I don’t mean to brag… well maybe I do a little… But it’s not even December yet and my Christmas shopping is under control. This year I’ve decided to try something different – I’m calling it ‘Gifting with Gratitude’ and I think it is an absolute winner.
Giving at Christmas time should be a positive experience, filling us all with warm fuzzies as we shower gifts and appreciation on those we love.
My usual experience?
I arrive at a very big, very busy shopping center on December 22nd, leaving my Christmas spirit in the car park while sideways glancing at the car next to me as we both spot the poor, innocent soul walking along loaded up with bags, fumbling with their keys and sensing the piercing eyes staring at them wondering which parking space they’ll be vacating.
I am over it before I even begin, grabbing the first things I see with little thought so that I can get the hell out of there. ‘Did I get my Dad a Pizza stone last year? Hope not!’
Not this year!
So, what is this ‘Gifting with Gratitude’?
I’ve developed a form with three columns. The first one has the names of friends and family we usually buy gifts for as well as any others I’m feeling especially appreciative of this year. My list has grown since having Flynn! The second column is titled “What do I love about them?” I’ve taken the time to write down my favourite memories of each person from the year that was, or something I love about them. I specifically scheduled this time in my day and sat down with a glass of wine to make it an especially pleasant experience. The third column is “Something they’d love”. This was so much easier to fill in once taking the time to actually think about this person rather than rushing around a store hoping something might jump out and inspire me.
I’m sitting here feeling grateful and humbled, full to the brim with love and appreciation with a beautifully presented list of potential gifts as well as the perfect messages for my Christmas cards. No more “Dear Mum, Merry Christmas, From Us!”
After all, isn’t this what the season is meant to be about?
I’m going to make this nice an easy for you, if you comment below with your details I’ll email you the template I've used to change the way I gift this year. I hope it gives you all of the warm fuzzies that should come with this time of the year and help you to avoid the December 22nd car park chaos.
We’re coming to that time of year where we loosen the reins, indulging in all of the festive deliciousness that this season brings. Then comes the lure of “starting fresh” on January 1st and making that infamous resolution: “Time to go on a diet.”
We live in an age where we have all of the knowledge in the world at our fingertips. Our Instagram and Facebook feeds, television and magazines are inundating us daily with the latest and greatest diets, recipes and exercise regimes that promise amazing weight loss, health benefits and abs like Kayla Itsines.
Eleven years ago, I was studying to become a personal trainer, worked in a boutique gym providing nutrition and exercise guidance to female clients, I was reading countless books and spending I don’t even want to admit how much money on health and fitness magazines which essentially were telling me the same things over and over again. That was me on the left..
Armed with all of that information and knowing all that I knew, I was still living a seriously unhealthy lifestyle. Being stuck in a cycle of yo yo dieting, unable to pull it all together, making big exercise plans for the week and not following through, reaching for sugary treats and binge drinking on weekends - my lifestyle was a far cry from what I was learning about in my courses and magazines, and even further away from the life I had in mind for myself. So knowing full well that my actions were not serving me well, why did I continue to make those decisions?
It’s the exact same reason that the thousands of people making that new years resolution to ‘go on a diet’ get to February 1st (or sooner) and find themselves back in the same bad habits, stuck in a rut and feeling more frustrated than ever before.
I don’t doubt that most of us know exactly what we should be doing. I certainly did. Despite the fact that every second person you speak to is either on a diet or going on a diet, we aren’t getting healthier or thinner. We are getting more obsessed with food, weight loss, and the perfect body than ever before. Yet, statistics show that as a society we’re an obese nation that's getting bigger!
We are looking in the wrong places to solve our problem.
We are looking in the mirror, criticising every lump and jiggle instead of looking at what’s going on deep down inside. As with most things in life, the answer lies in our minds. Your mind got your body to where it is now, and it is your mind that will get your body to where you want it to be. Until we address why we are overeating or reaching for foods that don’t nourish us we will not break the cycle.
When I made the decision and took the steps to change my mindset; focussing on treating my body with respect, doing what made me feel great long term and not just for the fleeting second that I dunked my tim tam in to my hot milo, I finally saw lasting results. Results that have remained consistent for the past ten years.
I could spend my time telling you how to cut food groups and give yourself that instant gratification of losing those few kilos that you have been frantically trying to get rid of. But when they pile back on, you still won’t have the tools to catch yourself when you’re reaching for food to serve yourself emotionally. Or, when you still feel like food consumes your life, you won’t be any better off than before.
The mind is unfortunately programmed to look to the negative. When asked what would be more likely to lead to success, 50% of men and a huge 75% of women responded that focussing on weaknesses rather than focussing on strengths would achieve the best results. The unfortunate thing about this is if we continue to focus on what is ‘wrong’ with us, we send ourselves in to a downward spiral of despair. What does that mean for our health? We fall back in to that cycle of eating to fill an emotional need, adding to the problem that we were actually wanting to fix!
Because diets are based on the negative – “what is wrong with my body shape and what do I need to give up to fix it?” - they don’t work with our minds to address what needs to be addressed. If we can turn this completely around and start focussing on the positive, asking questions like - What’s going to make me feel good long term? What do I love to do? What is going to give me a lift when I fall in to a slump? What foods do I love that nourish me? We can start to see real and lasting results. We are creating a way of thinking and a lifestyle change that is manageable and sustainable.
We can offer ourselves a gentler road, treating ourselves with compassion, nurturing ourselves in a way that releases us from our dietary imprisonment. We can begin to use awareness rather than deprivation to lose weight, a holistic approach where rather than just focusing on the physical body we tend to our physical and emotional well being.
So, how do we get there? We focus on these three things.
1. Ask 'Why'?
What is it that you want to achieve? Why do you want to eat better food, exercise, live a healthier life? Is there a reason greater than having Kayla’s abs? I’m sure there is, and it’s going to be far more powerful in keeping you on track to achieving your goals.
Taking a bigger picture approach means that if you have that piece of cake at an office birthday you’re less likely to let it completely derail you for the rest of the day or week.
2. Look back.
In order to make a change we need to understand how your relationship with food has come about. How am I feeling on those days when I can’t pull it together? Usually I’m tired, stressed, sad, lonely, bored or any combination of those factors. Why do I reach for chocolate when I need comfort? How long have these habits been with me? How often do I reinforce them? Don’t use this as a vehicle to blame and ridicule yourself. Simply make the observation, accept it and shift to a solution based focus.
By asking these questions and understanding why we make the choices we make, what works for us and what doesn’t, we can start to work with the information to unwind behaviours and habits to achieve lasting results.
3. Plan to nourish
Changing the way we think about food can be extremely powerful. If we use food to nourish our body, rather than to serve an emotional purpose or to lose weight it will stop having such power over us.
A great way to remove emotion from your food decisions is to plan your week of eating in advance. Sit down and think about your week while you’re in a clear headspace, not hungry, with your calendar in front of you so that you can prepare for any potential hurdles in advance. If you know you’re meeting a friend for coffee and you usually have cake – allow for it or go somewhere you know has healthy treats. If on Friday nights you like to have pizza night, buy things to make your own at home. When the thinking is done prior to the event the emotion is removed.
Taking time to tune in to your body and what it needs to feel nourished and healthy means that you are no longer eating from your emotional, thought-ridden, compulsive mind. You are regaining control
As we shift away from the negative self talk and dieting cycle into a kinder, calmer approach to nourishing our bodies our world changes. This contentment and peace around food is what we really need to make lasting changes to our lifestyle.
I’ve chosen to address this now rather than toward the New Year when it becomes extremely topical. Why? Because I’m about changing habits. Instead of getting to NYE and feeling the need to go on a diet, I really hope that you can develop a positive relationship with food and with your body over the coming month so that you can cruise in to the New Year with renewed vision. What else can you shift that energy to now? Time to set new goals.
Which mindset shift can you make to feel more freedom around your relationship with food? Comment below!
I know it’s counterintuitive, but I’ve come to the realization that sometimes pissing people off is actually an important thing to do. I would hate to count up the hours of my life spent worrying about what people think of me. When we fall in to the people-pleasing trap we stop acting based on vision and start acting based on opinions and fear. We lose focus. We become confused and when we’re confused about our direction, where do we end up? Lost.
As women, we are often far too caught up in trying to get people to like us – constantly on the hunt for approval and avoiding confrontation at all costs. I think back to a time in my career where after a great deal of thought, research and consultation I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea to expand services and create revenue. Rather than backing myself and putting this idea in to action I took it to two extra people to gain approval. These were not people who had any higher authority, increased knowledge or awareness on the topic. Nor were they people who would be directly impacted by the change. They were simply people I feared criticism from. I was setting myself up for failure. Predictably, these two people both disagreed with my plan but for almost exactly opposing reasons. What did I do? Nothing. I didn’t make the change. I didn’t even try. My desire to be liked was stronger than my desire to achieve the big picture best outcome. It paralyzed me.
Don’t get me wrong - communication, collaboration and consultation are absolutely crucial for maintaining solid relationships and key attributes of a strong leader. It’s what we do with the information that is key. If we take away our ability to put people off side, we will inevitably take the safe option for fear of displeasing others. As a result we won’t get our message across strongly, we will stagnate and we won’t achieve what we set out to achieve. The reality is that as hard as we might try, we will never please everybody. We will always manage to piss someone off. There will be people who don’t like us and do you know what, that is totally ok! Embrace it! You’re doing something that’s getting you noticed which means you’re moving forward, you’re making changes, and you’re taking action. Wouldn’t you rather be that person than the person sitting back passing judgment? I would.
I now know that if I make decisions that are authentically mine and have the discipline to stick to them regardless of the opinions of others, I can create the world that I’m meant to be living in. If I’m strong enough to continue on the road toward my goals, I can tell people with certainty where I’m going and they can jump on board if they choose to. If they don’t that is absolutely ok. In being authentic to who I am, I begin to gather the tribe who I am meant to be surrounded with and by doing this my confidence grows. Alternatively, if I continue to worry about trying to please everyone, I continue to surround myself with people who I am not well aligned with and my confidence takes hit after hit.
By removing the energy expended and wasted trying to please everyone, I have also freed up a whole lot of energy that can be put in to following my passions and doing what I was put on this earth to do. Another big bonus!
So ask yourself – If I didn’t care about whether everyone liked me or not, what would I do differently? …Now go do it!
I feel like a fraud. I’ve never verbalized this before because I actually believed it. I was ashamed. Every time I got promoted, every time I achieved something I should have been hugely proud of, every time I got picked for a sporting team, high grades at school, chosen as a school prefect, I thought I’d gotten lucky. I had all sorts of ideas in my head as to why I had succeeded. Usually something like ‘right place right time’, had friends in the right places, worked really hard and being rewarded for effort, said the right things in interviews… the list goes on. Did I ever achieve something and honestly think, “I have a talent in this area, I’m good at this and I deserve this success”? Nope. How ridiculous.
Why am I writing this now? Today I had an epiphany. I was listening to Sheryl Sandberg’s audiobook Lean In – a must read for any woman with leadership/ career aspirations - she quoted a speech from a highly acclaimed doctor entitled “Feeling Like a Fraud.” She went on to explain that many people, particularly women, feel unworthy of recognition for their accomplishments. They feel undeserving and almost guilty as if maybe a mistake has been made. She says that even people who are experts in their field have this niggling feeling that “it’s only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are – imposters with limited skills or abilities.” Oh.My.Goodness. I almost had to pull over in my car so that I could nod my head more vigorously.
I never knew that this was a thing. I honestly thought that it was just me, that I actually was unworthy of my accomplishments and that I really was a fraud. Now I see it. Sheryl Sandberg refers to it as “The imposter syndrome”. As women, many of us tend to undervalue our selves, plagued by self doubt and fear. But we don’t only do it to ourselves! All day I’ve been looking back through my own life to try and get to the root of this. Why do I not feel worthy of my achievements? What has happened?
The first memory that pops in to my mind is from when I was just thirteen years old. I was chosen for the State Basketball team; I had already been telling myself that it was because ‘not a lot of people actually tried out for it’. Then I got home and someone said to me, “that’s great, you’re just like your grandfather, you’re successful at sport because you are so determined and you work really hard. You’re brother is more like your father – naturally talented”. Wow. I jump ahead a few years to year eleven when I was the first female ever at our school to be awarded the Science and Technology award. Before I had the chance to celebrate I was told that it was because I was the only female doing so many science and technology subjects. These two examples jump out at me without even trying so I know they’re not the only ones during my school years, no wonder this is travelling with me throughout life. I also am very sure that these underlying messages are being sent to many young women out there and we are just not aware that we’re doing it.
I jump forward now to my career. My first promotion came in the second year of my first real job out of University. I can remember telling myself that I got it because I’d asked the right people the right questions, ignoring the fact that I’d always worked to a high standard, never said no to helping out in any way, the first to put my hand up for the jobs no one else wanted to do, and had graduated Uni with a 6.0 GPA. I was promoted twice again from there, my most recent and highest achievement is the big one that sticks out in my mind.
I can remember getting the phone call that I was the successful applicant. It was the weekend. I was over the moon, I had worked hard on my application and I ran outside to celebrate with Dan. Then the dread set in. I didn’t want to tell anyone from work, I thought they would think “Who is she to storm in and take on this management role at such a young age? Who is she to tell anyone how things should be done?“ I thought they’d see me as the fraud that I saw myself. And unfortunately… that’s just what happened. I was told by people close to me that I was very young to be in such a role, and a female too… was I really ready? I was approached by a colleague on the first day my promotion was announced who said, “Congratulations, don’t worry about what everyone is saying – they’re just surprised”. I didn’t know anyone was saying anything at that point. But I of course wasn’t shocked by this, it was what I had told myself was going to happen. I could go on and on about this but I won’t because it’s not about me. The point of this is, studies have shown that when women are more successful they become less likeable. As a result we often play down our own successes, not openly celebrating because we are so afraid of this unspoken phenomenon. We are told so frequently that our successes are due to external factors, rather than our own skills and talents, and we tell ourselves the same thing. So much so that we end up believing it!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I can only be responsible for my own actions. So what am I going to do with this epiphany? Well firstly I’m going to share my story (as difficult as it is to put out there) because there may just be someone else out there nodding along right now, feeling emotional about all of the accomplishments that should have been celebrated with confidence. Maybe they will be able to move forward from this now and recognise this thought process in themselves. I’m going to start celebrating others for their talents, pointing out their unique skills and the reasons that I can see as to why they are exactly where they deserve to be. Particularly with my children! And I’m going to ask that you please do the same. Lets put our energy in to lifting each other up, especially fellow women! There are enough barriers holding us back from success– lets not create any more. Finally and importantly, I’m going to recognise these thoughts as they arrive and I’m going to remind myself that I am not a fraud, I deserve my achievements as much as anyone else does and I will celebrate them openly, loudly and with full belief in myself.
I overheard two women chatting at our local coffee shop today while out on a sneaky coffee date with the littlest man in my life. One was describing how her husband expressed how horrified he was at all that he had to squeeze in to his day with the kids while she had a day at work. “So, you mean I have to get up, get the kids ready, get myself ready, drop the kids at school, drop the car off to be serviced, go to the post office and the grocery store, then pick the kids up, drop Jack at music and Alice at ballet, then pick them both up and come home and get dinner ready? Are you kidding me?” No doubt there are a few smirks of recognition out there from any mums who are reading this. It was what she said next that interested me the most. “Does he really expect thanks for this? I mean, this is what I do EVERY DAY and no one ever thanks me?! I’m just not feeling the love.” After listening to The Happiness Project audiobook by Gretchen Rubin a couple of months ago, I’ve been addressing this mindset in my own life. I’m certainly guilty of thinking, “Really? You want me to thank you for getting up with Flynn this once so I can sleep in when I've been up every other day this week? You want me to thank you for cooking dinner this one time when I’ve done it every other night for the past two weeks?” Thinking like this certainly didn’t feel good for me, it achieved nothing, and it wasn’t great for our relationship.
Gretchen covers this in her book and questions our need for praise and appreciation. She challenges our expectation of always needing something in return – the “if I… then you” “but I…. so you”. I made a decision after hearing this chapter to change my mindset. I started doing things for others purely for my own satisfaction knowing that I had helped someone, expecting nothing in return, no appreciation. It wasn’t an easy thing to do. I had to catch my thoughts frequently and challenge my mind to stop needing validation from others. I caught myself one day saying “I know you do all of the outside jobs and feel like I don’t thank you enough, but I do all the inside jobs and I get no thanks from you?!” Can you imagine how unproductive that conversation was? Nothing but running around in circles and we both ended up feeling terrible.
Initially after making that change I was thinking well, it’s all good and well that I’m doing this, but what about Dan? He’s not making any effort to change his mindset! This isn’t fair! But we can only control the way we behave, not anyone else. And do you know what? When I started doing things without expecting anything in return, when I started saying thank you and being appreciative of the little things without holding on to any begrudging niggles in my mind, something magic happened. I got back in to bed one night after finally winning a battle with a screaming Flynn at 430am and Dan gave me a hug and said “well done”. I went through our mess of a filing cabinet and reorganised it and when Dan went to find a receipt he said, “wow, you’ve done a great job with that, thank you!” Was this always there and I was in the wrong mindset to see it? Or in changing my own behaviour had I managed to allow Dan the chance to actually show his appreciation before jumping down his throat? I don’t know. But I can tell you it’s worth challenging your thought process and your motivations for helping others - whether it be for your husband, your children, your boss. Because once you do it, once your own feeling of accomplishment is enough, you will find peace.
I’m not going to bang on here about how important breakfast is for our health and energy levels throughout the day. We all know that if we grab a slice of toast as we run out the door we’ll be sneakily raiding the biscuit barrel by 10am – but sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles… like what I did there?? Ha.
After one two many mornings running out of the house with a grumbling tummy due to a grumbling toddler, I made myself a list of go to breakfasts that I can have pre prepared for when sitting down to porridge or smashed avo, spinach and eggs on toast just aint gunna happen.
Pile oats, chopped nuts, seeds (pepitas, chia seeds) coconut and your choice of fruit in to a jar – grab in the morning and add choice of milk and a dollop of greek yoghurt and you’re done!
Try soaking overnight for a ready to go Bircher version with chopped apple and cinnamon. Delish!
For the smoothie lovers
My favorite time saver is to prepare all of my smoothie ingredients in to individual zip lock bags and pop them in the freezer, that way in the mornings all I need to do is grab them out, add some coconut water or milk and blend it all up. So handy!
Some of my fave combinations:
Boiled egg and avo soldiers
I love the sit down version of this, as does my little guy which is a huge bonus!
Bring saucepan of water to the boil, then simmer the eggs for five minutes. Spread toast with avocado, slice in to strips and dip I the egg.
Don’t have time for all that? Boil up some eggs on a Sunday so that all you have to do is grab one out of the fridge, make some toast and eat on the run!
I write to you while simultaneously breaking at least three of your “I will never do that when I have a baby” rules. Wearing yesterday’s active wear, slippers and a mum bun while the little guy sleeps (more like ‘naps’) in his plastic swing and last nights dishes remain in the sink. I know, I know… I should have put him down in his bassinet so that he doesn’t get in to bad habits, while wearing skinny jeans with freshly blow dried hair and makeup (because come on, babies do sleep so you do have time to put in some effort right?) and now be whipping up some protein balls in my immaculate kitchen and doing a home workout. But I’m sorry to say…. HA!!
It’s never struck me more in the 3 months since having my son how much we judge each other and put pressure on ourselves as women. My working life certainly was challenging as a young female trying to navigate life in a management role, with long days, late meetings, being constantly switched on, making tough decisions and facing the backlash. I really do still appreciate that. What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that there actually was no comparison between that life and the one that my friends were living at home with new little ones depending on them. I really was clueless no matter how many times I had it described to me. These roles are both tough, but so far removed from each other that my pre baby self and my new self really do need to just give each other a pat on the back on move on. No more judgment.
Some key things I wish I could tell myself?
1. It’s a different level of tired
When mums used to tell me how tired they were, I’m not going to lie, arrogant me thought “yeah right, you don’t have an alarm waking you up at six in the morning to go to work, or meetings until 10pm. You can get up, feed the baby and go back to bed. Heck, you can sleep most of the day if you want to!” Yes, I want to slap me too.
You may be woken up countless times throughout the night, or you may not. Your baby may have a good long day sleep, or may not. The only guarantee is you’ll never actually know when your next good night sleep is going to be (if ever) and you will not be able to look forward to the weekend to sleep in and ‘catch up’. Ever.
2. Your priorities will change
You could put the baby on his play mat and run around all day (if he’ll let you) to cook gourmet meals, keep your house spotless, washing basket empty, finish your latest sewing project and just generally mirror one of the perfectly polished mums on Instagram who you picture yourself becoming. But you actually won’t want to. You have a little life learning something new and growing everyday. You’ll want to sit and watch and help him navigate the world. These first weeks will pass quickly; don’t let them pass you by.
3. You can’t control everything... or anything really!
In those first weeks as a mum you won’t know what’s going to happen next. You’ll go from a life that is perfectly predictable and planned out in your diary to the hour, to a world of unknown. I could never have known how hard breastfeeding would be for me, and painful, so so painful. No one told me that could happen. I suffered through three bouts of mastitis in six weeks, with two hospital stays, followed by my husband getting the flu and then appendicitis. My boy was cluster feeding and feeding for an hour, sometimes two! Some nights he only woke once, some nights two hourly. You are a control freak and that will be hard for you. But you need to let go.
4. You will lose yourself for a while – but be reborn
When my little man arrived and we came home to face the reality of life with a newborn I really couldn’t recognize myself for a couple of months. My usually health conscious, switched on, motivated self was struggling with the day to day. I wasn’t looking after myself, I was forgetting to eat and when I did eat I was grabbing sugary treats to try and find some energy. My body couldn’t fight the mastitis infections because I was so run down. I was worried about leaving the house because I didn’t know what was going to happen, what if there’s a nappy blowout? Was he going to want to feed? (I haven’t mastered the “sneaky feed” that others seem to do so effortlessly. When I feed my boy everyone knows about it!) This wasn’t the me that I knew, this isn’t what I planned for myself. Where had I gone? Would I ever return?
You will, but you’ll never be the same. You’ll learn how to balance these new priorities and as your journey continues you’ll recreate yourself. How exciting is that?
My life as a purely stay at home mum has been a steep learning curve and sadly, short lived. Tomorrow my new and old lives collide as I head back to work part time. What new reality check am I about to receive? Watch this space.