Ready for take off…

I just had an amazing weekend. I flew to Aberdeen with Nigel to attend the annual festival of the company Enjo UK, one of my businesses. It was a brilliant event in a gorgeous castle-like hotel, working with some of the most genuine people I have ever come across. I was made welcome, embraced, gathered up and gathered in by this bunch of people, most of whom I have never met before, and I know that I have made some amazing new friends.

The weekend had an unexpected ending when our flight was cancelled and 7 of us chose to drive all the way home from Aberdeen in two hire cars, driving all through the night. It was an incredibly bonding experience, a real adventure! And despite being exhausted I have ridden the week so far on a wave of exhilaration, and I finally feel as though I have discovered my path – it lit up before me like a runway expecting the touchdown of a Super jet! Opportunities keep arriving! Exciting times ahead.

But back to the festival. Direct Marketing conferences are always very positive affairs. An opportunity for testimonials, recognition, appreciation and forward planning. What’s not to like? And there is always an element of personal development, which regular readers will know is something I love!

One of the features of our weekend was a couple of hours with a lady called Patricia Bacon. Patricia is a coach and a couple of things that she took us through rather took me by surprise. At one point she asked us to turn to our neighbor and pay them a compliment. That bit was easy – but accepting the compliment that they gave us? How hard was that? My lovely companion was easy to compliment, she is young, beautiful, passionate and very sweet. She threw compliments my way and quite frankly it made me squirm! And I think that nearly every other person in the room felt that way too! It is very, very hard to receive a compliment without joking, or brushing it off, when we should be just saying “thank you”.

At the beginning of this week, I received many accolades and compliments from lots of different people. For some reason it seemed to be “tell Penny how great she is” week. People were “impressed” and “inspired” by me, wanted to share things with me and quote me! I am not sharing this so that you can add your “but you are wonderful….” comments (you were going to, right?). But rather to tell you how I felt. I was feeling unworthy, embarrassed, uncomfortable and quite frankly a fraud! Worried that I would be found out because I generally do not believe that I am any of the things that “they” said I was.

Sure, I can always be counted on for an inspirational quote or a joke, I think I am great at understanding people so can be counted on to usually say the right thing at the right time, and I always try my best to help people when they need it. I have a good sense of humour. But, and it is a BIG but. I am not, or more accurately, I do not feel “successful”. I am a nice person but quite frankly I am not yet the successful businesswoman I need to be.

Anyway, I have been mulling this over and today I had a bit of a revelation (yes gentle reader, another one!).

I have spent most of my life feeling as though I was on the outside looking in. Whenever I enter a room I feel as though I have just missed the punchline, or perhaps I have walked in on some secret club and I don’t know the password. Or that I was too dumb to “get” it, that people were talking in some secret language that I was unable to translate. This even goes right back to school.

Now this feeling has definitely held me back. I am over-sensitive because I dread making a fool of myself, or offending, or being pushy…and it has definitely affected my “success” in my businesses because I hold back there too, reigning in my passion for my products, and my beliefs, terrified of overstepping the mark. I talk the talk, but definitely do not walk the walk!

I have developed strategies for coping with all this fear. I am a great bluffer, treating each social occasion as a theatrical performance – after all I am a Leo, and we love a stage! I have been a clown, a drama queen, the quiet one in the corner, the entertainer, the cook/kitchen staff and on occasion, the punch bag. Hiding in plain sight. But often dying inside at some perceived slight or exclusion. For many years I was the “jolly fat girl” hiding my pain and lack of confidence behind my weight. Wow, this is painful stuff!

Those of you who have patiently followed my slow, agonizing progress over the last few years know that I have discovered little bits of this along the way, but I feel as though I have turned a very significant corner this week. Although I am not yet on the home straight I have a glimpse of the finishing line, I think.

I am still not quite ready to battle my weight and my attitude to food. I am eating reasonably healthily and maintaining my weight. My blood sugar has settled down a little so I am feeling a bit better. The coaching I have invested in is helping my perspective. The new challenges in my working life, and my discovery of something new that I feel very passionate about, the new people I am working with, new friends – all of these things are contributing to me finding my way through the door that I have been frightened to open. The answer to my weight issues are very probably on the other side of that closed door.

I need to discover my brave and wear it proudly on my lapel. Wave it high in the air and just believe that I have every right to join the club I have felt excluded from. Or that I have excluded myself from.

In recent years I have been helped by the lovely Nigel. Corny but true, he has been the “wind beneath my wings”. He has an unwavering powerful belief in me that never falters. But at the end of the day, the only person who can cross this particular finishing line is me. Better limber up!

Post Script: I was writing this blog tonight and then came across the senseless savage news of the murder of Jo Cox. She seemed to be a courageous, feisty lady who fought hard for everything she believed in. My thoughts are with her husband and children. RIP Jo.runway

June is busting out….

 

june is busting out all over

Well here we are, 6th June and I was very quiet last week, wasn’t I? Despite big plans for June I was so totally not in the right mindset last week. It was so cold and grey, we had the heating on and although I made a stab at eating a little better (and did ok-ish) I was not really feeling positive enough to trumpet it to the world.

But I planned!

This morning the sun is shining, the sky is really blue and I so have my positive hat on. So, let’s do this!

Here’s some bullet points of my plans  for this week:

  • Building some structure into my day/week
  • An early power-hour every morning, taking time for me to read, meditate and clear my head
  • Healthy low-carb eating
  • Back to the Toning Rooms for regular exercise at least 3 times a week
  • A little mini accountability blog every day
  • Firming up basic business plans for my businesses
  • Picking up the phone and talking to some customers

Plenty to be going on with there!

Next weekend I am off to Aberdeen for my first major Enjo event and am really looking forward to learning lots more about this business and the products.

Learning. It’s a huge part of my life right now. I guess we never stop learning, if we do we risk missing huge opportunities and I really believe it keeps your brain functioning! But I wonder if we appreciate the learning process when we are younger.

This last week I set out to learn about the EU before taking part in a vote that will determine the future of this country from quite some time. As with all study I had to shut out the noise and scaremongering to try and discover some facts. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually already knew!

I am also learning a lot from my lovely coach Ian. My weekly conversations with him on a Saturday are providing much food for thought. We are working through a well-known book/program – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Yes, I can see some of you who know me well sniggering in the background, but just go with me on this!

We do meander a little as the book triggers many realisations and revelations, some professional and some intensely personal and very emotional. But this is a process that I am finding is changing my attitudes and helping me decide what motivates me and what I actually want out of life. I thought I knew, but I am not sure I still want the same things as I did two years ago. Life goals need constant review and renewal.

I had a reminder on Thursday of my reasons for launching myself on another round of healthy eating, self-discovery, blogging etc. My hospital appointment for my eyes is set for 27th June, and I have a blood test form so that I can set up an appointment with my diabetic team. For my own peace of mind and confidence I need to be already making an effort when I ask for help.

Today I am sitting out in the garden working in the sunshine, feeling determined and positive. Stay with me, hold my hand, all encouragement welcomed.

desk

 

 

 

Tempus Fugit…

Tempus fugit….

time flies

In the spirit of my making myself accountable to my lovely readers – here goes, stage 1 of reorganising my life!

After my wake-up call last week and the realisation that I need to get a grip, I have been thinking about the changes I need to make in my life. As  well as sorting out my food choices and exercise options I need to overhaul my working-at-home life too.

Back in the day when I worked in an office the days seemed long, and the weeks dragged. But my life did have structure and routine. For many years I longed to be in charge of my own destiny and dreamt of working at home.

Two years ago of course, the company I worked for obligingly gave me the opportunity to do just that!

dogs

It’s not as easy as I thought. There’s the dogs of course, they love having me home. And of course they need attention and a fuss. There is always washing to be done, and who knew that I enjoyed housework? My lovely Enjo business is helping with that! And Facebook calls constantly!

What am I trying to say is that I am frequently distracted. And my days fly by! I cannot believe how quickly time passes at home.

The other problem is that my lovely family and friends forget that although I am at home, I AM working! I need to remember to say no from time to time.

The end result of all of this is zero structure and routine. Which in turn means I am not efficient. And I will often find myself working in the evenings and at the weekend when I should be spending time with my lovely hubbie.

The other thing that this affects is my eating routine. When you work in an office lunch time is a welcome release. Time to get up from the desk, surf the net, talk to co-workers etc etc. Working from home means that lunch time often passes by unnoticed. Not good for maintaining good blood sugar levels.

I also have 4 businesses and a part time job that I need to stay on top off! So, this is something that I really need get sorted moving forward.

Of course the great joy of working for yourself is that you CAN choose what you do and when you do it. But you do have to do it!

The end result of all this is that I need to build structure and organization into my working life – it will reduce stress, ensure that I am earning money and it will help me as I move to improve my health and wellbeing.

So I have a plan! This is the start of my structured working life!

  • I will work a basic minimum 30 hour week – this may be made up of daytime and evening working given the nature of my businesses
  • I will eat at regular times EVERY day!
  • I will keep a record of my working hours
  • Mondays will be my planning and stay-at-home day

I am sure that this plan will need tweaking and adjusting but this is the first step. Here goes

 

 

Change is gonna come…

I had a bit of a wake-up call yesterday. At my annual diabetic eye screening appointment, I was told that I have diabetic retinopathy in both eyes. Not severe, but enough that I will probably have to have a more intense scan and more regular monitoring, that could lead to eye surgery if I don’t start taking better care of myself. I also have neuropathy in my feet, I actually had that prior to diagnosis, some 15 years ago, but recently I have been aware that it has progressed. I have also been feeling pretty naff for a few months, and in my heart I know it is due to poor control of my diabetes.

Back in 2001 when I was diagnosed, Type 2 diabetes seemed like the end of my world. I was going through the most stressful time in my life. My first marriage had broken up, with violence and nastiness. I had lost touch with many friends due to that situation. I was in loads of debt, on my own with a 6 year old, things at work were horrible. It was a very dark time. I knuckled down and took brave steps to deal with these problems. In 2000 I weighed over 25 stone. I lost 3 stone, started exercising more, did what I had to do to keep my home, went out and made new friends. And I took control of my blood sugar too. It was hard work but somehow I got through 3 very difficult years.

At the end of 2003 I met Nigel and things got a little easier. Like everyone, we have had our moments but we are best friends, support each other in everything and with Zoe have a brilliant little family. Zoe has grown into a beautiful, smart young woman, who has yet to realise quite how amazing she is, but has a bright future ahead of her. Following redundancy from that horrible stressful job I am now a reasonably successful entrepreneur with a small portfolio of businesses.

In the background of all of this has been my struggle with my weight. Many of you will have followed Project Penny when I was given a lot of help and support, blogged my way through another 3 stone weight loss and met some amazing people, some of whom are still in my life and supporting me.

Generally, we eat reasonably healthily, interspersed with spells of low carb or total gluttony, like many people. Sometimes I exercise, sometimes I don’t. I will be going along quite happily, feeling well, losing a few pounds, and then for some reason I lose focus. There is still work related stress in my life, I don’t earn as much money as I used to, I stress about Zoe who has her own battle with Type 1 diabetes to contend with. I worry when Nigel is tired from working long hours. Bereavement, the dogs bring 2 inches of mud in the house, the sun is shining, its cloudy, its cold…you get the picture. Interestingly stress does not have me reaching for chocolate and cake. When I am stressed I stop eating. But then when I get hungry I reach for toast. Bread is my downfall. It’s easy, quick, delicious and just like shoveling sugar into my mouth!

I had big plans for May. I have been investing in myself a little more. Getting some coaching, reading more inspirational stuff. Reconnecting with some inspirational people. I planned a new way of eating with the support of my lovely friend Dee who has turned her nutritional life around in the last couple of years. But, as always, something got in the way. Major issue leading to a couple of worrying weeks so everything went on hold yet again.

success is not final

But. There is never a right time. There will always be another problem, another distraction. Yesterday reminded me that sometimes you need to just do it.

I am a wife, a mother, a daughter and a friend. For all of those reasons and many more I need to get my act together. Diabetes is a silent killer. I will be 58 in August. Recently Nigel and I have determined where we want to be and have started working towards it. I need to be well and healthy to enjoy the life we have planned, and to be there for Zoe as she works out what she wants and goes for it.

I know for any major life change to be successful I need to plan. So I am digging myself out of my ostrich stance with my head in the sand. I need to see the doctor; I need to start making small changes before tackling the major plan. June will be the month that I had planned May to be.

None of this will work without support and this is where you lot come in lovely readers. I am going to blog my way through this, with honesty and humour I hope. I would love to hear your stories, welcome your support and need your encouragement. I will be blogging a little most days, to keep myself on the straight and narrow, make myself accountable. I promise I will try not to be boring! 🙂

I’m doing it!

change is gonna come

Food, glorious food!

It’s been a while since I put pen to paper, well, fingers to keyboard. Last time I wrote anything was just after my mum-in-law’s death. It has been a very emotional couple of weeks, more so than I expected. And it has brought me face to face with some uncomfortable facts that I think I have previously been able to ignore.

We all know that most people have an emotional response to food. Food is at the centre of celebration, friendship, family events and yes, even funerals. For me too, cooking is an emotional thing. When I feel happy I love to cook, when I am uncomfortable I like to retreat to my kitchen to hide behind recipes and ingredients. I am confident in a kitchen, its somewhere I know I can shine. Food is sharing, loving, joyous.

As you know Nigel and I had embarked on the Blood Sugar Diet – an 8 week, 800 calories a day, plan to stabilise blood sugar in Type 2 diabetics, or pre-diabetics. It requires some dedication and much enthusiasm but the results are spectacular. Nigel lost over a stone in the first week and I lost 6lb. We both felt great, full of energy and keen to continue.

But in between when Mum died and her funeral last Thursday we both felt like we were wading through glue. Everything felt like a huge effort, and time ran so slowly. To be honest all I really wanted to do was to sleep or sit on the sofa and watch mindless TV. Those of you who know me well know that this is not my default mode! I have been so miserable.

People often talk about comfort eating. It conjures up pictures of people stuffing their faces with cake, chocolate, takeaways, and all the things we think of as “comfort food”.  There have been times in my life when I have done this, but what usually happens to me is that I completely lose interest in food and cooking. Again, not my default mode!

The problem with this is that when I do eat it is usually simple carbs that I want. Toast. Cream crackers. Potatoes. All of which are as bad for me as the cake and chocolate. Suffice it to say that with a few exceptions I have not eaten properly or sensibly for nearly 3 weeks. And I feel terrible! Lethargic, with joint pain, bloat and so, so tired.

I did not consume massive amounts of food, but I did eat the wrong things, I didn’t plan meals, didn’t pay attention.

This complete contrast to how I was feeling on the low calorie eating plan, has prompted me to take a brutally honest look at my relationship with food.

Having Type 2 diabetes does not help with my emotional response to food. At times it is as though everything I eat is poison to me. Even though my sensible head tells me that I can eat perfectly well with a little thought and planning.

We all know the feeling of wanting to eat everything in sight the moment that we hear the word “diet” – for a long time I have substituted “eating plan” for the d-word. We also all know that to sustain health, well-being and weight loss, we need to be in it for the long term. The minute that you return to old habits the benefits of a period of healthy eating are undone. My emotional response to stress or unhappiness is always to pull the covers over my head and sleep, or read. I get lazy and introverted. I take no pleasure in food – simply eating because I have to, cooking if I must, taking the easy option with no creativity or joy. This in turn makes me more miserable and tired.  A vicious circle, and raised blood sugar.

So, the funeral was on Thursday. It was a beautiful service. Mum’s children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were there. The weather was miserable but there was sunshine in our hearts. We shared memories of both Mum and Dad, the flowers were beautiful, there was poetry, music and laughter.

Good Friday was spent mainly huddled on the sofa, in front of the TV, although sunlight was pouring through the windows. It was what we needed. And gradually over the Easter weekend we came back to life, ready to get back to normal, still grieving, but still breathing.

And here is where it gets corny! Although I am not “religious” per se, Easter always seems to me to be about renewal, new opportunities, new futures. So on Easter Monday we went right back to our carb-free regime. Back on track and newly determined! And I think I have a new awareness of my complicated relationship with food. Let’s see how it goes….

 

I leave you with one of my favourite quotes from the amazing Julia Child

Julia child steak quote

Death and other stories…

Last week my lovely mum-in-law, Barbara, passed away. Not a tragedy, she was 85 and had had a good life. But incredibly sad for her family. I count myself lucky to have found my way into that family and along with Zoe, my daughter, to have been welcomed with open arms and unconditional love.

I first met Barbara and her husband Denis in October 2003, about a month after I met Nigel.  Right from the start they were so kind and lovely to me, although Mum asked me so many questions that it felt a bit like I was on Mastermind! I guess that she needed to ensure that I was worthy of her “baby boy”, (well over 6 foot and somewhat well built)!

My favourite memory of Barbara comes a couple of months later. On a family trip to Centre Parcs over Christmas, to which Zoe and I were late additions. Following a very bad meal in one of the restaurants we were served desserts, and Mum’s choice of Chocolate Fudge cake came out and was frozen! She plunged her fork into the offending item and marched across to the manager of the outlet, to whom we had previously complained, and waved the cake in front of his nose protesting loudly! She could be a formidable woman, but with a wicked impish sense of humour.

Dad died about 4 years ago, and after a few lonely and miserable months in the home they had shared together Mum decided that she would prefer to live somewhere more secure and with care available. She walked into a lovely care home in Hemel Hempstead and declared that this was where she wanted to be, and how soon could she move in?

She was very content there and made the best of everything going on in the home. She made friends, terrorized the catering manager into submission and generally enjoyed her life. My lovely sister-in-law, Gilly visited her almost every day and the rest of the family visited as often as they could – we are rather spread across the country. Her health deteriorated gradually but she was so well cared for, we of course assumed she would go on forever.

Nigel and I went to visit her last Saturday. She looked well and was full of news and gossip about everything in the home. We talked about the imminent birth of her 5th great grandchild and her grandaughter’s wedding in April, but she was very philosophical, talking about Dad and how much she missed him, and wondering what “it was all about”. I cannot say that I knew it would be the last time that we would see her, but Nigel and I did have a conversation about how it seemed as though she had had enough.

So when we got the news on the following Tuesday it was not the biggest surprise to us.

Death, even when expected, is always a shock, and leaves a person-shaped hole in all our lives. All week that hole has filled with memories of Barbara’s life and the effect she has had on us all. Her 4 children and their partners, her niece, 7 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren will mourn her for a long time, and we will share stories whenever we get together for family events. She and Denis were so central to our gatherings I know that we will feel their presence all the time. There will be a lot of laughter whenever we remember them.

For me, I am grateful that they came into my life, at a time when Zoe and I were a little lost. For those Star Trek fans out there, my husband says we were “assimilated”! It was a painless experience.

The next couple of weeks will be challenging, but in a strange kind of way I am looking forward to the funeral. A chance to say goodbye with all the family, and to celebrate their parents.

Rest in peace lovely lady.

Mum throwing confetti at our wedding in 2008
Mum throwing confetti at our wedding in 2008

What Penny has been doing!

profile pic

 

Well Hello World!

It has been a while since I committed words to paper or digital media. I am hoping that someone out there is interested in just what Penny has been up to since Project Penny back in 2012. Its been an eventful couple of years! Bit of a boring starting post for my new blog, but I just want to bring you up to date briefly on whats been happening.

2 years ago I was made redundant from the stressful job that was referred to often in my blogs. Although it was a very good thing, it did take me a while to truly appreciate that fact. As so often happens we are so hard on ourselves in times of trouble. I should have been kinder to myself and taken some time out. But hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Anyway, it took me a good year to sort myself out. It is similar to the grieving process. You start out with shock and denial, there is pain, then you get angry and depressed and then gradually there is a chink of blue through the clouds, until finally you wake up and discover a day of blue skies and brilliant sunshine!  Then you never look back!

The second year found me working hard but not really focused. Searching for something but not really knowing just what it was that I was looking for. Thankfully the Universe knows what is best and at the end of 2015 my path was cleared with the demise of Pampered Chef. Something that initially devastated me, but was quite obviously exactly what I needed.

I have started 2016 in such a positive place, with 4 businesses, all very different but all fabulous! Of course! More about some of them along the way.

So what about health and well being? The original aim of Project Penny. Well the weight has remained pretty constant for the last two years, there have been a few half hearted attempts at healthy eating but nothing substantial. Working at home has its own challenges and I have found that I rather like being a lady who lunches, when I have the opportunity! What I have found is that I need to consciously think about eating, it is way too easy for me to skip meals when I am busy. Or to eat the wrong things. Both options as bad as each other!

I have had several bouts of ill health in the past year, the worst being a serious dose of tonsillitis in the summer. Took weeks to recover and got me out of my regular visits to the Toning Rooms. So there hasn’t been much exercise going on, and I am feeling it! Planning to put that right.

Mentally I am in the most positive place I have ever been in. I am enthused and I have established a strong self belief system. I have surrounded myself with mentors and supporters who inspire and encourage and above all I am determined. Ready to start reaping the rewards of all my hard work.

That’s the boring preamble out of the way!

I am about to take some drastic action. Today, Monday February 29th I have started out on something called The 8 week Blood Sugar Diet. This diet has been developed by the amazing Dr Michael Moseley, also responsible for the 5:2 diet and well known for turning science on its head and working hard to change how people think. This 8 week diet is drastically low calorie, and is based on Dr Roger Taylor’s Newcastle diet that has had some success in reversing Type 2 Diabetes. The diet is low carb, but nutrionally sound and I am very excited by the science behind it. I am aiming to lose weight and get control of my blood sugar, perhaps even reducing my medication. You can read more about the diet here: https://thebloodsugardiet.com/

I will be sharing more about the plan over the next few weeks, and proving just how well you can eat on 800 calories a day!

The lovely Nigel is joining me on this journey – although not diabetic he has gained quite a lot of weight over the last 2 years and is really keen to get himself in shape too. We are not using ready made shakes/meals but will be cooking delicious recipes every day which should make it much easier for us to sticik with it!

We are both comitting to lose 3 stone each over the next six months, upping our exercise and improving our health and energy levels.

I hope that you will be interested in following our journey. The blog is intended to be a funny, entertaining and honest reflection of our lives and this new “journey” (such a cliché!). So strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride! Here we go!