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March 2020

Pregnancy post #7 – Maternity leave & being self employed

By Personal, Pregnancy No Comments

Finding out

When I found out my due date was January 31st I was like brilliant (sarcasm), the busiest time of the year for the health and nutrition industry and precisely when your tax return is due. Over the festive season it does quieten down as the public aren’t looking for so much advice on nutrition (even though they should be, it really is the perfect time to keep focussed. Anyway, I digress). So, when everyone is looking for the advice after the new year I’ll be off, but hey you win some you lose some.

Maternity leave

Maternity leave is kinda weird, especially with your first child (although I’ve got nothing to compare it to). Being a business owner, it means that whilst I had still planned to take time off, there was never really a set end date. In my head I had always said January 21st (with baby’s due date the 31st) but in reality, I was still doing bits and pieces every day up until he was born. That’s also because I love my job too. The thing is, you have to keep on top of things because if you don’t it’s your reputation and business that will suffer. So, whilst my paid work slowed down, I was still writing and doing lots of content planning and getting things ready for when I do return to work. What is good about being self-employed is the fact I can choose when to go back to work and take on as much or as little as I want to. This did bring me some comfort.

I certainly did start to take more rest time towards the end of my pregnancy. But being quite a busy little bee this certainly didn’t come naturally to me. As I’ve already mentioned, I didn’t and still don’t just sit down and watch endless hours of television. If anything, that would make me feel worse. There were days when I just didn’t really know what to do with myself. There were other days where I certainly felt more lonely than I had ever been. And whilst I tended to get over that by the following day, it’s not easy.

You are just waiting around for something to happen. Which is weird in itself. And something I will never experience again either. It’s a mental battle between “I must embrace this” and “here’s another day and what the hell am I going to do?” However, towards the end I honestly made peace with the fact that growing a little person is pretty impressive and to make the most of such a special time in my life.

As I love cooking, I made use of my kitchen quite a lot. I batch cooked lots of meals and brushed up on my baking (which many of you will know was not my finest skill). And for anyone who isn’t a keen cook then maternity leave may be the time to try it out. The joy you get from making food for others is something truly special. Or even just for yourself.

Pay

What you don’t appreciate is sorting out maternity pay. Your employer normally does that for you. It was a bit of a nightmare for me if I’m honest. It took way longer than I thought. So, my recommendation for anyone who is self-employed or runs their own limited company (in the UK) is to phone the Department of Work and Pensions and discuss your situation with them before filling out any forms online and sending them off. If you have an accountant they should also be able to help you. Speaking from experience, I didn’t do this and had to do everything the long way round. Which meant at 38 weeks pregnant I was still sorting it (and actually 7 weeks post birth it’s still going on now).

There are pro’s and con’s to being self employed or being employed by a business. I still wouldn’t change it, despite the financial benefits not being great. But that’s because I love what I do so so much.

Pregnancy post #6 – sleep

By Mood, Pregnancy, Tips No Comments

This is important

I want to talk about sleep. I was once that person that partied 4 nights a week, worked 15 hours a day and thought lack of sleep gave you hero status. Not anymore.

Since I left my corporate job in 2016, I realised this is no longer the badge of honour I once thought it was.

How my sleep suffered

My sleep severely suffered during week 32 (not much before then), not because I was uncomfortable but mostly because we got new neighbours and our bedroom wall adjoined to their living room. They are elderly and deaf and like to watch television until gone midnight most nights. Given we are both early risers this wasn’t going down very well. We got earplugs and sometimes slept in the spare room, now it’s not so much of a problem.

I continued to suffer for the following few weeks and then it levelled out where I would only wake between 1 and 3 times a night for a pee. And whilst I know this is also my body’s way of getting me ready for what’s to come it’s bloody awful. I’m also not a day napper, it just very rarely works for me. If I do nap, I often find I wake up groggy and just don’t like the feeling of falling asleep during the day. Towards the end of my pregnancy though I did manage to nap occasionally, anytime from in the morning to sometimes at 6pm. By week 38 it was pretty uncomfortable.

Pregnancy pillow and advice

I had a pregnancy pillow which I used on and off, but being honest it just wasn’t my thing. I was most comfortable sleeping on my front/side with one leg bent. Not the most conventional but it worked for me and I’d encourage you all to do the same. Whatever works. There is a school of thought out there that it’s “best” to sleep on your left hand side, however I always thought what if you just can’t fall asleep on that side and are left panicking because you aren’t. My midwife never gave me this advice, it was more passed on from other people and from doctor Google. The stress you’ll put yourself under from trying to sleep on your left and then not being able to will outweigh the benefits of just getting a good nights sleep in the first place.

The impact on mood

It really is fascinating how a shit nights sleep will impact your mood and productivity levels and this experience definitely showed that. When baby arrives (which is now) the message I am already practising in my head is that this sleep deprived time period isn’t forever, so just ride it out and things will improve. But my main message here is don’t forgo your sleep for other things you might think are important. Sure, every now and again we need to meet up with friends and socialise, because that’s part of looking after yourself too (although at present his is more through video conferencing calls than in person). But if you are burning the candle at both ends often, bail and nap or get an early night. That’s ok too. And you are the only person who will know if it’s the right time to do that or not.

CITRUS SLICE

By Recipes No Comments

Makes 12 portions

INGREDIENTS
BASE
175g plain flour
50g coconut flour (or another fine flour like rice flour)
85g caster sugar
140g unsalted cold butter, chopped up
1 tbsp milk

TOPPING
Zest of 3 lemons or limes
Juice from 4 lemons or limes (TIP: zest them first)
3 medium eggs
200g caster sugar
25g plain flour

METHOD
Preheat oven to 180C
Line a 21 or 22cm square, shallow baking tin with baking parchment.
Put the flour, coconut flour and sugar in a bowl with the butter and rub with your fingertips until it’s like fine crumbs. Stir in the milk with a butter knife.
Tip into the tin and press down evenly.
Bake for 15-20 mins until golden.
Remove the tin and lower oven to 160C.
Mix the lemon/lime juice and eggs together
Combine with the sugar, flour and zest. Whisk
Pour over the base, then bake for 10-15 mins until set.
Cool in the tin, then slice.
Store in the fridge or freeze for later.

Pregnancy post #5 – second hand stuff and recycling

By Food for thought, Personal, Pregnancy, Tips No Comments

Big fans…

Being big fans of reusing and recycling when we found out about the new addition to our family we were adamant to do as much as we could not to buy new things. We just didn’t want to add more items into a system that was already flooded with products. I cannot say a big enough thanks to all my friends and family who gave us so much, their generosity was next level. The baby had almost a full wardrobe of clothes from newborn to nine months before he was even born. I must say this was probably helped by the fact I was one of the last in my group of friends to have children, just as some of them had completed their own families.

What we got

I used Facebook marketplace all the time, because you can filter it to search local to you. My buggy (and all the bits to go with it), baby carrier, newborn insert, cot and rocking chair all came from there. Some of these had not even been used, or only used once. Some brand new but for half the price.

The cot (£30, retailed brand new for over £300) and rocking chair (£20) we just sanded down and re-painted, with low VOC paint to ensure it wasn’t toxic. Both as good as new. And yes, you have to have the time to do this, it’s about making it a priority. We spent a few hours on each item together. The shelves for Kit’s books are also made from reclaimed scaffold boards.

Provided they remain in good condition we will also sell on, or at the very least give to a charity shop who can benefit from it long after we have.

Brand new is not always best

More of us need to move away from the thought process that new is best. Yes, in some cases new items are essential, for hygiene reasons and if you have a personal reason which you feel strongly about. But for babies, it’s really not necessary and as adults we need to apply those principals to us too. Probably half of my very small maternity wardrobe came from the second hand clothes app, Depop. If you don’t have an account, set one up here. Again, lots of clothes which have barely been worn and even more which are brand new. Considering maternity clothes are worn for such a short period of time it just makes sense. There is also loads of baby stuff on here too, however I am yet to use it for that.

Nappies and wipes

Now, it comes to nappies and wipes. What a minefield. That’s all I can say. We both researched a lot. And I think it then turned into information overload. We had always said from the start that using solely washable nappies and wipes wasn’t going to work and we didn’t want to put ourselves under that much pressure with a newborn. So, we’d said we’d use washable nappies at home and disposable when we were out and about. Or the other option was we’d use washable for one day a week and disposable for the remainder of the time. Something as better than nothing. At the moment we are using disposable but I’m thinking once Kit is around 2 months old to move to the above. I have everything ready.

The wipes are just as confusing. I have a set from Cheeky Wipes which we do use already. And I also invested in bamboo and compostable varieties too. But none of them fully breakdown, and whilst it seems like a good idea, if the product doesn’t fully breakdown then I question if it’s worth the effort, because you are back at square one.

Remember

No one is doing everything. It’s impossible. But if you are doing one thing here and there to be more eco friendly then you are doing your bit. So I challenge you, what’s next on your list?

Pregnancy post #4 – food

By Food for thought, Personal, Pregnancy No Comments

Eating habits

My eating habits were all over the place. In the first 6 months I literally ate so many carbs and sugar it was unbelievable. I used to consume quite a lean high protein diet with lots of veggies and wholegrains. That was gone, and surprisingly I was ok with it. I had a new-found love of cereal. I would never have eaten cereal before and now I was having it every day. Sometimes twice a day. Other than that, anything cold was a good thing. Fruit, fruit juice, milk, ice and then carb wise, cereal, bread, potatoes, pasta and rice and not much else. I wasn’t that good with raw meat for a while either, the smell just made my stomach turn. My meals were very bland.

Blood tests

This change of diet was actually reflected in my blood test results which I just find fascinating. I’ve never had a problem with my haemoglobin levels. As I regularly donate blood they check your levels every time so I was pretty aware of how normal they were. However, at my booking in appointment around 11 weeks they take your bloods and mine had dropped from a regular 144 to 125. And the likelihood of this is due to the fact I wasn’t eating very well, barely any foods rich in iron and baby was taking a lot of nutrients from me. I’m pleased to say when my next blood tests were done in November they had gone up to 129 (not massive but still a slight improvement), chances are as my diet had improved by then. All of these figures are still in the normal range, just a bit more on the low side.

Third trimester onwards

At the start of the third trimester it just started becoming unpleasant to eat in the evening, I was really full and there was just no room left. I would tend to eat most of my meals before about 3pm and then have half of what I’d normally eat in the evening.

I was scared my appetite and love of food wouldn’t return. Being an absolute food lover and with it forming a large part of my life it worried me that I’d just never get that spark back. Cooking wasn’t as exciting when you couldn’t eat it or didn’t fancy it.

From about week 30 I noticed my nausea returning on certain mornings for just a few hours. It was different this time, not hunger related, it was just there, like an annoying little niggle. It wasn’t everyday and nothing in particular triggered it. However, compared to the beginning it was really nothing.

Then, at week 37 my spark for eating how I used to just returned randomly one day. I was still a cereal fiend but I was back eating higher protein meals, more veggies and salads and it helped. I started to get excited about after baby was born and getting back to eating well and looking after myself, my way, again.

Post birth

Now our little baby has arrived I can honestly say most of my eating has returned to normal although I have been indulging in things I fancy when I want them. I don’t believe in snapping back or getting your body back. Our bodies are amazing, I am in awe that I grew a human being and I am also excited to be eating relatively healthy again. This will support me in getting to where I want to be and support bubs too as I’m breastfeeding him.

Pregnancy post #3 – exercise

By Food for thought, Movement, Personal, Pregnancy No Comments

It’s beneficial

Continuing to exercise once you’ve found out you are pregnant still gets a bad wrap, even though it’s 2020. There is countless research which tells us its safe. If you understand your own body, it’s actually good for you and for baby, both physically and mentally. And it can also reduce the amount of time spent in labour, and personally I was all for that.

My exercise routine

Being quite a fit individual, I carried on with most of my normal exercise routine, just dropping the intensity as I progressed. I continued to train weights once a week with my PT and run 3 to 4 times a week. I’d also walk twice a week with a friend and do body weight circuits or resistance training at home. Even though I was so tired and felt awful at the beginning this would always make me feel better. I had to stop running at 19 weeks. I’d always said to myself if I could run until I was halfway I’d be happy and I nearly made it. It was a Saturday afternoon and the pressure on my lower abdomen and discomfort in my pelvis just wasn’t worth it. 90 seconds in I stopped and walked and knew that was it. Inside I was gutted. I remember coming home and being in such a bad mood, but the next day that mood was gone. It’s hard, but I think you just have tell yourself that it’s not forever and as long as you can do something it’s better than nothing. So that was how I approached things from then on. It was such a different mindset training for something other than a time, to lift heavier or to beat a previous personal best. I was now training just because I could. Because it made me feel good. And it was refreshing. I’d urge you all to try it once every now and again.

At 26 weeks I took up pregnancy yoga. To be honest I have never been a true yogi, it’s super slow and I struggle with it despite it being challenging for the body. But I completed the course as I know the benefits in terms of stretching and opening up the pelvis is good for birth. I don’t think I’ll do it again though as it’s just not for me.

I continued to stay as active as possible throughout my entire pregnancy. We had some kettlebells at home (which are so old but did the trick) so I’d use those for body weight and circuit training exercises 2 to 3 times per week. I found Bumps and Burpees a really good source of safe exercise routines and with the workouts being between 15 and 20 minutes it means you can absolutely find the time. I’d either do a 5km walk which would take around an hour, or a 30-minute walk and then a circuit session aiming for 5 days a week with 2 rest days.

The breathlessness crept in from about 30 weeks onwards and I really had to slow the pace, but the important thing was to keep doing it. I was simply astounded at how quickly I now became out of breath. I used to run for hours at a time and now, walking up a hill was tough. By week 36 my pelvis and hips were starting to feel slightly uncomfortable purely because of the extra weight so I dropped the intensity again but still kept moving. Exercise or simply being active is a way of life for me, so whilst I was constantly advised to “rest” or “take it easy” walking and doing things like this made me feel at ease. They are things which relax my mind and make me feel good.

Starting again

I can’t wait until I can get back into some high intensity stuff but equally, I won’t be rushing it and plan on seeing a women’s health physio to get everything checked before attempting anything too high impact.

#36 SKINNY JABS

By Sunday Shutdown Series No Comments

SUNDAY SHUTDOWN #36 SKINNY JABS

I simply had to write about this after sharing a post on it earlier this week and getting quite a few DM’s.

Celebrities endorse products they quite often don’t understand. This prays on the vulnerable and can be unsafe for short term health but also dangerous for long term relationships with food.

Skinny Jab (SJ) is a weight loss programme. Just like any other it works on the basis of reducing your calorie consumption. But it doesn’t overly advertise that, of course not. In fact their website doesn’t really tell you what the product is at all. It’s a daily injection of liraglutide which claims to melt fat away.

SJ also claim to remove hunger using a tried and tested revolution. That they are not like any other very low calorie diet. Their site also refers to starvation mode 🙄 (refer to SS #19)

Their “Detox Box” does no such thing. As we know, our bodies have their on detox system called a liver and kidneys that no food, juice or cleanse can replicate.

SJ report an average weight loss of 12-20lbs in the first month, which might I add is very unsustainable. It is not a magic product, there is no special ingredient which makes it special. If there was such a product we wouldn’t have an obesity crisis across the developed world, would we?

Finally it’s daylight robbery at £250 for 4 weeks of injections and remember you still have to buy food on top of that. Spend your money on nutritious food, exercise and support from someone who knows what they are talking about.