers, Neurofen and Dr Google, our mums decided if we had a temperature, usually by feeling our foreheads or by watching how much we ate. Another means – and one that my Mum was quite partial to for sniffing out the hypochondriac, was the snot test – and I can still remember those terrifying moments during her lengthy examination of my snotty tissue that I knew would determine my fate.

 

If the snot was at the clear end of the scale, we were fine; yellow and stringy – leaning towards green – it was a cold; I imagine that red snot would have made my mother’s brow crease with… could that be worry? Fortunately, one ever had red snot from memory, because that might have involved a trip to the doctor and woe betides anyone who was sick enough to see the doctor.

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.

 

 

Practicing Simplicity In Middle Age

plant-1842299_1280There is a “family and lifestyle” blog called Practicing Simplicity, by Jodi Wilson. It offers its readers a stunning vista of photographs and tales of motherhood with affiliated yoga, cooking and lifestyle tips. I love the name: Practicing Simplicity. Scrolling through the site, there is an aura of calm that bounces off each photo captured of wild flowers, toddlers innocently at play and simple, wholesome living.

 

The idea of “practicing simplicity” is a discipline that I’ve tried to incorporate into my own lifestyle for a while now. This is not some innovative new trend I’ve discovered, you only need look around you at the wealth of organic food cafes, the current trend in home decor for clean Scandinavian lines and simplicity, or the yoga havens, but it does seem that the more I clean up my lifestyle, in terms of what I put in my mouth, how I plan my day, and most importantly, how I plan my relaxation time, the more I get out of my life. When I remember to approach everything with a calmer, more rational approach, rather than my scatty, “me first”, impulsive alter ego, everything turns out so much better.

 

I settled a client into her new home last week. With three young boys, she was telling me about how guilty she felt for not letting them do a certain sport at the weekend because it clashed with another, and was simply too hard to coordinate with her husband who is often away.

 

‘Anyway,’ she said, ‘I want them to make the most of the beach while we’re here.’

 

Like many of my generation of Xers, I imagine, I don’t remember doing any extra-curricular activities as a child, except for Brownies and Sunday School. Forgive me for showing my age by harking back to the simple pleasures of riding our bikes in the street, playing with the neighbours kids and learning through exploration, because I do wonder how much value our kids get today from being shunted through busy traffic from one activity to the next, after a full day of interaction at school. I’m not shaming, because I did the same with my own kids, and as I admitted to this mum, if I could turn the clock back I would do things differently now – especially with a kid with ADHD. Children need time to relax and reflect on the day, to be given the chance to talk, ask questions and cement close relationships.

 

I wish I’d been brave enough to hone down the list of activities we forced our kids to do to “keep up with the Jones’”. Such over-commitment left me running ragged; a headless chicken who was often bad-tempered and resentful when I collected them from school after my own hard day at work. I blame the old man’s hair loss on those weekends when NC had soccer one day and Kurt the next, after a 45hr week at work. I don’t think that those frantic, wasted hours on the weekend spent in search of that lost soccer boot or leotard, learning lines and cutting up orange segments, contributed much to our children’s education, unless they’ve since learned how to say ‘no.’

 

Sure, they made more friends, but I’m sure that their mates from school and the neighbours would have sufficed. How many times did I choose to ignore the ‘I’m tired’ whine from the back seat because I had over-committed, or because we’d paid the term’s fee or I was worried about letting the team down? How many evenings did I waste sitting in a dark car park, waiting for them to finish?

 

Kurt never did become that league soccer player and looks back on that whole team sport period with horror; NC recoils with similar distaste every time I remind her about “dance”.

 

I’m not under that pressure these days and I understand that it is a difficult one to protest against. My pressure is that blurred line between recognising when I have enough on my plate and over-commitment – although, self-imposed isolation is equally dangerous for over-thinkers such as myself, when your crazy brain errs on the side of feeling unwanted and useless.

 

If you didn’t know, finding the balance is key.

 

Life is busy enough with work, family, friends, hobbies and exercise, and these days I take far more pleasure from simple activities like reading a book, trying out a new recipe, taking a long walk or sitting people-watching on the beach, than I do from organised events where I have to reinvent myself again.

 

I’m getting older. 

 

Practicing simplicity for me is about forcing myself to relax. I’m never going to be stretched out on the floor for long periods of the day in the Downward Dog position, but forcing myself to do things on my own that have no stress attached, counter-balances the triggers of anxiety. After the last turbulent few years of life with teenagers, “me time” is about lowering my heart rate and not having to be somewhere at a given time to find my inner peace.

When Equality Leads To Divorce

I know I’m a feminist, nevertheless I’ve decided to impeach my house husband for misconduct in the area of the family food shop. He’s simply not up to the job. supermarket-949912_1280

 

Albeit he has done some fine work in terms of a reduction in cost to our weekly food bill, happiness isn’t just about money and in a unilateral decision driven by our stomachs, the kids and I are forcing him to step down as the ‘hunter gatherer’ until I get bored of it for the short term.

 

There are only so many times you can look at an empty fridge after the weekly food shop and feel crushed.

 

My husband has brought the same minimalism, (which borders on OCD), to the fridge as he used to bring to his desk when he worked. His desk was always uninviting, devoid of any sign of life, whereas mine has always looked like two cats have fought on it. I like a similar type of eclecticism inside my fridge.

 

I will be careful how I put this, but some men don’t have the inherent intuition necessary for a successful food shop. They see in black and white, go into the supermarket on a mission to buy what’s on the list and ONLY what’s on the list. They don’t understand that the ‘grey’ is where those unknown delights such as new products or chocolate hot cross buns infused with Baileys may tempt you from the shelves, so blinded are they by that singular male focus which allows no deviation from the fucking list.

 

I like to have a CHOICE of cheeses and a SELECTION of fruit to suit my moods, not just what is “on special”. I don’t want to have to set my alarm to get to the last banana because the old man calculated that if we consume on average two bananas a day, eight will cover us for four days. Where is the creativity in that? What if I have a Jamie Oliver moment and decide to make banana bread?

 

Occasionally, I might want more than one bag of chips…

 

As my propensity for alcohol consumption diminishes on a daily basis, thanks to Menopause, food is one of the few comforts I have left and the old man’s personal vendetta to make my life as miserable as possible reduce the food bill is impacting upon my happiness.

 

In a move similar to those who are anti-Trump, I am prepared to act upon my convictions; “march” if I have to. Today I will be marching to the supermarket. Alone. And although some might see my act ‘disempowerment’ as a breach of the old man’s equal rights, I like to think of it as saving my marriage.

 

Even NC has sworn allegiance, although historically a Daddy’s Girl, she has been known to sit on the fence when the shit hits the fan. Kurt has already marked ‘food shop day’ in his otherwise empty calendar and added Coco Pops to the shopping list in bold capitals several times…

 

Someone else added Chocolate waffles, Pop tarts and chocolate spread.

 

 

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

diet-403588_1920

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!