Don’t be afraid to make a change

Nothing brings you back to reality than Monday traffic and your first day back at work or school. The holidays are done and dusted.

I’m actually OK with going back to work. The cynical among you might think that’s because in less than three weeks until I’m off to Florida and then Dallas with Ben. You would be right. But remember, I then have a long year ahead of me!

Just before Christmas, when very few people were working, I experimented with my desk at work by putting an Amazon box underneath my laptop to give me a standing desk. When I work from home this is standard practice for me. Sitting down all day long is not healthy, even if you’re active (here’s a depressing read on The Guardian if you want to read more).

DIY standing deskI wear a Vivofit to monitor my steps and always ensure I’m over 10,000 a day – usually 12,000 is my average. I give Alfie a 30-40 minute walk in the morning sacrificing a bit of sleep time for some peaceful morning walking listening to a podcast or just music. It’s very refreshing and gets me ready for the day, not to mention by the time I get to work I’m on 5,000 steps already. I try to walk a lot during work (lots of drinks and subsequent loo visits help with that) and make sure I go for a 20 minute walk at lunch time. But I still sit from 8am commuting an hour, then 9am until 5pm working, then another hour commute home. Then watching TV or chilling on the sofa at home. That’s over 10 hours of sitting every week day. You can’t deny how unhealthy that sounds.

IMG_8902So I made a change. I made myself a standing desk in the office. There were few people in the office at the time and it was only one day before we went off for Christmas. But I vowed to myself to continue when I got back. On Monday the office was full, I set myself up and started work. I won’t lie, I felt extremely embarrassed stood there with my make-shift desk with everyone else sat down around me. People obviously started to notice. When they asked me what I was doing I explained my reasoning. And you know what? They got it. OK they’re not all creating their own standing desks but they understand why I want to do it and no one thought I was stupid or laughed at me (actually they know what I’m like so it probably came as no surprise).

I now stand at my desk from 9am until lunch when I go out for a walk, then I sit down for an hour to eat (which is so lovely by the way – it’s nice to appreciate being sat down!) and then stand again until 5pm. Originally I was aiming for 4pm but it’s actually not too tough. I take little ‘breathing’ breaks every now and again where I sit down, have a look at my phone then stand up again. The hardest part is not letting myself slouch when I stand.

The benefits? I feel more alert at work. More focused. My posture is so much better. My legs feel loose rather than stiff. In fact my whole body feels better. I enjoy my commute more 😉

My point is, my health is number one priority to me. Work takes up a very large part of my life and I’m conscious that just because I’m at work it doesn’t mean I can’t also look after my health too. Who knows if this is why I’m always injured? This is something I’m doing for me regardless of what people might think. I’m lucky my work is quite casual in this respect as I can understand in certain offices this might not be allowed. But as I can, why shouldn’t I?

Have you ever made a change to your life for health reasons? OK this isn’t a huge change in the great scheme of things but it does improve my health in the long term!

Do you sit a lot during the day? At the weekend I’m always on my feet but in the week it’s so different (or at least it used to be).

Am I healthy?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself recently.

I like to think I’m fairly healthy. I do lots of cardio-busting exercise running 4-5 times a week. I do some strength work to try and smooth out biomechanical imbalances. I always hit my ‘5 a day’ fruit count (no, not just with apples ;))Healthy foodI eat stupid amounts of vegetables. We’ve swapped to organic or free range meat and I try and buy organic vegetables and fruit where it ‘matters’. I’m at a healthy weight, everything functioning like it should (or I hope at least!)…no major spot break-outs or lack lustre hair. Perfect, right?

Hmmm. There is something that I never really mention on the blog. Most people would probably say it’s not a big deal. But I’ve started to wonder about my consumption of artificial sweeteners.

It’s no secret of my love for sweet stuff. I could eat cake every single day if I let myself. I don’t because I want to be healthy. I’ve often had comments from people like “where do you put it?” or “I wish I could eat like that and remain so slim”. Well my secret is I don’t eat it every single day. Obviously it appears on my blog a lot because I love cake and it’s a whole lot more interesting than “here’s another apple…”. But if I’ve eaten a lot of cake or chocolate one day I’ll balance it the next day or the next meal. I do love healthy food and eating salad for a meal is my kind of thing.

However, like I said I love sweet things but I can’t eat calorific sweet things all day long. So I’ve found ways around this. And now I’m starting to wonder if my ‘work arounds’ aren’t much better.

‘Sugar-free’, ‘no added sugar’…these are words I’ll look for. I’m not interested in ‘fat free’ or ‘low fat’. It’s all about reducing the sugar for me. However I’m not all about reducing the sweet taste. And here lies my issue.

Am I consuming too many sweeteners every day? What are the risks with eating too many sweeteners? What is this doing to my health in the long-term?

To put this into perspective this is what I consume every single day:

  • No Added Sugar Squash

SquashI drink squash by the bucket load. At work I have a 500ml glass and I probably drink at least three of these with squash every single day at work. Sometimes more. It’s very rare that I’m actually thirsty. I drink squash because I get bored at work and it stops me from mindless snacking…so instead I’m mindlessly drinking. I’m also constantly going to the loo. Good for getting my daily steps!Squash I have to buy a 1.5 litre double concentrate squash every week for work. Less than 10 calories per 250ml? Perfect! Let’s ignore that long list of chemical-sounding ingredients shall we? Hmm.

  • Low Calorie Mint Hot Chocolate

I will have a large mug of this every night.

Options Hot ChocolateI take this hot chocolate with me if I go on holiday, to friend’s, I took it with me to Endure and when I stay with relative’s. It’s the last thing I have at night and I love it. Alfie loves it too, he gets to lick the mug afterwards (shh, this isn’t disgusting at all. You’re wrong). Also probably the one reason I have to get up every single night to pee. But less than 40 calories for a mug! It tastes delicious. I can’t even touch Starbucks hot chocolate in comparison to this chemically formulated brand. I’m well and truly hooked. But again, those ingredients look so dubious. Sure once in a while it’s fine…but every single night?

  • Low Calorie Jelly

Like my hot chocolate, I’ll have a pot of sugar free jelly every evening. We used to buy the ready-made pots but it would cost us a fortune the rate I was getting through them (like 70p per pot). Now we buy the sachets that make four pots a time (we kept the old pots and make the jelly in them) for the same price. I actually found out my lovely running friend does this too!Low calorie jellySorry for appalling photo which you probably can’t read! 

She probably doesn’t have one every single day though…and on bad days I might have two (‘bad’ days like “I fancy chocolate but I ate cake earlier so maybe I’ll have another jelly instead”).

  • Sugar free chewing gum

A bit like my squash obsession, I’ll chew a lot of chewing gum at work. Mint gum after my morning coffee, maybe a fruit-flavoured one before lunch, one after lunch, one after my other coffee, one because I’m bored…I get through a lot. I’ve heard horror stories about what it does to your insides. I don’t even want to know.

I reach for these sugar-free alternatives to keep myself in check and not over-do the sugar-rich things I love. But is this any better? Recent research has shown that diet drinks actually don’t work as the body is tricked into thinking that calories are going to be arriving and they never do – so you crave more sweet things. And what’s the story on sweeteners and whether they’re bad for our body or not? Do we really know in terms of long-term consequences? Do I want to know?

I want to cut down or cut out completely…but the sad fact is I know I can’t give up my hot chocolate. I love it too much. And my one jelly…that can’t be that bad can it? But I can reduce my squash intake. Yesterday I’m proud to say I drank one 250ml of squash (to keep me sane…) and the rest was plain water or this:

IMG_7201 Water with lemon slices. Boring as hell I assure you and doesn’t quite hit the spot, but it’s a change I’m willing to make.

Small steps right?

Do you think you’re healthy?

What is the one thing you do that you know is not healthy?

What do you think of artificial sweeteners?