Health

How To Find Time For Fitness As A Busy Mum

Mums don’t tend to get breaks. They’re usually going non-stop until they crash on the couch at the end of the day. But, looking after yourself, physically, is important, not just from a health point of view, but for your mental wellbeing too. Here are some ideas to help incorporate a workout into your daily routine.

How to find time for fitness as a busy mum - a Free from Life

Be realistic

Start with the mindset that you might miss a day or two and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage to do anything at all. Your job is hard enough as it is without any any extra pressures.

Pick an Activity You Like

This is a no-brainer. If you start a workout routine you do not enjoy, there is a high probability you will not stick to it. Something you enjoy – biking riding, yoga, Pilates, kickboxing (really, anything YOU like!) – on the other hand, won’t seem like a chore. Instead, it will be a great way to relieve stress, by getting the blood flowing round the body, oxygen to the brain and endorphins galore for that feel-good factor.

Take Advantage of Family Time

When it’s nice enough to go outside, especially on the weekend when everyone’s at home, pack up your car (or even better, get on your bikes) and head to the park. Getting outside for some fresh air and exercise is something you can all benefit from, plus it’s fun too. Running around the park, chasing your toddler, or playing catch and kicking a ball, all count as exercise. You could also go swimming, hire a tennis court for an hour, or even play crazy golf. It’s a great way to bond with your family whilst getting into a healthy fitness habit that everyone can benefit from.

Motivate Your Peers

Once you start feeling good about your progress, ask a mum friend to join you in a new fitness activity (hot yoga, anyone?). You can motivate each other to stay on track. And now you have someone to try out new workouts with.

Make It Easy

Easier said than done, right? Actually, it’s pretty easy! There are so many ways to incorporate simple exercises into your every day routine. Park your car a bit further away from where you would normally park it and walk the rest of the way. Take the stairs at work, enjoy a walk outside during your lunch break, or do simple stretches at your desk.

Take “Me” Time in the Morning

Busy mums – like you! – often struggle to summon the energy to exercise, but find a time that works for you. Could you get up a few minutes early, before the kids are awake, and make it “me” time? There are lots of workout routines on YouTube, ranging from 10 minutes upwards. Do some stretches for 15 minutes, or relax alone in a quiet space and meditate. If you have the energy (and the time), go for a run but always make sure you wear the right gear, particularly footwear, as you don’t want to risk an injury.

Health

Making a conscious decision to eat less red meat

New data shows that one in four of us Brits (24%) plan on reducing the amount of red meat we consume as we strive to get healthier and help the environment.

Reduced meat consumption - A Free From Life

Is this you?

Apparently, according to YouGov, just 1% of the nation are Vegan, but 14% of us are, what has been termed as, Flexitarian—someone who has a mainly plant-based diet, but who consumes meat occasionally. Don’t you just love it when the media makes up these new terms with which to label people?!

Women are more likely than men to have made the conscious decision to eat less meat.

A quarter (27%) of women intend to cut back, versus 20% of men and the reasons for this change? For most, this is a health-related change, for others, it comes down to economics. Then, of course, there are environmental concerns.

A widely circulated study released last year in the Science Journal looked at the environmental impact of 40,000 farms in 119 countries which produce 90% of all food consumed in the world. It posited that avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your carbon footprint.

Past YouGov data shows the proportion of Britons who believe we should eat less meat to help the environment is increasing, from 28% in 2015, to 34% in 2018. Among 18 to 24-year-olds, the so-called Gen Z’s, it now rises to 50%.

While sales of meat are falling, meat free food consumption is up.

This is good news for Vegans, with more choice than ever. It also allows for those who want to have a ‘flexitarian’ lifestyle, without making that full leap into a plant-based only diet.

Where do you fit in on all this?

Interestingly, the teenagers of our house have definitely voiced their concerns about our meat consumption. They are particularly focused on beef and the impact of cows on the environment (we’re talking waste gases here). From a health point of view, we don’t eat meat every day anyway and we make a conscious effort to have meat-free Monday, as part of our weekly meal plans.

With three out of the five of us being dairy free, we’re thriving on the Vegan choices that you can now buy when out and about.

For me, that’s likely to be my choice when I eat at a restaurant, but not so much for my eleven-year-old boy. As he’s been dairy free for as long as he can remember, the choices for him, when we’ve eaten out at a restaurant, often amounted to something grilled, usually meat, with potatoes (this kind of became the default choice). As a result, he is an out and out carnivore, who will eat a steak running blood (not for me, personally). I think, also, that he has given up enough in his life already, having been both dairy and gluten free up until recently. For him, swapping steak for lentils would be a step too far!

For now, we are sticking to this flexitarian lifestyle. I would say that it is both an environmental AND health choice for us, that for a family of five, works well.

I’m making sure I buy what little meat we do consume from the local butchers, so that at least we know it’s not mass produced and is reared both locally and ethically. I would like to see the Government take steps to tackle this industry of cheap, mass-produced everything that comes in plastic packaging and does nothing to encourage reduced consumption. As I’ve said before, there is only so much we can do on our own that will make an impact.

Health

Living a life that is free from plastic – is it possible?

To be completely plastic free seems virtually impossible, but we have to try, right?

Is it possible to go completely plastic free - A Free From Life

I blame the supermarkets. So much of the produce they sell comes in plastic packaging and unless they start making changes, I can’t honestly see how we can affect a change on a large scale.

As a family, we have taken steps to reduce our plastice waste. Having young people and teens in the house, who care about their future and are who are genuinely concerned about the poor state the world is in, really helps.

Here are some of the things we’ve been able to do:

1. Buying fresh produce from Riverford, an organic box-delivery company that has, for me, all the right attitudes and beliefs behind it – Most, if not all, of the produce comes in paper bags, but anything that isn’t, you can give back to Riverford for re-use or recycling. With Riverford, I’m buying from local producers and seasonally. It’s changed the way I cook and buy, but without a negative impact, more of a conscious one.

2. Dried fruit and nuts from Real Plastic Free, as it promises their produce is packaged in compostable packaging – I buy a lot of these products for snacks and also to make breakfasts that keep us all going throughout our busy mornings. I make a larger version of my Birsher Muesli using cooked apple and pear and topped with walnuts or flaked almonds. I also add prunes to mine.

3. Home composting – We have two large compost bins in our garden, which we’ve had for over ten years. Most of our food waste goes in here and I’ve recently discovered home-compostable coffee pods that I’ve switched to in order to reduce the waste caused by using the Nespresso machine. Up to now, I’d been taking them to my local Costa, as they offer a recycling scheme.

4. Meat from the local butcher – This is one thing that really gets my goat. You can’t buy meat in plactic free packaging from the supermarket, even if you go to the butcher section. My local butcher, on the other hand, has switched to a bees wax-lined paper that can be recycled along with other paper products. I’m now buying locally produced meat too and supporting a local business, which is all to the good.

5. Conscious toilet paper – Okay, so now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty, I had heard so much talk of this, I had to give it a go – Who Gives a Crap. Heard of it? The name itself is one you’re not likely to forget, but if you want recycled, tree-conscious loo roll, these are your people. I ordered a box to see what it’s like. We now have enough toilet roll to keep us going for the foreseeable future!

Right, so can you see how many different places I went to in order to get my weekly shopping? I’m talking virtually, by the way, so it wasn’t as though I had to trail around, collecting all these different things and polluting the environment with fuel (all except the butcher, but they do offer a delivery service). No, I did all this from the comfort of my own home, as I tend to do with food shopping.

The difference is, I would normally do the whole lot in one go from a well-known supermarket chain. That’s the convenience isn’t it? That is the whole reason why the large supermarkets have done so well and killed off our high streets and small businesses.

The trouble is, apart from buying loose vegetables and offering cleaning and washing products that are environmentally friendly and come in recycled plastic bottles, I can’t see much else that the supermarkets are doing to help people consume less plastic. Everything, from meat, to bread, to cheese, to crisps and snacks. EVERYTHING comes in some form of plastic packaging.

We can recycle some things now, such as yoghurt pots, milk and juice cartons. Not all councils offer this service though. It’s dependent on where you live. But realistically, that’s not the point is it? We need to use less, not just rely on recycling because personally, I believe the recycling industry is under tremendous pressure and is unable to fulfil its duty.

There are a lot of people like me, who are shopping around to find alternatives to their usuals. You can’t beat the convenience of a supermarket though, can you?

I was telling my kids the other day that supermarkets only started to become ‘a thing’ when I was a young girl. Back then, the supermarket was the size of what are now known as the ‘Express’ or ‘Metro’ versions. We thought they were huge at the time, but at least they were situated in the towns.

Moving supermarkets out of towns, making them superstores, not only killed off small businesses and even high streets, it allowed the supermarket chains to have the monopoly on food and farming as a whole. We now live on mass-produced foods that are cheap and convenient.

This is great for the consumer, in theory, but what about the environment? It comes at the expense of everything else and I don’t think that people really appreciated this up until recently. We’re most of us fully on-board with the idea of using less plastics, so supermarkets – HELP US. DO YOUR BIT TOO.

It really shouldn’t be too much to ask, should it?

Travelling with 5

Family holiday in Riva del Garda

Reclined on a sun lounger in the shade of pine trees, surrounded by lush gardens and listening to the sound of trickling water from the fountain in the middle of the pond, interspersed with birdsong and the constant thrum of cicadas, this is how a holiday should be. A few ducks waddle on by, looking for scraps of food that is no doubt plentiful despite the large population of mallards and moorhens across the tranquil lakes in the stunning grounds of this hotel.

This was me, most days, on holiday at the Hotel du Lac in Riva, Lake Garda.

The hotel resides on the busy road leading into the bustling town of Riva, on the northern-most tip of Lake Garda. It doesn’t look much from the roadside – a modern, contemporary building, not really to my taste when you compare it to the colourful renaissance buildings that are so typical of the area. That said, the hotel is immaculate, well-staffed and in an excellent location, just a stone’s throw from the lake itself.

Hotel du Lac front entrance - A Free From Life

We chose the hotel on the basis of its accommodation.

This is usually at the top of the list of criteria when you have a big family. There were six of us, so it was important to find somewhere that would give us enough space and above all else, privacy. The Hotel du Lac offered us three rooms together, two of which were interconnecting. This meant the two teenagers had the benefit of their own room whilst being close by and we had our own space, but could keep an eye on our two younger children.

Our rooms overlooked the gardens to the rear of the hotel. From there, you could hear the gentle sounds of nature, along with the occasional rally coming from the nearby tennis courts and the odd argument among the ducks!

Garden view from hotel du lac family room - A Free From Life

A walk through the gardens took you past the ponds, two swimming pools and a poolside bar/restaurant before reaching the exit gates. Upon carefully stepping out, avoiding oncoming cyclists, you were greeted by the most stunning, breath-taking view looking out across Lake Garda itself and surrounded by mountains.

Outdoor pool at the Hotel du Lac, Lake Garda - A Free From Life

Riva lies just on the edge of the Dolomite mountain region.

This area is popular with rock climbers, mountain bikers and hikers, although we barely moved a muscle during our week’s stay, so it’s not restricted to sporty or active people only!

Riva del Garda lake view - A Free From Life

From the hotel, you can take a slow twenty-five-minute walk into the centre of Riva, where you’ll find charming squares, quirky little side streets, gelaterias, restaurants and shops. The lakeside is heaving all day. There are areas cordoned off for safe bathing, manned by life guards. You can dive from lidos, take out a pedalo-come-slide contraption, canoe or paddle board or for the more adventurous, go sailing or wind surfing. The even more adventurous (or crazy) can jump into the lake from a high point (a bridge) a little further down the road towards the nearby town of Torbole.

Main square of Riva del Garda - A Free From Life

There are excellent cycle paths around the area that run alongside the lake, although they do get busy.

We booked bed and breakfast only at the hotel, as we enjoy eating out and making the most of the wide variety of places to eat. Directly across from our hotel was a mall and an excellent supermarket. There, you could find fresh baked goods, cakes deli, meat and fish, as well as a huge selection of fresh fruit and vegetables and for the gluten and dairy-free contingent among us, lots of products to keep them happily snacked-up.

The area, both within the hotel grounds, and out and about, is exceptionally clean. This, despite there being hundreds of ducks, is nothing short of remarkable!

Mountain backdrop at Riva del Garda - A Free From Life

People like to bring their dogs to the hotel too and there is even a special dog park within the hotel’s grounds. There are recycling bins everywhere. Most places we went to used paper bags and, in the restaurants, they served water in glass bottles, rather than plastic ones.

Riva is a beautiful, charming place that combined with all the fresh mountain air, made for one of the most relaxing holidays we’ve ever had. That, considering we had four children in tow, is something short of remarkable.

We had an amazing week and wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

Health

How the vegan movement is benefiting those with dairy intolerance

I’ve been writing about our issues with gluten and dairy intolerance for years now.

How veganism is helping those with dairy intolerance

Having one child with dietary needs and two others who don’t comes with its own issues and we have always done our best to work around this. However, things have changed in a number of ways over the years I have been writing this blog and I thought it was about time I wrote an update.

My youngest is now almost eleven and within the last year, has started eating gluten occasionally and without any ill effects. When he was diagnosed with his intolerances at aged four, the Paediatrician told me there was a possiblilty the gluten intolerance would be permanent, but that depended on how much damage had been done by the undigested lactose affecting his system.

Fast forward to now and he still doesn’t eat dairy, but will have lactose free products now and then. If he has any dairy by accident, the effect isn’t immediate and doesn’t cause too much of an issue.

This means, we’re now in a much better place, particularly when we go on holiday or out to eat. We don’t have to worry about cross contamination as much as we used to, but we do have to monitor his intake, as the effect is cumulative and after a few days, will begin to show itself.

During this time, I’ve given up eating dairy, due to my IBS and so has my eldest daughter. Neither of us have gluten either, but like my son, will have it on occasion. My husband doesn’t eat dairy either, so it’s only my middle daughter who will still eat a dessert when we go out to eat. How the tables have turned!

We used to find the emphasis was on gluten free, but now it seems to be all about veganism.

If we go to a coffee shop, for example, I often used to find there would be something gluten free, but which contained dairy. There was rarely anything that catered for both. Now, it seems the tables have turned and we’re more likely to get something dairy free because it’s vegan. It’s not often that it will be gluten free though, so again, we don’t get catered for both, but at least we have more choice.

Thanks to the vegan movement, we can now get sandwiches, or savoury food that doesn’t contain dairy. A few years back, this wouldn’t have been possible. Have you noticed how most sandwiches seem to contain cheese?!

When it comes to being out and about and having to buy something to eat, I can now find more options to cater for dairy intolerance, and thanks to the way things have moved on for us, if it’s gluten free, we can make the choice whether to eat it without the worries we previously faced.

Having a dairy intolerance used to be a hindrance, but not anymore. It used to be all about gluten free, but I guess the industry responds to what it sees are the latest demands or trends. Right now, it’s veganism. We’re not vegan though. We like meat, and eggs are a staple in our diet. However, we can’t have everything can we?

Health

Promoting a circular economy for more sustainable living

A circular economy is one that aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible to get the maximum value from them.

Supporting a circular economy and reuse and recycle mentality for sustainability - A Free From Life

For a long time now, we have been operating on a make-use-dispose basis; a linear economy. And this attitude of short-term consumption has led to us becoming a throw-away society. This includes anything from clothes, to white goods, to food, but thankfully, attitudes are changing and the idea of a circular economy is gaining more ground. Not only is this a more sustainable approach, but it is also more economical for businesses too.

In a circular economy, there is no such thing as waste.

Recovering and regenerating products and materials means we reduce waste and this, in turn, helps reduce the environmental impact of production and consumption. Products are designed and optimised for a cycle of disassembly and re-use, reducing carbon emissions and mimicking the life-cycle of nature, which our ancestors were far more aware of and respectful towards than we are today.

We produce 230 tonnes of waste per year.

For the last 20 years, the UK has exported plastics and other recyclables to China, the world’s largest market for recycled waste. However, at the beginning of 2018, China stopped taking in the world’s waste, claiming contamination problems and since then, recycling plants around the UK have been struggling. Now, much of the UK’s waste plastic is sent to Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, where it is either left or burned, in open landfills, often illegally.

Even in the UK, according to an investigation by the Telegraph, hundreds of thousands of tons of waste is re-directed to landfill or incinerators, rather than being sorted for recycling.

What does this mean? Well, it means that you can’t just presume you are doing your bit by filling your recycling bin and leaving it out for collection every week. The answer lies more in NOT producing the waste in the first place, or by making sure you sort your recyclable waste so that it goes directly to those places that will actually recycle it.

As consumers, we can make a conscious effort to cut down on single-use plastics as much as possible. We can only do so much though. Can you shop at a supermarket without encountering any single-use plastics? I don’t think I can. As much as I want to, there’s only so much I can do as a consumer if most of the food on offer comes in plastic packaging. As much as possible, I will pick up loose veg and fruit, but even meat and fish from the butcher’s counter comes in a plastic wrapping. Supermarkets and food producers must do more.

Food isn’t the only area where we are wasteful. The so-called ‘fast fashion’ culture has put the fashion industry under pressure to change its ways.

Textiles dyeing is one of the biggest water polluters in the world and the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions. Sadly, one garbage truck of textiles is sent to landfills or incinerated, every second and 28.5 million metric tons of cotton is grown by 100 million farmers around the world. Globally, this counts for 5% of pesticides and 16-18% of insecticides use, the waste and by-products ending up in the world’s waterways.

It takes 10,000 litres of water to produce 1KG of cotton fabric.

I send our unwanted clothes to charity shops or sell them on. I know charity shops are often inundated with garments and they can sit in basements, left unsorted because no one can get through them all. I would rather know our old clothes have gone to someone new. It’s part of this circular economy idea that promotes a sense of community and sharing. It also helps stop things ending up in landfill because they can’t be put to good use.

When it comes to clothes and goods, we could all do to be more conscious of our purchases.

Ask yourself, do I need this? Because most of the time, it’s about the ‘want’ rather than the ‘need’. And our throw-away and fast-fashion society has promoted this for all it’s worth.

I love the way secondhand clothes and goods are more commonly promoted now as ‘pre-loved’. It’s the idea that you can pass on not only a product but a memory, in the hope the new owner will get as much out of the item as you did. I’m making the effort to do more of my shopping this way, led by my extremely conscious and impressionable teen and tween-age children, who are more than aware of what is going on in the world and keen to lead the way for change.

But this is a problem that is so vast, it sometimes feels beyond us. We can do our bit, sure, but there’s always the niggling feeling that it’s not enough. I often feel guilty about the extent of the problem and how what I do is so small a part of the solution. How can we do this alone? We can’t and it’s that simple. There has to be change on a massive scale and I hope the world is slowly waking up to that fact.

Health

Why do we constantly snack?

I’ve just been watching an episode of Celebrity Goggle Box. From Rylan and his mum munching on vegetable crisps, to the All Saints girls gorging on pizza, it seems that everyone was eating.

Before that, we had watched an episode of Mum. I don’t think there was one bit of this half hour where someone wasn’t snacking on something.

I’m now starving!

Why do we snack so much - A Free From Life

The problem is, I’m not snacking.

I’m sticking to my three meals a day, as per the Fast 800, which also includes eating within certain hours. I’ve been doing so well, I don’t want to give in to temptation just yet. But it’s so hard when everyone around you seems to be constantly eating.

I don’t know if it’s just me noticing this because I’ve changed the way I eat. It probably has a lot to do with it. I never really gave much thought to it before that either.

Now I’m calorie counting, I’ve begun to see how easy it is to over eat during the course of the day.

You might think it’s healthier to eat little and often, but I reckon that’s actually a dangerous way to overeat. When you think the recommended maximum calories a day for women is 2000 and for men, 2500, you don’t actually need to eat that much for it to add up.

Our takeaway dilemma really highlighted this for me.

I thought I’d treat myself, as I’ve been doing so well. And the kids fancied Wagamama food, which is healthy, right?

I love the duck donburi, but when I looked it up, found it was 1408kcal per serving. When you’re trying to stick to 800 per day, that completely blows it out of the water. It’s also more than half the recommended maximum in one meal. I kept looking, and in the end went for the mini chicken ramen (371kcal) but took out the noodles so it would have been less than this. That’s a children’s meal. Minus some.

It’s not that I’m trying to freak people out, but I noticed a particular cake in Costa today that was around 500 calories per slice. Combine this with a medium latte made with semi skimmed milk, at 103 calories, and you’re well on your way to reaching your total in just your morning coffee, or elevenses.

Once upon a time, it was frowned upon to eat between meals and considered crass to eat on the go. Mealtimes were a sit down occasion, savoured and shared.

The snacking industry changed all this, when it gave us products that told our parents it was a good idea to give us. Anyone remember the words to the Fudge Advert? “A finger of Fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat. A finger of Fudge is just enough until it’s time to eat. It’s full of Cadbury goodness…” and so it goes on. For me, this advert epitomises everything the snacking industry stands for. It gave us treats that would keep us going between meals, it gave us alternatives to breakfast, lunch and even dinner. It gave us the convenience to eat anywhere and everywhere, and as a result, we are now a nation that can not stop eating.

Have you tried not eating between meals? It’s hard.

I think that’s partly out of habit more than anything else. And also, like I said at the beginning, because you are surrounded, constantly, by other people eating.

When it comes down to it, you put food in your mouth, and you burn off that food to use energy. In most cases, the input does not equal the output, not even close and it’s no wonder we all struggle with our weight.

Health

Fast 800 Diet – Week 2

I am into my third week of the Fast 800 diet now and I can’t believe the difference.

If you read my previous post, you’ll know why I started this diet. Unable to shift the post 40 weight, I was determined to do something about it. What I’ve found, as the book says, is some rapid weight loss and at the time of writing this, have lost 7lbs. My goal was to lose eight, so for the time being, I’m sticking to the 800 calories a day.

I felt poorly the first week, unfortunately, and I wasn’t sure if it was due, in part, to the change of diet. However, it seems we’ve had a bit of a run of illness in the family, so I’m not sure it was. I’m over that now and I feel generally much brighter all round, less sluggish and not subject to the sugar highs and lows and the energy slumps that these bring.

As luck would have it, I’ve started this regime right at the time when the new cook book to accompany the diet has been launched.

There aren’t many recipes in the original book, as it’s more about the science behind it and the research. However, the few recipes that there are, are great. I haven’t come across one that I don’t like.

It’s great to have the variety though. In general, as the chief cook of the house, I find I get stuck with what to make for dinner. It’s always difficult to please everybody, and in addition to the moans I often get, I actually get bored of cooking sometimes.

At the moment, I’m really enjoying this newer way of eating and although there have been a couple of times when I’ve felt the need for something more – Friday night being one of them, as I would often sit with a glass of wine and a bowl of crisps – I’ve not been hungry between meals.

This diet has definitely forced me to think about portion size, as to reduce from a recommended max of 2000 calories per day to just 800 has been an eye-opener in terms of how much food we generally put on our plate. Take this as an example. My kids requested a Wagamma takeaway at the weekend, and I looked at the website to find out what I could have. Most of the full size meals are around 2000 calories and you’d think they’d be healthy wouldn’t you? The portion sizes are enormous though and I ended up choosing a mini chicken Ramen and removing the noodles!

Whether you eat meat, are veggie or vegan, the Fast 800 Cookbook seems to cater for all. There are some delicious looking recipes in there and what I really like, is the fact that they don’t seem to involve lots of fancy ingredients and nothing takes too long to prepare.

The whole family are currently eating this way. I don’t prepare different dinners for different members. The only thing the rest of them get that I currently don’t are carbs such as rice, potatoes and pasta.

Fast 800 diet - week 2 - A Free From Life