A more mindful munch

Hello world!

Maurice is with his loving granny…which leaves me with an unexpected moment to have a cup of tea and a bit of a reflection on life etc.

I don’t know about you but something about the multitude of new year diet adverts on telly really winds me up. Partly perhaps because I could do with shedding a bit of weight, and partly the very assumption that everyone wants to lose weight sort of irks me somehow. My main obstacle to being the slim Anya that I know I can be is that I am very, very greedy. I mean, the kind of greedy where I feel personally affronted and wronged if my husband and I are eating and I feel like his plate has a bit more on it than mine. And I am always thinking about second helpings even as I am working my way through my first plate.

My greediness has made me ashamed a few times in my life. Once when I was at a friends’ wedding in Sri Lanka, an epic and awesomely beautiful wedding it was, with the most phenomenally fantastic Sri Lankan buffet for the wedding breakfast. I made my way around the buffet piling my plate ever-higher with every single taste-bud-tantalising choice at my disposal, and sat down at my place. I had been seated next to a Sri Lankan man, a lovely naturalist called Gemenu who was a fascinating wedding guest to be seated next to as he regaled me with his tales of the wildlife of Sri Lanka and having met David Attenborough (yes that was naturalist for those of you who may have initially read that as “naturist” and had a slightly different picture)….very interesting man he was, and also about half my size, as older Sri Lankan men are wont to be. More embarrassingly, his plate had less than half the food on it that mine did. I actually sheepishly tried to hide some of my mountain of food underneath a roti/knife/napkin, anything that I could find to disguise the fact that I had been such an utter utter glutton. It’s not the only time I have been similarly worried about my lack of restraint where wonderful food is concerned. And so this greed is quite a potential problem really.

Before I had Maurice, I was teaching about 10 hours of Pilates a week, practising Pilates for at least 2 hours weekly, plus cycling everywhere in my day. I was a zippy cycling Pilates courier, if you like. My smallest daily cycle was a 15-mile round trip, and the longest day clocked up 24 miles with short bursts of 7 or 8 miles. This was every day, nipping here and there from south east to west to east London doing my daily Pilates-and-publishing business. So I didn’t really have to think about the greediness then, as it was helpfully burned off by all that cycling. But not so now in my post-baby life. I walk a lot with Maurice, and I teach Pilates although don’t get as much time to do my own as I used to, and this clearly doesn’t do the same job of working off hefty portions of good food.

Given that I am not the kind of temperament that takes kindly to being told that I can’t have a big portion of something (it’s my first impression of a “good” or “bad” restaurant…how much food is on the plate), dieting in the conventional sense is not really my kind of thing.

However. I do feel there is a call for mindful eating and being more aware and realistic about how much I am consuming. I remember when I was training for a triathlon once i read an article which told you how to shave off a few minutes here and there from your time by very tiny actions all building up to giving you an overall boost..tiny simple obvious (but easily missed) things such as making sure you leave your kit laid out in precisely the right order so your changes between disciplines are as swift as they can be. And this is the type of dieting that I think I need to do. Be aware of the detail of how I am slowing down round the bends in my eating, and decide to make small amends to be sharper and speedier.

For example… If I kept an actual honest real food diary, I would probably be quite staggered by how much I consume that I “don’t count”, and so develop amnesia about. So whereas I think I generally eat very healthily even though I know that I’m greedy, I also lie to myself about the extra meals that I partake of. The little bits of fish finger or pasta/toast and cream cheese that Maurice doesn’t eat, so I do as I don’t want to waste it. The extra 2 pieces of garlic bread that are hoovered up before a pizza dinner on a Friday evening. Hoovered yet not actually even tasted particularly. Being more mindful about eating: make sure that at least most of what you eat daily is made up of highly nutritious goodness, colourful and seasonal food, and choose to enjoy and savour everything that you eat, really taste everything that you eat. This may help to sidestep this kind of mindless consumption which tips your calorie intake above what is necessary.

I also speedily send my desire to having seconds, before I have finished the first plate. “This is so so good, must have more must have more”, my little brain is saying to me. But, if I actually stopped and let my body enjoy the food as I was ingesting it, and calmed down a bit with the snappy dog-like urge to consume because there may never be food ever again, then I would soon realise that actually I’m quite full, and happily end the meal content and sated, rather than bursting at the seams.

And then there’s the really nutritionally empty calories to be found in a big glass of red wine, refilling your wine glass before it’s even been drained, so actually you lose sight of how many glasses you’ve had (I must add, I never did this while I was pregnant if anyone’s wondering!)….although I can con myself to timbuktu about the health benefits of red wine, having a bottomless glass is tantamount to having a second pudding. A nutritionist once said to me that you need to think of wine as a big mars bar. You wouldn’t want to ruin the taste of a lovely meal by finishing immediately with a big mars bar (or maybe you would, each to their own etc), and it is the same in terms of calories.

My real downfall is ice cream, I have always been a sucker for it, if left alone I can do huge damage to a defenceless tub of ice cream. Aside from the obvious kind of swaps, such as freezing mashed banana and then diving into that (delicious as ice cream in every way), it’s more for me about altering my brain’s perception of things, of portion sizes, of the actual need for ice cream.

Basically I need to notice what I eat more, and continue to move around a bit more too. My pre-baby activity isn’t really possible for me at the moment and so I need to concede that if the shape I’m in makes me blue, a few things need to alter slightly in order for it to change. But nothing as drastic as signing up for a telly diet. Although I have just signed up for a new yoga class at Greenwich Pilates which I am very much looking forward to, for healing body and mind over the next couple of months…

Stay well and happy. Oh and buy my new book! It’s out next week. A Little Course in Pilates, published by DK. It looks great I’m very proud.

Until next time…



Toddler steps

Hello world

Thanks for the many lovely responses to my last post, it was really touching to hear your words of comfort and camaraderie. It is a relatively common albeit heartbreaking experience that still looms heavy as a taboo often held secret… people maybe don’t really know what to say unless they’ve been through it themselves. I’ve found that a simple “big hugs” works wonders.

Life continues apace. Maurice is at that effervescent ever-changing period of his small yet mighty life, nearly turning the 18-month corner. He’s charging up his brain and personality more by the day. This equates to a lot of fun and endearing moments as his sense of humour develops and his talent for entertaining evolves. We are witness to his joy of learning how to tickle, learning to play “Maurice says” in his highchair, which is a game involving Maurice crossing his arms/waving his arms in the air and waiting for everyone around the table (even if it’s just me) to copy him….learning how to “cheers” with you before a meal – which now includes cheersing himself with two bottles and saying “cheees” with a massive grin – learning to be in a band, him with his mini guitar (which he plays with remarkable aplomb and confidence…I think he models his moves on Johnny Cash) and enlisting the available audience to join in on various other instruments be they real or improvised on body parts.

This growing phase also of course involves a great deal of spectacular tantrums as he is finding his limits and getting frustrated at them, and finding his sense of independence and getting frustrated at me for unfairly fettering this. BUT I WANT TO DRIVE THE CAR IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD IF I CAN’T. If he could talk, this is what he would be yelling at me on certain occasions.

He feels everything so fully and intensely, it’s truly fascinating (and at times challenging) seeing him go from an inconsolable shrieking floppy ragdoll to a jigging happy little busker strumming his guitar all in the space of about 2 minutes. Physically he’s been belting around like a crazy thing for a long time that I almost have forgotten what it was like not to have to continually chase after him. Ah the halcyon days when you could go for a coffee with a friend and enjoy it in a leisurely normal fashion without getting up every 3 seconds to retrieve a renegade toddler from behind the cafe counter/escaping out the door/some other mysterious disappearance!

Now he’s also beginning the linguistic journey, which is a lot of fun to behold. Every day he’s copying something new that I say (hmm, now I need to be careful what utterances I mindlessly allow to escape), and he’s practising his enunciation with thoughtful precision and measure. He particularly loves “t” at the moment, and will carefully repeat words such as “cot”, “hot”, “boat” (you get the picture…) with a loving pause and flourish over the t. There is an almost unbearable sweetness to his answer to the question “What does a lion say?”…”Raaaaa’, a rumbling throaty roar uttered with a delighted grin. Cows, on the other hand, often say “no”. They can be rather disagreeable in the face of questioning. It’s great fun watching his delight with his new skills…particularly today when he was shouting “daddy!” at every man who we walked past on our stroll to a friend’s house. It was rather amusing seeing the varying degrees of fear or humour across each man’s face.

So it’s entirely new scenery that we’re passing through on our journey together at the moment. I’m trying to capture it before it whizzes past to the next stop on the line.

Hope you’re all well… I’ve got another blog post ruminating so I may be back sooner than usual!

New beginnings


Hello world

It’s been a while since I posted…mainly because I spent an evening a while ago lovingly crafting a post (about the pressure new mums put upon themselves to be perfect since you ask) and WordPress lost it as I posted (incidentally, clearly when they say “draft saved” they mean the exact opposite…), which deflated me as the most maudlin of balloons under the sofa found days after a new year’s party. I attempted initially to rebuild the post, but the words and sentiment seemed flat when robbed of their spontaneity and flourish, so I put the blog to the back of my to do list once more and it’s sat here gathering dust ever since.

But now I am BACK with my fingers tinkling the keyboard, albeit with trepidation and saving constantly. Happy new year all! The beginning of the year always brings forth a sense of vigour and of starting afresh, perusing the empty wine bottles and crumbly cheeseboards and addressing things you wish you’d done differently over the past 12 months.

Everyone is in love with the concept of resolutions for the year ahead…a way of projecting a new improved image of yourself into the future. I’m all for that, all for setting and aiming for goals, but at the moment I’ve decided to focus on the present moment a bit more rather than constantly living a few moments away in the future. After all, what are we but the present moment?

I had quite a sad experience before Christmas, I was 11 weeks pregnant when I had a miscarriage. It has knocked me for 6 both physically and mentally. In the couple of weeks since it happened and as I try and steer myself back onto an even keel, I realise that I’d been so caught up in the idea of age gaps and the implications of having a newborn with a very nippy toddler to run after, the relationship between them that this would spark up, and how this would affect my bond with Mo (this little one would have been due on or around Maurice’s 2nd birthday – and the royal baby – so my mind was already afloat with dream sequences of being heftily and unglamorously pregnant at his birthday party, or missing it altogether due to being in the process of having a sibling to irrevocably disrupt his life)…I hadn’t stopped to really be focused on the now, except to note how exhausted and shoddy I was feeling and wishing that this part was over…I had forgotten how tough the first trimester is on your body! We had had a scan at 9 weeks and saw a strong feisty heartbeat so I was overly reassured that things would be…well, ok. And as it turned out, they weren’t, as sometimes happens.

It’s very strange and wonderful carrying around a little passenger in pregnancy, but stranger still in that first 3 months when generally you tend to tell only your nearest and dearest, plus perhaps the occasional random fleeting connection on the bus, or no one at all. It is your most deepest of secrets, held deep invisible inside your belly, hopefully poised silently for the day that you have the all clear at the 12-week scan and can celebrate happily with the world and breathe a sigh of relief that you no longer need to wonder whether people have been discussing whether you’ve eaten all the pies. So to lose the potential little being and its future life just as you’re approaching that finish line (or more realistically, start line…) is a very odd and overwhelmingly sad feeling. It seems a bit mean to then remain tight-lipped about the presence of this little soul, as then no one will ever know that it was indeed a beating heart for even the smallest of periods of time.

Quite apart from the physical aspect of an experience like this, there are lots of emotions that you feel when something like this happens…inevitably guilt, confusion, sadness, fear, perhaps anger, slight denial – so far into the first trimester I have actually still been feeling pregnant for the last few days, slightly nauseous and a bit “funny”, and wondering therefore how much of it was in my mind for the previous 11 weeks…I also feel wearily old and a bit vulnerable, as if my body hadn’t quite read and understood the brief, and I’m unsure as to whether I should approach it with the same job again.

So rather than new year’s resolutions, I am making a pledge to notice and celebrate the pure moments of greatness every day in my life. The little nuggets of gold such as Maurice learning and joyfully practising a new word…even if today that word was “naughty”, the “t” beautifully and thoughtfully enunciated, as he copied me telling him forcefully he had been so, which rather undermined my position of authority as it made me smile broadly.

It’s actually remarkably hard to remain at a low ebb when hanging out with maurice, as he’s such a brilliantly gutsy little man who is so ready with a face-enveloping smile and a wonderfully tightly embracing cuddle. But I think it’s important in this sort of situation to be unremittingly kind to yourself and offer yourself solace in whatever form you feel will make you feel better. For me that is a pile of magazines, a nice glass of red wine, a hot bath with lovely smelling organic-y potions. Warming foods to nourish the soul and body such as chicken soup will also be high on my list for the next few weeks. And, teaching schedule and rampaging toddler permitting, lots of early nights and rest. Maybe some calming yoga and Pilates thrown in for good measure. Basically be gentle and unpunishing, allow time for sadness but not allow negative emotions such as guilt or fear to overwhelm.

I had the pleasure of visiting a wonderful friend and her very new newborn today, a mere 8 days old little beautiful boy, and awesome things like this show that the world keeps on turning, day follows night follows day. And the key is to turn seamlessly with it, and embrace everything in your experience as something that creates you and builds little blocks of your soul every day. You need the dark just as you need the light.

Happy new year! Take a moment to reflect now on all the little insignificant things that make you happy.