The internal dialogue

Hellooo

Little Mo is in bed and we’re having a quiet Saturday night enjoying the expanse of Sunday potential that is unfolding before us tomorrow.

Today has been a lovely day albeit in everything but the weather, which remains relentlessly wet and grim here in London town. The irony of the huge advert slapped on the side of buses which shouts WE ARE IN DROUGHT seems to be particularly cruel if like me you happen to be humbly cycling along one day minding your own business when said bus with shouty advert races through a puddle next to you and soaks you head to foot. Still: on the bright side, we are in for a lush green bounteously blooming sparkly summer after all this rain aren’t we… aren’t we…?

This morning I awoke in my parents’ house, I stayed there last night sans Maurice because I was going out for a much-needed fun girly night of good food and wine with a couple of lovely friends in west London, and my equally lovely husband looked after the baby all night. So I woke this bright new day at 8am (a LO-HO-HONG lie in from regular life) having had a massively healing 7 hours’ sleep almost unbroken, apart from a few “where’s the baby??” moments from which I was able to quickly return to slumber. As I made my way back to south east London I encountered a logistical issue when topping up my Oyster card, the details of which I really don’t need to trouble you with. I found myself saying in my head “ugh such an idiot”…and I suddenly took a step back and realised that I often call myself an idiot and berate myself for stumbling on these minor potholes in the road.

This consistent, quiet but definite soundtrack to myself must have an effect day by day. It made me wonder about the internal dialogue that we all live alongside. Have you ever stopped to listen to yours? I started to muse the fact that I wouldn’t ever talk to/about my best friend, sister or husband the way that I talk to or about myself as I would consider it mean and a bit rude, a bit hurtful to their feelings. So why am I so happy and quick to be so mean to myself? A good friend of mine once chided me by saying “In the red corner, it’s … Anya! And in the blue corner, it’s…Anya!”, and that rang in my ears today.

Tune in to your internal dialogue, the way you talk to yourself and talk about yourself every day. Do you unthinkingly say negative things about yourself? Just saying them makes your fibres, body, muscles, heart believe them on some level and will chip away at your posture, self esteem and your ability to achieve and progress. So turn it round and give yourself a positive spin whenever you can. Catch yourself, be kind instead of mean, and make friends with ultimately the most important person in your life. You!

On another note, by way of making friends with myself even further today, I added to the sleep bonus this morning by heading to H&B Therapy in East Dulwich for an organic facial, and it was pretty amazing. As I’ve said before, meditation is a wonderful way of tuning in to your body and clearing your mind, and a facial is a luxuriously meditative experience, being gently massaged into a beautifully relaxed state with fabulous smelling organic potions, and tending to my shockingly neglected skin to boot. It feels like i’ve had a very selfishly indulgent day, but I feel replenished and revitalised so Maurice will no doubt benefit from this new lease of life of mine!

Until the next time…

5 brain boosters!

Wow, Mo is still sleeping amazingly, so I’m going to carry on blogging…

My brain is a bit depleted at the moment. I met a good friend yesterday and found myself saying the sentence “do you like wedding?” to him…when I meant “what is your view on the idea of marriage?”. Yes, brain is somewhat weary due to the lack of sleep. So, I want to find ways to boost its powers. These are quite good ones:

1. Exercise. Yep, regular workouts can reverse ageing in the brain, believe it or not. Aerobic exercise boosts sharpness and speed of thought, and the volume of brain tissue, apparently. A lovely walk is always a good way to incorporate exercise easily into your life. Apparently, and at the risk of repeating myself from a previous post (sorry, brain is slow…), if you add a tree-filled green setting to your walk experience it might increase your memory and attention span to boot. Wonderful!

2. Brush and floss your teeth! Oral health is very clearly linked to cognitive health apparently. I’ve always wondered about the chicken/egg aspect of this, but there you go. It’s proven that mouth illnesses such as gingivitis are associated with worse cognitive function throughout adult life. Plus, if you have a wonderfully minty fresh mouth, you’re more likely to have lots of friends wanting to hang out with you, and a wide network of friends and conversations with good friends are also proven to have great benefits for your brain. So this is a no brainer.

3. Drink sparingly. Sorry… I do love a good glass of red wine after a long day. And there are loads of health benefits to that too, but the operative word here is sparingly. No more than the recommended units per day (and that’s actually a bit less than you think it is…). The link between drinking and reduced brain volume is apparently stronger in women. Oh dear. Savour a glass of red rather than draining and reaching for the bottle. Or make your white a spritzer. Or just enjoy one earthy pint of ale rather than several of lager.

4. Eat blueberries. Ideally when they’re in season (see my earlier post on blueberries…). Truly a superfood, they help to sharpen your thought processes apparently. The dark blue pigment in blueberries is supposedly responsible for cognitive changes, increasing cell growth in a certain part of the brain which is linked to problem solving, memory and learning. So add them to smoothies, have them with yogurt, or just lovingly stuff handfuls of them into your mouth like I do. Enjoy them in season fresh, or buy them frozen as they’re just as nutritious.

5. Meditate. A wonderful stress reliever, meditation is also a way of enhancing your brain’s powers. People who meditate according to a US study apparently showed growth in the cortex, an area of the brain that controls memory, language and sensory processing. I guess meditation is a way of allowing the body and mind to sleep without actually sleeping, just being in the present moment with no distraction of past or future. Sit upright, close your eyes, breathe, and focus on whatever is going on at this present exact moment and nothing else: whether that’s humming of the washing machine, birds singing, people chattering, or just the sound of your own breathing. If any distracting thoughts such as shopping lists or money worries enter into your head, notice them, then allow them to float away. Start with 2 minutes (that feels like ages the first time) then increase. You’ll really feel rested and amazing once you get the hang of it, and you’ll be brainier too!

I can’t believe that Maurice is still asleep. He’s been sleeping for over an hour which is amazing for his brain development, I’m so happy! I might take some time to meditate or brush my teeth or do 5 minutes of Pilates…..

Until the next time…

Meatless Monday

Hello world

What a lovely day it is today, springy and zesty with its temperamental switching between sunshine and darkly pregnant clouds.

My little man is currently having a snooze, after his power lunch of mackerel, broccoli, beans and yogurt. Mackerel is a perfect food for little ones: full of wonderful magical oily fats for brain development, packing a great nutritional punch while also being quite a strong distinctive taste and allowing the palate to develop and enjoy different taste sensations. But due to the mercury content it’s something I shouldn’t really give him more than a couple of times a week.

One of my current worries is getting enough protein into him without relying on the same foodstuffs day after day. He hasn’t yet had very much red meat, and I’ve been pondering a lot about how often to introduce it. I know the health benefits of red meat, plenty of iron and zinc, great for building the blood and immune system, loads of B vitamins and other minerals essential for health. But I was a vegetarian for ten years before falling off the wagon at university due to the allure of post-night out bridies (mince meat pastry pie) purchased in the early hours from the all-night bakery in Edinburgh, or hangover-soaking bacon sandwiches…and I have ever since felt ill at ease with my meat consumption purely from a guilty animal welfare point of view, and the global impact that modern mass meat production has made me increasingly unsure about meat as a staple. Not to mention the diminished health benefits (and taste…) of meat that is not grass-fed and free range, living a healthy life before it heads towards our plate, where muscles have a chance to fully develop and strengthen by roaming, and feeding on the grass that nature intended.

If cutting out red meat isn’t an option, make sure that you choose locally farmed, free range, organic if possible, meat. This will not only benefit the environment, but will also have a greater health benefit as the meat will be richer in nutrients and in taste. Red meat that has been mass-farmed and grain-fed rather than grass contains very different types of fat which are broken down differently in our human systems after consumption, and can lead to all sorts of health woes if we’re not careful. I won’t get too technical here, but if you want to know more, have a look at this site: http://www.balancedconcepts.net/grass_grain_animals.pdf

So…with all this ambiguity going on in my mind about meat as part of my own diet, it is amplified when thinking about giving it regularly to the little man.

There is a Meatless Monday campaign roaming around the world at the moment, and so here are my ideas for trying to take this on board, if not every week, then some ideas for when it feels right and appropriate for you.

1: Swap meat for hearty beans and pulses. Cooked beans, peas or lentils give just as filling and tasty a kick as beef or lamb in dishes such as chilli, soups and sauces.

2. Meat is a rich flavour, which satisfies the craving for what the Japanese call “umami”, one of the five basic flavours that the human tongue seeks out: roughly translated as “pleasant savoury taste” (the others are sweet, bitter, sour and salty). This savoury hit can be satisfied with big meatless flavours such as mushroom, aged strong cheeses such as Cheddar or Parmesan, edamame beans, sweet potatoes, nuts, tomatoes….

3. Have a different perspective on your regular favourites and this will help to develop your palate and also challenge you to lift yourself out of an unchanging unthinking routine when it comes to food: so rather than a beef burger, make yourself a spicy bean burger, or spinach fritters (my mum makes an AMAZING spinach fritter…), seafood rather than beef stir fry (but try to make sure your fish is from a sustainable source…), use diced tofu or paneer cheese rather than chicken in a curry. It just takes a little bit of thought but your body and brain will reap all the benefits. And you might start to make a little bit of difference in lessening the global impact that mass meat production is having on our environment and on our health.

Must go, have to think about what I’m going to make for the little man for his tea!

Chocolate

Hello world

Revisiting the original thread of this blog, I thought I would touch on little Maurice’s developments in the culinary arena, seeing as it’s about three months since we started him on this journey and he’s made leaps and bounds in that time. Certain things remain constant however:

1. He still treats mashed potato, and even to my great disappointment mashed sweet potato, with disdain. There’s nothing quite like a baby’s pure reaction to food, and particularly food that is not wholeheartedly enjoyed: without the grace that society hopefully instils in us over the course of childhood and beyond regarding the reaction to a food we’re not sure of. If we find something repugnant when in company we might silently grimace to ourselves and work out how we can swallow the mouthful in a polite fashion. Maurice when offered mashed potato takes a mouthful, then promptly pushes it out with his tongue, with a look of abject horror on his face.

2. Broccoli rocks. It is the king of vegetables in his eyes. He somehow manages to cover himself and the wide vicinity in broccoli cast off which just adds to the greatness I’m sure.

3. He has a bottomless appetite for yoghurt. Bottomless. I think he might get this from me.

4. Food is something that presses pause on the Maurice machine. While eating he is no longer impatient for action, vying for attention, trying to seek out noise and movement. He is studious, focused, intent and content. He can spend 20 minutes toying with spaghetti strands, and working his way through a handful of green beans. He doesn’t need reassurance from me that what he’s doing is right or really even notice me at certain points, if confronted with a particularly interesting piece of chicken to be gnawed through. I find this so lovely to watch, that it’s something he feels totally confident in now, and wholly content to be indulging in. He is never happier than when smothered in various foodstuffs and in the midst of enjoying a hearty meal. I suspect perhaps he gets this from me as well…

Today I must confess he tried chocolate for the first time. I wanted to mark this moment because I feel it must have been a big one for him, and also because it came about by accident. One of my weaknesses right now, triggered by the late afternoon energy lull that I sometimes experience due to lack of sleep, is to reach for a teaspoon of nutella. I appreciate this is a bit weird, and the health and fitness expert in me knows that for a real energy boost I should head for fruit and slow energy releasing goodies such as nuts and seeds. But nutella is what I am craving right now in these moments. Just a teaspoon. So…I was hanging with my little man this afternoon and he was happily rummaging in the way that he increasingly is happy to, autonomously, finding things to make noise with and balance on (and fall off…). He had his back to me and started giggling with delight. He turned round, clutching a teaspoon as if wielding Exhibit A for the defence…his face absolutely covered in chocolate, alongside a beaming smile. He had found my absentmindedly placed teaspoon, unfinished and left on the coffee table, its enjoyment evidently interrupted by a Maurice incident such as TV climbing or sofa clambering. Although I hadn’t intended that he try chocolate/sugary foods this early in his life, I had to share his utter joy in the event, as he was so delighted with his discovery and shivered with happiness as the chocolate hit his tongue. And chocolate is so very very good. Imagine what that first taste of it must have been like for him? A festival for his little taste buds.

I did have to deal with a sugar rushed Maurice for the next hour, so perhaps we won’t revisit this festival for a while…

Until next time!

Beauty sleep…?

Hello world

It’s been a while. In that while I have had zero amount of shut eye due to my bionic non-sleeping baby. So I am feeling somewhat lacklustre in fettle. It has got me musing on the subject of sleep, and how important it is to life and being vibrant, healthy and positive.

Maurice has never been a sleeper. While other little ones might enjoy a nap here and there and sleep like the baby who inspired the proverb, he has always eschewed sleeping as an activity worth his while, and preferred jiggling, bouncing, chattering, perhaps a bit of screaming thrown in for good measure as a more hearty way of spending his time. Every night since his birth has been peppered with vocal unhappy wakings every couple of hours, or if we’re particularly lucky, every hour. This was fine for the first three months…and then it became a bit of a drag, particularly as all other babies in the known universe appeared to have grasped the concept except Mo. Which can get a girl down. Lately, perhaps due to his great moving development with crawling and standing, his daytime naps have also diminished to nearly nothing, leaving me dredging energy from the very last reserves of my being, running on fumes until I get to the next gas station.

So yes, sleep…a little-remembered friend of mine. Perhaps we shall meet again one day? Insomnia seems like a gratuitous affliction to me right now, even though I was plagued by it pre-baby quite a lot. But the idea of being able to go to bed at night and have hours and hours of potential sleep stretching out ahead and not take the generous king of slumber up on its offer seems ludicrous to me now (although I very much understand that it is crippling and awful when it occurs).

So, I have been, in my bleary waking hours, trying to find ways of being positive about the lack of sleep, both in body and mind. And here are my ideas:

1. A great way of making the body and head feel less groggy is tapping your fingers around your face, skin and head. Tap tap tap around the temples, the jawline, the third-eye chakra in the centre of your forehead, the scalp. Massage the earlobes and all around the ear. This is a wonderful way of waking up the brain and spirit, and inject a little bit of energy where there may be none left. You’ll actually feel a little bit sparkly and fresh, it’s amazing. Try it.

2. Stretch. Stretch stretch stretch. If you can do some yoga or Pilates in a fluid graceful addition to common-or-garden stretches, then so much the better. For ideas for good stretches, why not download my free app My Pilates Guru which has a stretching section.

3. Walk. Get walking outside, walk tall, get the blood pumping, take deep deep wide breaths filling up the lungs and shaking out the bodily cobwebs. Try and get a bit of leafy greenery for the meditative life-enhancing calming properties of the lovely beautiful colour green (making sure you’re not walking right next to a busy main road will be better for deep breathing purity, and gaze up at trees in the street if gardens or parks are at a minimum…).

4. Try to focus on the positive, even if it’s a small chink of light in the gloom like the fact that it’s not raining, or you had a particularly delicious piece of toast and marmite for breakfast. If you’re feeling rubbish and sleep-deprived it’s east to allow everything to descend into a grump-fest. Try to lift yourself out of a downward direction by smiling, thinking about the things that make you lucky rather than the things you are feeling down about, and tilting your perspective up upwards.

5. Indulge yourself: listen to your favourite anthemic uplifting music, sing your heart out and bounce around with abandon (sing as if no one’s listening and dance as if no one’s watching you should always be your mantra), watch a great (or trashy) tv programme or film, eat your favourite food or drink your favourite drink. Without fail this will perk you up.

Mo, despite clearly not feeling like he needs sleep to survive in this world, is the most happy smiley little man I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with. So he is my little constant reminder that although I may in body be feeling slightly worn out, like a balloon found under the sofa a week after the party has ended, my spirit should always be fully inflated and lifting skywards.

Must go, my little bundle is a callin’

Until the next time folks…..stay happy and well