Reducing Your Screen Time

Hello lovely readers,

How are we all doing? A quick update on me before we start: I’m now back home in Salisbury and I was meant to go back to work on Sunday, but on that morning my Mum’s partner, who lives with us, developed Covid-19 symptoms. Because I never got tested so we can’t be sure I’ve had it, I have to isolate with my family/household for the recommended 14 days. (Nearly wrote years then – it feels like 14 years!). My mood has been up and down – mostly down. But today I’ve had a bath, washed my hair and done some tidying so I feel a bit less useless. By the time this 14 days is over though, I’ll be chomping at the bit to finally be back at work!

It feels like there’s not a lot else to do in these times than be on our phones/tablets/laptops. Whether it’s messaging friends, scrolling social media or watching Netflix, we’re spending most of our time looking at a screen. I’ve become very aware of how much time I’ve spent, mostly on my phone, mindlessly switching from one social media app to the next and back again. I think I was pretty guilty of this anyway but under normal circumstances, I’d have work or uni or be meeting up with friends, and that would be screen free time. So during this time, I’m trying to make an effort to put the social media down and read a book or phone a friend instead.

We’ve developed an unhealthy reluctance to put our phones down, I feel. We live in an age where if your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner etc doesn’t text you back quick enough they must be talking to someone else or not be interested in you. I’m guilty of this pattern of thinking too. Especially now. I keep seeing posts, particularly on Twitter, saying things along the lines of:

‘We’re in lockdown, he’s got nothing else to do, if he ain’t texting you back, he’s not interested in you’. 

Of course, this isn’t remotely true. The person might be cooking a meal, taking a nap, or simply having some time away from their screens. If you’re starting to feel insecure about the reason someone isn’t texting you back, that’s probably a sign that you need to take a break from your phone. And it’s not just our private interactions (or lack thereof) with friends or family that can take a toll on our mental health. The internet can be a toxic place at times. You’ve got internet trolls who can’t find anything better to do than anonymously tear others down, you’ve celebrities and big brands creating adverts that make us feel insecure in order to flog products that will ‘fix’ our flaws, and right now a lot of the news is very upsetting. More than once, I’ve teared up at a news notification or become angry at someone on Facebook posting about how social distancing isn’t necessary if you take Vitamin C (NOT TRUE!).

I had a conversation about this with a friend the other day and when we ended the FaceTime call, I had a well-timed notification from my Headspace app. It said:

“As you pick up your phone to do anything, be clear in your intention. Do the thing and then put it away.”

As with breaking any habit, it can be easier said than done, but try and practice this tonight. I’ve had a think about some of the techniques I use to reduce my screen time and I’m sharing them here in the hopes that they’ll help you too:

  • Set time limits on your apps – if you have an iPhone, there’s a section under Settings, called Screen Time. You can see how much time you’ve spent on your phone in a given time period, but you can also set time limits for specific apps. When you’ve used up your chosen time, the app will be closed and you’ll get a message letting you know. You can override this if you choose to, and often I do if I’m in the middle of reading an article or watching an IGTV, but what’s great is that it makes you aware of how much time you’re spending and that once you’ve finished what you’re doing, it’s probably a good idea to put it down for a while.
  • Leave your phone on charge somewhere out of reach – I’ve been doing this a lot and found it really helpful. If I’m watching TV or reading, I don’t want to be constantly checking my phone or scrolling, but I don’t want to miss any important messages or phone calls either. So I’ll leave my phone on vibrate or on loud and then put it somewhere out of reach. This means I’ll hear it if it rings, and I can get up to answer, but I won’t be able to just absent-mindedly reach for it without a purpose.
  • Plug it into an iPod dock – in the age of Alexa and Bluetooth speakers, this one’s a little old fashioned, but if you still have an iPod dock, it’s worth trying. It’s similar to leaving it out of reach, except with this approach there’s a forfeit for going and checking your phone – if you pick it up from the dock, the music will stop! Are you really going to interrupt your favourite tunes just to scroll Twitter for 20 minutes or are you going to answer that text from your Mum and then put it straight back?
  • Set an alarm before scrolling – sometimes you are just in the mood for a mindless scroll, and that’s okay. You want to catch up with what’s been posted/tweeted/grammed and I can’t fault you for that. But when you pick up your phone for a scroll, trying setting an alarm or timer for what you feel is a reasonable amount of time to spend browsing the web. When the timer goes off, close your apps and move onto a different activity. This allows you to have a moment of mindless scrolling without getting carried away and realising too late that you’ve been at it for hours!

I hope you find some of these tips helpful, not just now but in ‘normal life’ too.

Take care and stay safe everybody. I’ll be back soon!

xx

Four Years Of Us: An Open Letter

Dear Toby, 

So, it’s been four years of you and me. Sometimes I feel like I’ve known you forever and other times it baffles me that so much time has passed already. And what a ride it’s been, eh? Even in the last three months we’ve been through so much! Between your broken ankle, my family emergencies, and a global pandemic, it’s been hard to make time for each other. But make no mistake, you’re in my thoughts and in my heart every single day. 

I know that public displays of affection aren’t really your thing, but I wanted to post this today because in this uncertain time, I want to put out as much love, kindness and positivity into the world as I can. Thank you for giving me your blessing to write and publish this online. 

I am, as you know, the kind of person who during hard times, likes to look back on happy memories for comfort. There are so many with you sweetheart. And ours are my favourite to reminisce. 

As I sit here writing this, I’m listening to our song. Do you remember the first time you played this to me? I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. There are a few little moments that pop into my head often and never fail to make me smile. The first time you told me you loved me, in the car after we’d spent an afternoon soaking up the sun in the Cathedral Close. When you came back from uni to surprise me on Bonfire Night. That time you turned up at my work with a bunch of roses just because I’d had a rough night the day before. 

I love how with you I’m always laughing. Even when I’m angry or sad or tired, you’re always trying to make me laugh and despite my best efforts sometimes, you always succeed.  

I love the way you’re truly my best friend. You’re the first person I want to tell when I’ve got good news, the first person I want to cry to when it’s bad news. You treat me with such respect, compassion and love. We can talk about anything and there’s nothing I’m afraid to share with you. We call each other out on our bullshit. We’re quick to apologise when we fall out. We can discuss our flaws and help each other grow and learn. 

Your work ethic and determination are two of my favourite things about you. It makes me so proud to see you working so hard towards your degree and your future. You inspire me to want to find something I enjoy that much and work hard for it. 

You give the best hugs that make me feel safe and loved and protected. You’re such a comfort to me. When I’m having a bad day or an anxious moment, hearing your voice or seeing your face brings a sense of calm over me. Thank you for supporting me, for cuddling me, for letting me into your life four years ago and not letting me go. 

My heart aches at not being with you today and I can’t wait to be able to have a belated take-out and movie night as soon as we can. 

Life is full of ups and downs but there’s no one I’d rather ride this rollercoaster with. You have my heart forever.

Happy Anniversary sweetie!

All my love, 

Hermione xx

Self-Isolation Shenanigans

Anyone else feel like they’re waiting to wake up from a bad dream? Life feels so surreal right now. The anxiety really started to set in for me today. I know people who’ve lost their jobs. My sister’s A Level exams have been cancelled and she’s gutted. My final year friends won’t be able to close out the university chapter of their lives the way they wanted to. We’re having to try and find a new normal and there’s no telling when life will go back to the way it was before, or even if it ever will! I know that sounds dramatic but this global pandemic is bound to have long-term ramifications for years to come.

However! I wanted to share what I’ve been up to while self-isolating because until today I’d managed to make it feel like a nice relaxing little holiday.

Firstly, I’ve had a couple of lie ins. I’ve been struggling with my sleep pattern lately and having to force myself to get up for things even though I’m exhausted and struggling to open my eyes. So it’s been really nice, while I’ve had nothing to do and no where to go, to just sleep in until my body decides it’s ready to be awake (or until the cat decides she’s bored!). This might not be helpful for everyone though – I know a few people who find getting up at the same time every day a much better coping strategy.

Yesterday, I had a big old clean and tidy of my bedroom. I caught up on laundry – I have a terrible habit of putting it in the washing machine, pressing go and then forgetting about it while it sits in the machine, damp and smelly. I washed all the hand towels too because I bet they’re a breeding ground for bugs! I dusted my bedside table, emptied all the old receipts out of my purse, tidied up the crap on my desk and moved all my clean laundry from the floor-drobe to the wardrobe! If you’re looking for mundane things to occupy your time during this period, I would recommend putting on some music and doing those silly little tasks that you don’t have time for in real life. They’re normally so simple and easy and you’ll feel a sense of achievement afterwards.

My proudest achievement was making a slow cooker bolognese! I got a slow cooker for Christmas last year and I haven’t used it a lot because I’m not good at forward planning. They’re very low effort but they do require deciding what you’re going to cook a few hours ahead of time. I threw in some lightly browned turkey mince (wanted to go for veggie but someone’s been panic buying all the Quorn mince!), chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, onions, herbs and a generous glug of red wine and then… went away and did something else! As you’d expect, it cooks for a long time on a low heat so you don’t have to watch it to keep it from burning, you don’t have to stir it very often, you just let it do its thing. I wasn’t hungry enough to eat it last night so I turned it off and just re-warmed it (there’s a setting for that on the slow cooker!) and ate it with spaghetti this evening. And I must say, it was delish. I’ve seen a recipe for making bread in a slow cooker so I might try that next!

Bolognese sauce in a slow cooker

Today, I had a looooong, hot shower. Full disclosure: I think the last time I showered was Monday. I know I know, that’s gross. You definitely don’t wanna know the last time I washed my hair! But today I did the full shebang, hair wash, exfoliate, the lot. And I felt much more human afterwards, naturally.

I’ve also started writing a novel. Kind of. I’ve always loved writing and have written snippets of ideas as they come into my head and then forgotten about them. But there’s an idea I’ve had for about a year that I really love and I’ve decided to start outlining and developing it. Who knows if it’ll go anywhere, but it’s a fun project to work on for a while.

I’ve been doing a lot of watching too. Mostly Merlin, from the beginning, on Netflix. I remember watching it as a child (it started when I was 10!) and I genuinely think I’m enjoying it just as much as an adult. Instagram Live, IGTV and YouTube are also platforms where I’m getting some of my visual content from at the moment. I’m really enjoying rambling chatty videos from some of my favourite female content creators. I mentioned them in yesterday’s post and on Facebook if you want to know who I’ve been enjoying the most.

I feel like I needed a mental break from life a little bit and while the current global crisis is terrible and uncertain, I’m trying to focus on being grateful for being forced to take that break. Working in Pharmacy, I know that as soon as I’m out of self-isolation, I’ll be back at work, doing as much as I possibly can to help my team and my community, so for now I will sit back for three more days, put my feet up and continue binge-watching Merlin!

Take care and stay safe xx

Return to the Blogospehere

Hello there! It’s been a while hasn’t it? 6 months, in fact.

It’s been a funny old time and a lot has changed in those 6 months. Shall we start at the beginning?

In October, I became Cat-Mum to the fluffiest fur baby, Nala. She sort of came into my life by accident at a time when things were about to get really difficult and she’s been a wonderful comfort. My sister was buying a kitten from her friend’s family who’s cat had born a litter. When we went to pick her kitten up, they had one more, a long-haired girl, who was yet to be claimed or ‘bagsied’ so-to-speak. I fell instantly in love with her and took her home the following week. If you want to follow her feline adventures, you can follow @nala_kitten19 on Instagram!

In November, I turned 22. Christmas came and went with a visit from my wonderful friend Beth, all the way from Australia. It was a pleasure to see her a few times and spend New Years’ with her as well!

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In January I returned to Brighton for the second semester of the year. Academically, things went a little downhill from there. I didn’t pass my January exam. I told myself it was fine and that I’d just have to resit in August. The trouble is, the reason I failed is that over the Christmas period, while I was working a lot – as in, going out to my job, not working on uni stuff – I was also mentally drained, going through an episode of pretty deep depression and feeling no motivation whatsoever. That meant little-to-no revision. This didn’t change when I came back for the Spring Term and in the end, three weeks ago, I decided I needed a break to focus on myself for a while. I’ve taken an intermission from uni with a view to going back in either September or January to continue my studies. I need the next few months to take care of myself and my mental health and to reassess some of my options. Little did I know when I made that decision that we were about to face a global pandemic…

So now I’m in self-isolation in my student house in Brighton having started to experience the key symptoms of Covid-19 on Monday, including a cough, high temperature and tight chest. I don’t class myself as vulnerable or high-risk so I’m sure I’ll be fine in a few days, but I am obviously taking all the precautions I can to protect those around me. That includes my elderly Grandad who I believe makes up the final part of my update. He’s been unwell for about a year and a half and almost two weeks ago we had a very scary hospital experience where we thought we were going to lose him. Luckily, he pulled through and is now back home but I am staying well away from him for the time-being until I know that I’m not going to pass anything harmful onto him.

Everything’s a little bit strange right now, in my personal life and in the wider world. As a person with depression, I recognise how tricky and lonely this time will be for some. Luckily I do have some great housemates who are stuck here with me and proving to be great entertainment – last night we had an at-home pub quiz!

I’ve spent weeks not feeling able to get out of bed or do anything productive or useful and it’s unfortunate that this period of self-isolation and social distancing has come at a time where I was just starting to feel a little better. But life goes on and I’m going to link some resources/accounts below which I’ve found helpful so far and hope you will too.

Take care and stay safe

xx

Helpfuls:

@heapsofalice on Instagram – Alice is one of my oldest friends and is taking the opportunity of social distancing to put together a website featuring lists of things to do during this period. So far there’s home-workout videos, educational YouTube channels and the best one so far: Pet-stagrams! She’ll be uploading more content each day. https://heapsofalice.wixsite.com/inisolation

Louise Pentland – very active on the Instagram stories with a good balance of serious Coronavirus talk and happy distracting fluffy stuff! She’s also been doing an Insta live most mornings. Follow @LouisePentland on Instagram.

Carrie Hope Fletcher on YouTube. If you know me you’ll know I adore Carrie anyway, but this afternoon I watched a few of her theatre-related videos (you’ll also know that I adore the theatre and am gutted that they’ve had to close!) and it was lovely to listen to a friendly voice chatting about something completely non-current-affairs related. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbhNxkjmpQcTJDrabiyzHUw

Hazel Hayes on YouTube. Hazel is a filmmaker/director who doesn’t often find herself in front of the camera but she’s making unedited rambly videos, to be treated a bit like a podcast – something to have on in the background to make things feel a like less lonely. Plus, she’s Irish so an absolute joy and comfort to listen to!

A Word To The Wise About Antidepressants…

Since June 2017 I’ve been on prescription antidepressants. 

They started me on Sertraline but one of the side effects it gave me was severe night sweats and I couldn’t cope with waking up drenched every morning, so last September, I asked for it to be changed and they gave me Citalopram instead.

More recently, I’ve got worse at remembering to take it every single day so sometimes I’ll forget in the morning and not take it until lunchtime and some days I’ll forget entirely and miss a day. This week I’ve had a right royal memory lapse.

On Monday night, I went to stay at Toby’s new place in Surrey and I know that I didn’t take it the following morning because I forgot to take any with me. I’m pretty certain I haven’t taken it since then but I’m not sure whether I did take it the days before. So the most recent possible time I last took Citalopram was Monday morning, 5 days ago.

On Wednesday, I barely managed to drag myself out of bed but was unsure why I was feeling this way. I hadn’t had a particularly enjoyable Tuesday evening and it had been a late night. Maybe I was just tired? I had to get up because I knew I had packing for uni to get on with. I did very little and what I did manage, was done on the living room floor while binging Suits on the TV. Thursday came and I had a coffee date arranged with a close friend. Had to postpone this by half an hour because I overslept and I actually very nearly cancelled. I probably would have done if it hadn’t been the last opportunity to see her before going back to Brighton. I had a lovely couple of hours though and it really made me feel better.

‘Maybe I just needed to get out of the house,’ I thought. I was wrong.

Today was the worst day. Overslept again and had to really face the music with what was left of my packing because I head back to Brighton tomorrow! I was still feeling low and by this time very anxious about going back to uni (which I have been for a while so not entirely unexpected).

As I was packing up my bedside drawer, I pulled out my Citalopram packet and had the sudden realisation. “Shit. I haven’t taken this in days.” I took one there and then but by this point it was way too late. When I received some disappointing news concerning a family issue about half an hour later, I burst into tears and started to have an anxiety attack. I phoned Toby in a state, crying about how I don’t want to go back to uni, and how awful the other situation is that I’d had an update on. He managed to calm me down enough that I wasn’t sobbing down the phone and when he had to go back to work, I went to bed for a mental rest and a short nap.

Around 5pm, I woke up feeling calmer but exhausted. Mum and I finished my packing and then went to the home of another close friend for a farewell drink.

The point of my telling this long winded tale is that if you are on medication for your mental health, it is SO important to take it regularly and at the recommended dose. As someone who’s training to be a pharmacist, I could have told you that anyway, but living out the consequences of going cold turkey for almost a week is something truly different to learning a fact in vocational training.

If, like me, you take medication to help you live a relatively normal life, please do everything you can to maintain your medication. Set an alarm on your phone (this is what I’ll be doing from now on); ask somebody you trust to remind you; buy a pill box with days of the week on so that you can see when you’ve taken today’s dose; keep spares in your handbag in case you forget before you leave the house. And if you do want to come off your medication – deliberately! – don’t do it without talking to your doctor and/or pharmacist first and seeking advice on whether you need to reduce your dose gradually rather than going cold turkey.

There’s no shame in taking medication for your mental health, just as there’s no shame in taking painkillers for a headache or anticoagulants to prevent a stroke.

Just don’t pull a Hermione and forget about your bloody meds for 5 days!

 

***

On 1st October I’ll be announcing an exciting event that I’m going to be a part of. Stay tuned!

Sunny Sunday

After a very long week, I’m glad for a day off in the sunshine!

This week I’ve been travelling to Sturminster Newton for work every day, which for anyone who isn’t local, is about an hour’s drive away from where I live. I don’t mind doing it because I know that the store I’m going to is short-staffed and they need my help, but it does add two hours onto my day (I can normally walk to work in 10 minutes) which for someone who already struggles with tiredness/sleeping/energy is a bit of a shock to the system.

But today is Sunday, it’s my day off and I’m sat in the garden listening to the new Taylor Swift album and basking in the sun! I came out here about 3 hours ago to water the flowers, and I ended up getting carried away. First, I did some weeding in the flower beds that have become overgrown after the rain we’ve had. And then I went full gardener and went on to mow the lawn, cut back the bamboo and tackle an infuriating bindweed that’s been winding its way around everything, including the shed door and the power cable leading to the outside freezer. Now I’m sweaty, grubby and very relaxed!

I’m re-learning some of the things that make me feel good; cooking has been the main thing that I’ve embraced recently, having had to cook for myself when I had the house to myself for a week. Before my family moved into our current house, we had a huge unmanageable garden, and then a flat with no garden at all. When we moved here a year ago I really wanted to make this small, easy-to-care-for garden my little project but it became a bit like going to the gym: in the moment it always seems like a bit too much effort, but then, when I do get round to it, I really enjoy it and feel good afterwards.

Watching the creepy crawlies emerge from the soil while I’m weeding, or concentrating on not tripping over the lawnmower cable, leaves no room in my brain to worry about life things. It’s nice for my head to have some quiet time away from the anxieties that are often buzzing around up there.

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It’ll be an early night tonight ahead of working the bank holiday Monday tomorrow – in Salisbury thankfully!

Happy Bank Holiday Weekend!

The Fast 800

I’ve changed my diet in an effort to improve my health, and I’m really enjoying it!

A few years ago, having suffered with IBS related problems and had little-to-no answers from the gastroenterologist I went to see, I picked up a book called The Clever Guts Diet. Written by Dr Micheal Mosley, a doctor and science journalist, The Clever Guts Diet teaches about the importance of healthy bacteria in the gut; the major role our gut plays in our general health; and the kinds of foods that will help to enhance the good bacteria and keep away the bad. It’s about three quarters information backed by science, referencing real peer-reviewed studies, and one quarter meal planning/diet advice for anyone who wants to ‘reset’ their gut health. I never ended up following the reset programme but I did pick up a few tips that I tried to integrate into my life and diet. (Including the wonders of Turmeric which I later wrote my first uni essay about!)

Mosley is most well-known for his groundbreaking book ‘The 5:2 Fast Diet’. The basic principle of which is that eating 500 calories on two days of the week, and eating ‘normally’ but healthily for the other five is a great way to lose weight and improve your health.

Fast forward 6 years to last December and Mosley released another book, accounting for more up-to-date science and bringing together his previous works into a new programme called The Fast 800. It consists of 3 phases and you can start with any of them depending on your goals. Phase 1 is The Very Fast 800 – a rapid weight loss phase where you stick to around 800 calories a day for anywhere between 2 and 12 weeks (again, depending on your goals). This can help not only with weight loss but with losing visceral fat and reversing the insulin resistance I talked about in my last post. (Mosley’s book The 8-week Blood Sugar Diet documents how he reversed his Type 2 Diabetes through diet and without medication. As a Pharmacy student I will definitely be touching on that again, but that’s a topic for a different blog post!) Phase 2 is ‘The New 5:2’, which is the same principle as it has always been, but recommends 800 calories on your two fast days. This is still low enough to make a difference but high enough to keep you feeling fuller for longer and experiencing fewer hunger pangs/cravings. The third phase is simply a Mediterranean-style diet, including fresh vegetables, lean meat and fewer refined carbs (which are broken down to sugar in your blood stream very quickly). Mosley says you skip straight to phase 2 if you don’t have much weight to lose or even straight to 3 if you simply want to live healthier.

Why am I regurgitating all of this? Because, after doing a lot of research, I decided it was worth trying for me. I bought myself a copy of The Fast 800 Recipe Book and have been attempting the first Very Fast 800 stage for about a week and a half. I haven’t stuck religiously to it – I enjoyed a celebratory cheesecake slice when Toby passed his driving test, and shared Nando’s with a friend when she was having a rough day.

I’m referring to it as a programme rather than a diet because if I use the word diet, I get a look that says “You’re too young/skinny to be dieting”. Really, the word ‘diet’ just refers to what you eat, not necessarily to losing weight or eating a particular way. I’m changing my diet to include and exclude different things that I haven’t done before.

I’ve lost around 5lbs and I’m really enjoying the recipes – both making and eating them! At the moment my routine is looking like this:

Breakfast: a nutritious smoothie containing fruit, full fat yoghurt, oats and other ingredients – around 200 cals. Usually an apple to go with it.

Lunch: I’ve been meal-prepping; making a meal big enough to serve 4 on my days off and splitting it into 4 lunch boxes for the coming work days. I like pairing whatever protein-rich main I’ve made with some green veg such as broccoli and green beans. (You’re allowed to add those in abundance without including them in calorie counts! Yay!)

Dinner: A lighter meal, as I’m not always hungry by this point and don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking and end up eating too late, as this is famously bad for your sleep cycle and digestion. One of the breakfast recipes has become a dinner favourite of mine; poached eggs with spinach and mushrooms. I literally cannot poach eggs, so I fry them in olive oil instead. It’s designed as a breakfast but I love it as a light evening meal.

I’m not endorsing this particular programme, nor am I actively encouraging anyone else to try it. I’m simply sharing my experience because I’m finding it both rewarding and fascinating. I do urge anyone who fancies changing their lifestyle for health reasons to do a lot of research (using real scientific studies and not just reading articles from Cosmo Magazine) and consult a GP, Pharmacist or Nutritionist if you need professional advice. In a week or so I’ll provide a further update on my thoughts.

*This post is not endorsed or sponsored by The Fast 800 or by Dr Michael Mosley*

Reality Check

I wrote this on the 31st July and have thought about whether or not to post it. I’ve decided I shall. I’ve left the post as it is so when it says ‘today’, it refers to the day I wrote it…

“This morning I did an at-home blood glucose test and realised it’s time to make a change. (Trigger warning: depression, weight loss/body image)

During my first year at uni – in fact particularly during the second half of that year – I found myself feeling particularly depressed. I take Citalopram for depression anyway but with medication and my own coping mechanisms I manage usually to remain on an even keel. However, from about February, up until the end of the academic year, I stopped doing things I enjoyed, like exercising and reading; my motivation was at rock bottom and I was missing about 50% of my lectures. I spent most of my time laying in bed, watching Netflix and eating cookies, or just sleeping the day away. I couldn’t be bothered to cook most evenings so I bought reduced microwave meals from the M&S garage down the road.

‘But you ran a 10k!’ – yes, I did, which I signed up for at the end of March, thinking that a big goal like that would help me get back on track. To be perfectly honest, it didn’t. I did the 10k and I loved it and was so proud of myself, but before I arrived in London that day, I was totally unprepared! The only thing more powerful than the voice in my head telling me to give up and call it off was the voice telling me what a loser I’d look, having hyped it up and written about it, only to chicken out. Fake it ’til you make it actually worked on this occasion I guess.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been in a much better place. I’m working full time again and while that’s tiring, I really do love my job and it gets me out of the house five days a week which can only be a good thing. Having found out on the 11th July that I did actually pass my first year at uni, I’m feeling much more confident about going back. (Yes, dropping out did cross my mind back in June). But the effects of those sedentary few months and the comfort eating that came with it have stuck around.

Those who have known me for a few years will know that I’ve always been slim. Since the beginning of this year, I estimate to have gained about 2 stone. (Estimate because I don’t weigh myself very often and don’t know exactly how much I weighed a year ago, but I can make a good guess.)

Now please, please don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with gaining weight or being the weight or size or figure that I am right now. I don’t look at myself in the mirror and hate what I see. Nor should I! My personal issue is that after being a certain way for the first 21 years of my life, and then for that to change in the space of 6 months without me really noticing until now is weird for me. My body now is not what I’m used to. And I’d like to go back to what I’m used to. Basically, I don’t feel like me. I hope that makes sense.

From a health point of view, most of the weight I’ve gained appears to be visceral fat – the kind that manifests around the abdominal cavity and therefore surrounds important internal organs such as the liver and pancreas. This type of fat is also linked to insulin resistance, which can be a precursor to Type 2 Diabetes. This is where that blood test comes in. I’d been doing some idle reading and research on this area and knew that it was possible to buy an at-home one-time blood glucose testing kit (which is NOT a diagnostic tool!) and figured I’d have a go. My blood glucose level is sitting somewhere around 110 mg/dl (milligrams per deciletre). Normal levels are considered to be below 100mg/dl and 100-125mg/dl is considered pre-diabetic. While this is all super interesting and possibly a bit concerning, I am obviously not a doctor (or a pharmacist, yet!) and I’m definitely not in the business of self diagnosing. The instructions in the kit suggest that if your blood-glucose is above or below the normal range, that you repeat the test in 10 days time and if the result remains the same then you visit your GP for proper diagnostic testing.

I’ve been telling myself for a few weeks that I should change my diet but because my weight wasn’t bothering me that much, I’ve put it off and procrastinated. Until this morning, when I realised I could really be putting my health at risk by not taking action against my poor diet.

I’m writing this so publicly, partly because writing at all helps me to process and – as with the Vitality 10k earlier this year – I’d like to hold myself accountable, which I struggle with unless I feel like I’m accountable to someone else.

This blog, when I created it, was all about sharing my journey with people I love and people who don’t know me at all. This part of my journey is about self-care, self-love and the desire to be the healthiest version of myself.

In a future post I will write about some of the specific goals I have set myself and the way I’m going to achieve them. Plus, look out for an unrelated but exciting announcement coming soon..!

Much love xx

(Disclaimer: Most of my research has been from Dr Michael Mosley’s literature and from Diabetes UK. Please don’t take my word as fact and if you’re worried about your own health, go and see a pharmacist or your GP.)”