Friday, May 29, 2015

Day 10: Reader Q&A - Jennifer and Carla
Allen Carr's magic little book (from Amazon here).

I would like to know if you're still not drinking alcohol, and what effects you've seen from it (physically, mentally, etc). Thanks!

Carla asked:

I too would like to hear more about your not drinking (if you still aren't). I have been wanting to quit altogether for a long time and admire those who do!

Dear Jennifer and Carla, yes, I am still a happy non-drinker.  This month will be three years since I read the book No More Hangovers and became an instant non-drinker (even though I didn’t realise that would be the case at the time).  If anyone reading has not seen my first post about the subject, you can read it here.

What else can I say except that I believe it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I still, even after three years, can’t quite believe that I don’t drink and I couldn’t give a hoot about alcohol.  I can have people drinking around me and never be tempted.  I love to sniff the bouquet of a wine and always have a point of view on whatever wine my husband is drinking.  It’s almost as if wine is like perfume to me now.

I’ve not had a hangover for three years (so the book title is telling the truth) and my upper weight level has lowered by about six kilos (thirteen pounds) in that time without me changing anything else.  I still have a sugar habit, and I believe that alcohol and sugar are related.  I would be really happy if I could cut out sugar completely, but it’s a bit different with alcohol.  Something is either alcohol or it’s not, whereas loads of foods have sugar in them, just to varying levels.

I did notice I had lots of cravings for sugar when I stopped drinking.  Apparently it’s a common thing with alcoholics too, eek!  I don’t think I was an alcoholic, I just think it’s the sugar thing I’m sensitive to, so one glass was so delicious and sweet why not have another.  And the sugar in alcohol upsets your sleep, you can’t relax and nod off when you go to bed.

Nowadays I sleep well, and if I get up during the night, I drop off easily again.  I feel really content, balanced and happy most of the time.  I am less irritable I think (maybe ask those around me for an honest answer) and feel happy to be free from the false friend of alcohol.

I truly don’t miss the tipsy feeling at all, and that, if I’m being completely honest, was something I quite liked before.  Who doesn’t love that floaty feeling of the first drink, but now it feels like something from the past that doesn’t interest me anymore.

Maybe it’s an age thing, I don’t know, since hangovers get worse as we get older (and with fewer drinks), but I just know that I am super happy to be a non-drinker and I don’t even care if people think I’m strange.  I’m happy and that’s all that matters.

If you’re on the fence I’d highly recommend it, and if you have any further questions I can answer them in the comments.

à Votre Santé!  (as I toast you with my sparkling water/Diet Coke/sugarfree Red Bull in a champagne flute).

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How to be Slim and Healthy ebook

I’m pleased to let you know that my third ebook ‘How to be Slim and Healthy: A French-inspired journey to slimness and good health’ is out now.  Like with my first two, this ebook is a compilation of favourite posts from my blog on the topic of being slim and healthy.

I spent all of yesterday going through the posts and re-writing/updating as I went as well as adding in some bits and pieces so that the reading flows well.

Doing this editing, because I was reading as I went, even helped me enjoy my three healthy meals yesterday and indulge in NO snacking for the entire day.  I didn’t even need to white-knuckle it.  That’s almost a minor miracle for me!

As with my first two ebooks, ‘How to be Slim and Healthy’ is priced très inexpensively so you can enjoy portable inspiration on your Kindle ereader, or your computer if you don’t have a Kindle.  If you are a member of Amazon Prime you can read it for free.

I do hope you enjoy this ebook, and I would be so grateful if you could take a minute to leave me an honest review on Amazon (along with my first two ebooks if you’ve read them – I’d love to have some more reviews up). 

I welcome all reviews both good and bad, and want to be able to make my upcoming ebooks, both from this blog and my new original ones even better, so honest feedback is really valuable.

While you are over at Amazon, take a look at my writing buddy Tracy's newest ebook 'Ideas For Creating a Luxurious Home On a Budget'.  I read it in one sitting and there were so many great ideas for little things I could do around the house to create a more luxurious feeling.  Tracy truly has the gift of homemaking motivation. Congratulations on your new ebook Tracy!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Day 9: Reader Q&A - Dana

Dana asked:

I have many questions (hope you don't mind!)
1. favorite movie?
2. favorite book?
3. favorite perfume?
4. favorite memory?
5. favorite food?
6. favorite flower?
7. favorite thing to do on a lazy day?
8. favorite song?

Hi Dana, of course I don’t mind.  I only hope my answers are good enough for you because it’s hard for me to choose a favourite anything – there are just too many good choices.  Okay, let’s get cracking.

Favourite movie.  I like many different types of movie genres, so to choose one is très difficult.  We watched To Catch A Thief with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant a few months ago and it was SO good.  However I also love really silly movies like Dumb and Dumber and Legally Blonde.  Australian movie Red Dog is wonderful.  Then there’s the fashion movie genre for such gems as The Devil Wears Prada.  And not to forget French subtitle movies which always make me feel very intelligent, worldly and stylish when I watch them.  There are light-hearted French movies too, such as anything Audrey Tautou is in.  Movies I won’t watch are ones that are depressing, worthy with no other qualities, scary or blow-em-up.  I like to laugh or be inspired (bonus if both at once), that’s my criteria for a top movie.

Favourite book.  Again, there are so many different types of books to choose from.  Off the top of my head for different reasons are No More Hangovers which changed my life, Jemima J, the Shopaholic series, Anne Barone’s Chic & Slim, Chic & Slim Encore plus Techniques No. 1, authors Jackie Collins, Joanna Trollope, Kristi Belcamino, Jennifer L. Scott.  My list is so long, I think I will have to do a blog page dedicated to books.

Favourite perfume.  Going with the theme here, I don’t have one favourite – I love too many.  I love pricey perfumes such as Chanel Coco Noir, and at the other end of the price scale I also love Jovan White Musk.  I suppose I do prefer fragrances with light musk, vanilla, woody, floral, maybe fruity/aquatic for a change once in a while.  It’s probably easier to say what I don’t like – anything very herbaceous and strong, clove, licorice or cinnamon in perfumes.  I love reading up on Fragrantica.  I’ve learnt so much from this website and also found new perfumes to try.  I’ve bought a few Avon ones from my Avon lady – I’m wearing Night Magic today and it’s so lovely and soft.

Favourite memory.  Having fun with my family when I was little, no specific memory, just being together and joshing about with each other.  There is also one specific time from when my first niece was born eight years ago.  My sister was at home with her and I visited during a weekday, my brother turned up at the same time and we had the best afternoon.  It was cold outside and cosy inside and it was a day when the energy just clicked and we all enjoyed each other’s company in a silly way.  We can all revert to childhood immaturity very quickly, which I love.

Favourite food.  It doesn’t have a chic ring to it, but I’m going to say potato.  I love hot chips/French fries, potato chips, baked potato, little new boiled ones with butter, mashed potato and roast potato.  I know they’re from the nightshade family which is supposed to be poisonous but I still love potatoes.

Favourite flower.  Big pale pink trumpet lilies for the beautiful scent that reminds me of Christmas (they are called Christmas lilies here because they bloom in December).  If I was Tamara Ecclestone I’d have them delivered every week for my vestibule table (I’d also have a vestibule and a vestibule table if I was Tamara Ecclestone).  I would have to have a little Danger tape around them to protect the cats, thanks to Anonymous’ comment on a previous post.  I love spring flowers such as daffodils, jonquil, early cheer and grape hyacinth, and highly scented roses.

Favourite thing to do on a lazy day.  Be at home with the fire going, books to read, knitting to do and a laptop to write on.  The fairies would have cleaned my house so I could just enjoy it without having to do any housework too.  Blissful!

Favourite song.  I love ‘Dream a little dream’ and have almost learnt all the lyrics so I can sing it to myself.  Also, ‘Lullaby in Birdland’, same thing with learning the lyrics.  Only to myself though.

Thanks for a fun question Dana!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Day 8: Reader Q&A - Deborah

Deborah asked:

It's obvious you've maintained your slim and trim figure by chic eating. I'd really like to know how you are able to maintain your healthy eating habits while being a busy business owner. How do you go about planning your meals and shopping; your food prep and the choices you make; how do you avoid making wrong choices during your day? Do you have snacks? Do you ever cave in to cravings or binges?

I constantly struggle to eat healthy and not deprive myself, but more often than not, I'm finishing the crumbs in the potato chip bag or making a late night ice cream run.

Deborah, despite my not being overweight, I find eating in a consistently healthy manner is still not something I have mastered.  I find it easy to plan for healthy meals simply by having a loose menu plan throughout the week and knowing what we will be having the day before so I can buy veges/defrost meat etc.

Where I do a problem is that I fall into the snacking habit very easily.  I go through phases of being healthy, and I don’t know if it’s cyclical or some weird kind of self-sabotage but I then start craving really crappy stuff (and give into those cravings).  So yes, Deborah, I definitely have cravings and binges. 

My ideal life is one where I would eat mostly healthy food and some treat foods in natural moderation.  I would not feel compelled to eat big quantities of unhealthy foods.  I wrote a post last year on self-sabotage here which I sometimes go back to read to remind myself.  My yo-yoing is confined to about 5kg (11 pounds) and I am lighter than I was at the start of this blog, but I still go up and down.

I recently came across a cd I’d ordered more than two years ago from an English lady Gillian Riley of  I also have her book ‘Eating Less’.  I listened to the cd and read the book at the time, but then forgot all about it.  Revisiting them both again it seems that I am ready to hear the message better this time.

Gillian says (with lots of research and studies to back it up) that many of us have an addictive desire to eat, and it is often food that is low in quality and high in quantity such as junk and snack foods, which are designed to be addictive with all those tasty but health-depriving ingredients such as wheat, sugar, salt, fat etc.

One quarter of the Western population is extremely sensitive to these addictive foods, a half are slightly less sensitive and the last quarter aren’t sensitive at all, they could take or leave a bar or chocolate and aren’t really fussed either way.  I’m sure these people could also eat one piece and have the packet staring at them from the coffee table all night.

Gillian describes that you often get the addictive desire to eat after a meal, when you want to keep eating even though you feel full (that’s when I look for something sweet), and often people will overeat at meals so that they feel so full they are subconsciously over-riding the addictive desire to eat.  I do this!  I like to have a nice big meal so that I feel really full.  Most days I have the feeling that I want to eat something outside of meal times, but when I ask if I’m hungry, I’m not.

Gillian says that sometimes we just eat because we want something, and that it is simply a memory of having eaten addictively in this situation in the past or we have a happy memory involving this food.  I do this too!

There is a four step thought process you can go through whenever you feel the desire for food you don't need, and yes it feels uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier over time and eventually the desire melts away to be manageable and second nature to you. 

The Four Steps:

Step 1:  Is to recognise that you are having a desire and temptation for food you don’t need.  Name it at the time it is happening.  Put words to it and say something to yourself like ‘This is an addictive desire to eat.’  This is a simple but crucial step.  The more aware you are, the more you will be able to regain control.

Your addictive appetite is quite predictable.  One time it often occurs is at the end of the evening meal.  Unless your meals are huge, you will probably get the urge to continue eating at the end of a meal.

For most people who overeat, feeling ‘unsatisfied’ is the worst thing in the world to feel.  Yet this sense of feeling unsatisfied is in fact our key to freedom.  You don’t need to deny that unsatisfied feeling.  You need to start to see that feeling as they key to change your life.  Name it and put words to it:  ‘This sense of emptiness or feeling unsatisfied is my addictive desire to eat’.

Step 2:  Remind yourself that you’ve always got the freedom to overeat.  You’ve got the option of eating whatever it is that is tempting you.  You can’t help being tempted, but it’s entirely up to you how you respond to that temptation.  The biggest key to this technique is that you never, ever have to let any addictive appetite go unsatisfied if you don’t want to.  You can continue to satisfy it every time it happens, every day for the rest of your life.  You will be overeating of course, but it is your choice.

It will help you greatly to choose the consequences of your overeating as well as the food.  Many people (me) blank out on the consequences and just focus on how good something is going to taste, forgetting how bad they feel afterwards.  Choose the complete picture.  Gillian suggests making a list of all the consequences you don't like about overeating.

If you don’t feel like you’ve got the choice, you will likely feel like rebelling and eating everything in sight.  There may be a fear that if you feel completely free to choose to eat what you want, you may eat and eat until you pop.  Gillian suggests that if you genuinely choose, this will not happen.  Firstly, choose the overeating, and know that you can continue to do that.  During the times you are feeling out of control, you may start thinking ‘I’ve got to stop eating this’ and deny yourself choice.  Deliberately turn it around and tell yourself ‘I am totally free to overeat.  I don’t have to make any changes.’

Step 3:  Acknowledge your addictive desire and allow yourself to feel it.  You’re feeling tempted and you want more, you say yes to that feeling.  Let yourself be with it and in it.  It will help you to notice what this feeling of addictive desire is.  Is it a hunger, a void, a yearning?  Is there a physical sensation with it?  It might feel like a type of hunger.  The best way to describe it is that it feels uncomfortable and unsatisfied.

Instead of resenting, allow yourself to feel it.  Yes, it feels uncomfortable, but I’m going to let myself feel it.  The reason you let yourself feel unsatisfied desire is because it is your process of healing.  It will change your life and it could, quite literally, save your life.  Part of accepting your addictive appetite is forgiving yourself for having it in the first place.  You are not a bad or greedy person.  You will have eaten addictively in the past and it’s just your memory of that.  Maybe you didn’t know how to do things differently back then.

Accept the addictive desire without blame or judgement.  Let yourself feel the uncomfortable feeling rather than try to distract yourself.  Even just doing that makes the feeling more manageable.

Step 4:  Reminding yourself why you are letting yourself feel unsatisfied.  Remember the trade-off you are making.  Recall the ways your life is better when you don’t satisfy your addictive desire so often.  Make a list to remind yourself in the future.

The goal is to think through these four steps pretty much every time you think about food.  You can go through the four steps when you are at the shops buying food.  Notice when you go down certain aisles your addictive desire flares up at your favourite items.  You make the decision to eat something when you buy it, whether it’s eating it on the car in the way home or the next day.  Also, think how you eat something.  If you eat the whole packet in one sitting, buy it (or not buy it) based on that fact.

One final piece of advice that Gillian has is to not try to apply this perfectly.  Low self-esteem is tied up in perfectionism and it’s a tall order to say that you will never overeat or eat junk food ever again.  This is black and white thinking where we are eating salads 100% of the time or are out of control eating junk all over the place.  If you are too rigid and then have a blow-out, you will resist going back to that prison and it’s like dieting all over again.  Gillian suggests ‘eating a bit of tasty rubbish’ every now and then in a way that works for you.

It feels like a very calm way of living, and that’s what my goal is.  I’d also add that it’s human nature to stumble every now and again, and that the most important thing is not to give up.  I know it feels hopeless when you’re knee deep in chocolate wrappers and I have been there many times.  I’ve been eating junk almost this entire weekend in fact.

I’m not prepared to give up though, and just accept that this is how things are.  I’m prepared to start again from the beginning and persevere.  There are all sorts of motivational quotes about never giving up, you only lose if you stop, it feels darkest before the dawn, etc and they are all true.  Don’t give up on yourself.  Inspire yourself to be happier and better, and forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for eating obsessively in the past, forgive yourself for being too fat and forgive yourself for not being able to stop at one.  You are more than a block of chocolate or a bag of potato chips.  Forgive anyone who has ever made you feel bad about the way you eat.  I am writing this as much for myself as for anyone reading this post.

This is an extremely long post, but I feel it is important not to hide and pretend to be perfect.  For the most part I am a happy person and am fine with my size and how I look, but I do have this funny little screwed-up corner with food issues.  I know there are lots of us out there like this so let’s not feel less than, or isolated.  There is nothing wrong with us.  Let’s give ourselves a break, really be okay with who we are, love ourselves and get on with creating a beautiful life instead of temporarily soothing ourselves with junk food (our drug) which does not help things in the long term.

Anyone with me?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Day 7: Reader Q&A

Forgive me for this photo being two years old, but I've run out of photos and this one shows my natural hair colour quite well.  I'm having a cuddle with my nephew Micky.

Anonymous asked:

I am envious of your gorgeous hair- looks so healthy! Can you tell us how you care for it and how you tend to style it? Any helpful tips you can share will be so appreciated!

That’s really nice of you to say, Anonymous, and it makes me laugh a little bit because my hair is often my biggest source of stress.  Will it go frizzy today?  Should I colour it differently or let it go natural?  How can I heat-style it to look nice without damaging it too much?  Is this way I do it too young or too old?  So many questions.

But let’s start from the beginning, in the shower.  I’ve tried fancy shampoos in the past, and found them no better than less expensive ones (in my opinion).  I’ve been using L’Oréal Elvive shampoo and conditioners for a while and really like them.  They are a great price at the supermarket and I even pulled an extreme couponing move this week when I bought a $6.59 bottle of shampoo on special at $4.00, and I had a $3.00 manufacturer’s coupon.  $1.00 total!  I was so proud of myself.

I used to wash my hair every second day but thought I’d try every third day to not overwash.  So far so good and I’ve been doing it close to a month.  I don’t feel so bad about using my hairdryer and occasional flat-irons now.  I do have good quality appliances.  My mum bought me, at my request an Italian Parlux hairdryer for my fortieth birthday, and I have a set of GHDs which have been in use for several years now (bought through a hairdressing salon) so no complaints with the longevity of these.

Something else I have that I love, is one of those micro-fibre turbans.  It’s so nice to comb my wet hair and then put that on.  It means I can enjoy my breakfast without wet hang dangling around my neck.  And when I take it off to blow-dry my hair most of the moisture is gone.

I use a very light hand with hair products before blow-drying because my hair is very fine so it easily gets weighed down.  Sometimes I use nothing and sometimes I use a light serum or gel/cream.  Just a tiny bit and I comb it through, then start drying it with the hairdryer using my hands before I move onto a round brush. 

Depending on my mood I might dry my hair entirely with my hands for a natural slightly wavy look, or I might section starting from the bottom, holding it with a beak-type clip that hairdressers use, and straighten it out one layer at a time.  That certainly makes it nice and shiny but takes a while and by the time I get near the top of my hair my hairdryer arm is aching.

I used to let my hair dry naturally but it does me no favours.  The type of hair I have is lots of it but fine, and it dries a bit woolly with curly and wavy areas.  I feel like the coloured areas are a bit wrecked on the ends (and I’ve just had it trimmed), so I’m going without colour for a while for a change. 

Air-drying amplifies the grey hairs I have, since they’re a more wiry texture, and I don’t want to look like one of those crazy ladies (you know the ones).  Blow-drying definitely blends in grey hairs, both in colour and texture, and I tell myself that my natural colour is a highly expensive and rare, extremely fine, priceless in fact, shade.

After my last trim and blow-wave my husband asked if I’d had colour, which just tells me I need to keep on blow-drying to not want to go back to damaging colour.  Blow-dying makes your hair look better which is quite ironic since it’s not better for your hair than air-drying, in fact a lot worse.

I always reserve the right to change my mind about colour though.  I go through phases.

Last time I had some colour the hairdresser did ‘high-lift tint’ highlights rather than colour/bleach highlights, so if I feel like a boost, then I may get a handful of high-lift tint highlights scattered over the top.  Usually I had a half-head of highlights/low-lights (it was about every three months) done very naturally so I didn’t have obvious regrowth.  The underneath colour is completely natural.

Ways I like to wear my hair are:

-         Down, parted on one side or the other
-         A sleek ponytail, high or low
-         Half-up, with the bottom down and the top looped up at the back with two bobby pins crossed over to hold it

I haven’t worn my hair in a chignon for a while.  Even though I say I feel French in it, I actually feel like a grandma.  And even though technically I am a cat-grandma, I don’t want to dress or look like one (a customer did actually say that to me yesterday, without the word ‘technically’ or ‘cat’ in the sentence).

One thing I can’t live without, and that’s hairspray.  I use it every day.  I used to buy supermarket hairspray but always wanted to try Elnett.  I finally got some, in a big gold can and it’s wonderful.  It looks and smells glamorous and I love using it.  A big can lasts for so long too, I think I can forget the price and treat myself.

I hope you’re not too bored by now, I know I am listening to me go on about my hair, but if there is anything else you’d like to know, ask away.
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