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Mental Health and Us

This week is Mental Health Awareness week, it’s important to me and so many people I know. So I have collated a group of mental health stories for you to read through. I am honestly blown away by what has been so corrageously shared. I know they can help us all to see that no one is alone in this battle with poor mental health.
Thank you so much to all of you that have contributed. Hats off to you all. We are all in this together and we are all bloody awesome!  
My Story

 

After having my eldest daughter I felt completely out of control. I was now a mother, I was now living with my boyfriend, I now lived away from home and I now no longer am carefree. I struggled and I felt awful for struggling. I had suffered from depression on and off in the past and it was clear to everyone else that I had postnatal depression but what I wanted to focus on now is what this episode in my mental health story did to the way I view my body.
I had always been bigger than others, not “fat” but bigger. When I went to university I over drank and ate rubbish and definitely was overweight. When I was pregnant I made the most of ‘eating for two’ and the pounds piled on. This should have been fine but I have always had an issue with the way I look. Having been called “Fat” “Chubby” “Chunky” a huge amount through my adolescence it’s always hard to shake it off.
So that’s how I took control of my new life with a child. I stopped eating. I would go a day with a spoonful of granola, no lunch and then a tiny dinner (which I got away with because I said I ate a huge lunch). At my lowest weight I was 7 and a half stone and I am 5’7″, I felt okay but I really did want to lose more weight. I started throwing up my meals and I spent days feeling dizzy.
I am not sure what changed it but eventually I went to the doctors, I didn’t weight little enough for them to count it as a “proper” eating disorder (yep!!), but I was sent to a psychiatrist because of my post natal depression. I got some help there and the psychiatrist said that scales do not dictate what is an eating disorder, so along with PND he treated my eating disorder too.
Now I don’t think you ever get over an eating disorder, I think you just manage it. I see myself as looking different to what others see and I genuinely feel shocked when clothes fit me because when I look at them on a hanger I am certain I am double the size. I work hard to keep my mind balanced with all of this, I exercise but I have limits (I once had a relapse when I became addicted to exercise), I also have to sometimes set out meal plans so I eat three meals a day. It’s tough and I have struggled but I feel proud of myself to get to where I am now. Taking each day as it comes.

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Craigs Story

“I have a fairly long history with mental health but I’ve only come to realise this recently at the age of 35, amazing really how long we can go and then realise we had the problem for such a long time.
Things stem from my youth and various relationships I have had.  Things got bad recently around Christmas, Christmas is a particularly bad time of year for me as I lost my nanna (who I was very close to) around that time, my mum and dad split up when I was a kid so Christmas always becomes a bit of a tug of war and I’ve had very depressing times that can be accentuated around Christmas.
Last year 2018, was bad, I didn’t have a regular income, didn’t have a great relationship with my wife and I wasn’t being a great guy.
It got so bad that at times I had been known to smash my head against a wall because I’ve found everything too hard, this was due to lack of sleep and my brain not switching off, I just could not sleep. All parents know what lack of sleep does to them but when you can not even sleep when you are allowed to your brain starts to do very scary things.
I’ve just recognised this recently and have managed to take some steps to sort it, I’ve joined a gym (lifting weights really helps) and I have started therapy which has helped so far.
I am definitely on the mend and feeling better but know I will have bad days but I can manage them.”

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Amie’s Story

“I’ve had depression and anxiety since I can remember, but I didn’t know what it was.  As a child I was nervous around people I didn’t know, I didn’t feel good enough, clever enough (didn’t know I was dyslexic at the time so I was just treated as stupid) I wasn’t pretty enough or slim enough, looking back on it now it’s sad how at such a young age I felt so unworthy, and I wasn’t even big!  

I always felt like the fun fat friend at school, and while I actually wasn’t fat, being made to feel that way by everyone, including my own mother I comfort ate…. And surprised I ended up fulfilling what I was being told. I wouldn’t go out without make up, and I developed acrophobia, when shopping in busy places I had to have headphones pumping music in my ears to keep me calm, I didn’t go to concerts and events of any kinds really made me feel uncomfortable as I thought people where laughing at me, and how I look.  When I reached my teens and I started clubbing with friends I would get very drunk to keep these feelings at bay, when drunk I felt fabulous, a feel that would last until I saw a photo of myself. I got male attention and that made me feel good about myself.

At 17 I met my now husband and we would end up in huge fights due to drink, so when I went to university I slowed my drinking down and by the time I left I didn’t drink any more. I went to New Zealand for a few months and lost a lot of weight, not on purpose but I dropped from a 14/16 to a size 10, and I felt great. Since joining the film industry in London and working long hours I’ve put more and more weight on, having children also hasn’t helped with that and I don’t like the person I see in the mirror.  

I know now that my depression and anxiety is caused by a few things, how I feel about myself being a main one, sleep being another main one and mum guilt being the third. After baby number 2 I want to work on all of these things for me! That’s the important part, I feel better when I am slimmer and I feel like I look good, for me not for other people, and now I’m a mum I care less what they think of me, but I want to be healthy for me, to make sure I’m here for my children, I want to run around with them and not need to sit down after a few minutes.  I want to get the sleep I need, that my body and mind needs, it makes me a nicer person to be around and makes me able to situations better without spinning.

I’d like to add that while I have both depression and anxiety I am also happy, I don’t use the term suffer and I don’t let it define me! I may have family members who have lost their battles against this disease (that isn’t taken as seriously as it should be!!!) including my Grandmother and younger brother, I will not let it beat me, we’ve come close but I am a survivor, and now I have children I will fight harder.   

I will always be there to help others, and would say to check in with others as sometimes it’s the happiest people who have the lowest times.”

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ANONYMOUS

 

“I have always suffered with depression in one form or another. I can remember the time it started; I was 10 years old and my Mum told me she was expecting my baby brother. I was so paranoid that harm would come to her or the baby, I’d spend 10 minutes before I went to bed checking that all plugs were out of sockets and switched off and that there were no obstacles in the way, so my Mum wouldn’t fall over.

 When my brother was born, I continuously washed my hands as to not give him germs. I’d then wash the taps because I touched them and then wash my hands again. It got so bad, they used to bleed. I also remember making my friends wash their hands before they walked in my house! Although I grew out of the cycle of hand-washing, I then became a worrier. About literally everything.

I became increasingly anxious and after being bullied at school, it quickly spiralled into depression. My history teacher told my parents he was concerned as I was often hunched over in his class. However, my love of performing arts helped and singing always made me feel better.

 

When I was about 18, I started to get a desolate feeling…like I was missing something and absolutely hated being alone. I would have panic and anxiety attacks often and found the smallest task, like turning a key in a door difficult. I started on a course of anti-depressants and things got a little better, until I went to Drama school, I came off them and had a year of hell and would often break down and cry on my again. I spiralled further and looking back now, I was close to suicidal. My parents would often call my boyfriend (now husband) to check on me as they were worried I’d ‘do something silly’. I went back on another lot of ADs and things got better. That was until I came off them to have my baby.

I had a tough pregnancy and although my beautiful baby girl was the most amazing thing to ever happen to me, I felt awful. I couldn’t breastfeed and the lack of sleep made me feel like I was down a pit that I couldn’t get out of. I felt that because I wasn’t breastfeeding, I wasn’t really her Mum, after all, anyone can feed a baby with a bottle.

 

The anxiety became worse and I’d even worry that changing my perfume meant she’d not know I was her mum. Back on the pills I went. 5 years on and things are a lot better. I have accepted the fact that I will be on ADs probably for the rest of my life. I’m lacking serotonin – I have a chemical imbalance. If I had diabetes, I’d need insulin, it’s just one of those things. I’ve also learnt to be more accepting of myself, I’m not perfect and nobody is. The best I can do is live life the best I can and show my daughter positivity.

 

You are not alone x

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Louisa’s Story

 

“This is my third time living with anxiety & panic attacks and I’m not embarrassed posting about it and neither should anyone else. Yes it’s exhausting battling with your own mind. Just because it’s not a broken arm or leg doesn’t mean the person isn’t broken inside (although so many still struggle to see this!).

 I’ve suffered with panic disorder for over 7 years! I avoid going places such as shops, the park and restaurants because I fear I’ll have a panic attack in public! I get sad because I feel that I can’t enjoy the normal things or day to day life, everything I do feels like such an effort!

 

Mental illness does not mean that the person is mental!

They are not weak, in fact they are the strongest people you’ll know. It’s the hardest,most  challenging thing to battle with your own mind. Nobody knows what that person is going through unless they’ve been through it themselves and even then we are all different.

 

Don’t isolate people just because they’re different inside, people with depression deal with things in different ways.

 

So keep inviting these people out, keep asking these people if they want to do things and keep asking these people if they’re OK!! Just because they say no does not mean they don’t want to, it’s their inner voice from stopping them doing the things they want to do.

So bloody hats off to everyone dealing with this because you are certainly not alone!!”

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Donna’s Story

“Growing up I never felt like I fitted in, we would move around a lot which meant always being the new kid with no friends,  I was bullied for being too tall or for my big feet or something else to do with the way I looked or acted . It really affected my confidence with over time affected my body image.
I was never one of those children who looked at my body and hated it. I was ok with how I looked but the comments and abuse over the years from my step mum and step brother just chipped away at me bit by bit.
I think my body image was majorly affected when I became ill with an eating disorder in 2006 . And a big part of an eating disorder is the way in which one views themself. I would spend ages looking in the mirror and pulling at all this fat I saw that cycle continued for years on and off and most recently two years ago I relapsed pretty bad with the anorexia and self harm etc and tried to take my life twice which led to a mental health unit.
I really do think body image plays a huge part in what holds me and many others back from recovery.
This person I see in the mirror looking at me, she has no future, she is ugly and she is fat but logically that’s just the body dysmorphia speaking but it’s very real to me .
I think in this culture today so many people blame poor body image on the media with models and celebs and all these fad diets, that we must look a certain way, or eat certain way. Personally for me my body image and eating disorder etc were not in anyway affected by all of that. It’s almost quite a selfish illness in the sense I feel I am the only one struggling and I only see myself as fat and a problem . I don’t look at a celebs and envy them but I know many people do. I feel we need to be more kind to ourselves and treat ourselves as we would somebody we love like I would never tell my friend she was fat or ugly or deserves to die or starve or whatever the issue maybe .
At this current moment I’m stuck at a point where I’m not ill enough for help which is stupid! But I’m too unwell to go to work and a job I like to do is now at risk unless in the next 4-6weeks I make changes in regards to my food intake and other factors – self harm, laxatives abuse etc .
I want to be able to speak up about my health and my issues and not feel embarrassed I work in a job where my arms are on show and I have a lot of recent scars and people do ask what it is and I want to be able to share my story because if it helps just one person that is enough.
Mental health matters and we all need to get alongside others even if it is just a text or a coffee .
I know what it’s like to hit rock bottom and I’m in no way recovered I struggle daily. I live day to day and that works for me”.

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Jamies Story

“I always thought my issues with my mental health started in my early-20s when I suffered with severe depression which resulted in a suicide attempt.

I’d come out of a toxic relationship and I thought I had no one to turn to. This was the early-noughties when mental health, especially for men, was still a taboo subject. My mates were very ‘laddish’ and seemingly unapproachable, whilst my parents had split and we barely spoke as a family. I was embarrassed and unable to cope. Life went on like this for most of my 20s, hiding my problems behind a mask of booze and late nights.

I relocated to London when I was 28 and perhaps it was the new lease of life, the culture, social acceptance or just escaping my old haunts, but I felt good, and after meeting my now wife, it was the happiest I’d been in years. Then in my mid-30s my depression struck again after a case of bullying. But thankfully, with mental health now widely talked about, it felt easier to express my feelings. So much so, I launched my podcast, Man Talk, to share mine and other men’s experiences to try and help others who might be suffering.

Last year I sought a private therapist and with her help, began to put the pieces of my life puzzle together, to understand why I react like I do to trauma. As I said, I always thought my mental heath issues began in my 20s, but after my therapy sessions it became obvious that my teenage years actually shaped me more than I thought. I was the classic anxious teenage boy; confused by puberty, sex, emotions, hormones, girls, and stressed with school, peer pressure and young life in general. I was also bullied at school. I bottled everything up and just got through those years. And that’s the issue, as it is with so many young men; unable to talk, unable to express troubles and emotions.

Thankfully things are changing, but more needs to be done to ensure young men are able to seek help, and not sink as dangerously low as I did.”

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Anonymous
“I am mum of two young boys, run my own marketing business and have been married for 9 years. We moved as a family to Essex 4 years ago for my husband’s job and knew from time to time he would need to travel for work, but never in our wildest dreams believed he would be away for over a quarter of 2018.
In July 2018 my husband headed off to the illuminated skies of Tokyo for a 4week stint working on jets. I was nervous, I was excited, giddy for him, but I was sad for us being left behind. My heart was beaming with pride, but my head was angry, upset and a feeling of missing out being trapped with my boys, cooped up and alone.
My friends were all aware of me being a solo mum and shortly rallied round to find a mothers help for tea and bedtime sanity relief.  I would have offers of midweek playdates, lunches at weekends and offers to stay away with friends. The intention for company was there, but stark reality is I was just too tired to commit. The continual hamster wheel of parenting; cooking, washing, doing homework, stopping tantrums and fights plus being self-employed was just too great.
My husband started to see a change in me, I could no longer keep in the angry thoughts in, the jealously of his time away; be it working or free time.
In January 2019 that our world crumbled, my husband had been away in November for a month then back at Christmas and then away again. I thought I was ok, I thought I could handle it – I couldn’t. My mother kept calling me to say ‘don’t facetime him, don’t tell him how you feel. He can’t do anything to help, he’s 6,000 miles away!’ I couldn’t contain it, I facetimed telling him exactly how I felt, shouting, completely out of control and finally hanging up to only run, sob and curl up in a ball hoping and praying the children didn’t find me.
I didn’t want him to think I was fine, I wanted him to feel my pain.
I realised that my behaviour was out of control. I decided after this moment that I needed help. I was a danger to myself and my family. So I went to my doctor, she was amazing. I told her everything and she couldn’t believe how much pressure I had put myself under. She confirmed I had anxiety and depression promptly prescribed anxiety meds and started to already feel the benefit within a week. The medication had given me the chance to step back and see the bigger picture.
The bigger picture was yes my husband is working away, but he too is feeling all the same feels as me. He too feels trapped, trapped in work and not able to stay with me and the boys.
I was and am to this day extremely sad that our relationship had to go so dark and murky to get us back on track. We have been together for 16 years, lived through 2 redundancies, 2 miscarriages, had 2 children, moved 3 times and still this was the biggest and scariest time we have experienced. I had contemplated leaving him, was self-harming and even uttered the words of suicide. This was not a passing phase, this was real.
Thankfully the meds were working, my anger had depleted, my aggression to normal situations had subsided and I was able to see things for what they really were. I am by no means fixed, but I am acutely aware of the stress my husbands trips put on me and our marriage.  He has insisted no long trips until June which is a welcome break.
I will forever be ‘brothers in arms’ with anyone who has to endure long periods of time without their partners, who are single parents and suffer mental health issues. It’s the hardest, loneliest and most selfless duty a parent can do and so very few understand it.

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Helens Story

My anxiety started about 9 years ago after a traumatic year that involved finding out my unborn baby was disabled and my 2 year old being incredibly poorly.
My anxiety relates to the health of myself and my family. As soon as I feel a twinge or a little bit off colour I immediately think the worst. The kids can develop a sniffle of a temp and I immediately think the worst.
My mind goes into overdrive, thinking of all the worst scenarios, and how we would cope if the worst was to happen. The anxiety can creep up on me out of nowhere. My heart starts beating a little faster, my mind starts racing and I begin to panic. My mind is going at 100 miles per hour, imagining the worst possible outcome to the situation. I skip straight past the rational conclusion and go straight to panic stations.
I have to concentrate on my breathing to ground myself and have a conversation in my own mind, telling me it will be ok, making sense of my irrational thoughts. I don’t have a day go by where I don’t have a moment of anxiousness but I have learned to control it better now.
If you suffer with any form of anxiety you are not alone, don’t be afraid to talk about it, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. You will be surprised by the amount of people who struggle with this.

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Thank you so much for reading and I hope these stories have helped. Lots of love and as always I am always here xxx

 

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Children Mental Wellbeing – Exercise

This is my third blog this week celebrating Childrens Mental Health Week, we have covered sleep and food, now we are going to talk about exercise.

I don’t know where I would be without exercise, for me my choice of physical activity is running and I mean it with all sincerity when I say running keeps me sane if not keeps me alive. During a run I process thoughts and enjoy the great outdoors, after a run I feel tired (in a good way) plus I feel that I have accomplished something and that my body is strong. What I also find is that because I run and have put my body through a workout I respect it a bit more, that means I am more likely to make good food choices. Most importantly fo rmy mental health running makes me sleep better. Sounds amazing doesn’t it so why dont we teach our children the basics of how good exercise is for us and how it helps us have a health mind as well as body.

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Rainy muddy runs are the best

Just remember though any exercise is good for you, a walk, a play in the park, a run around the garden. They all have benefits for your kids and getting them outdoors and active is so incredibly important when children are known to spend too much time looking at screens. Let kids explore and let them face simple dangers, we have to let our kids grow and physical exercise goes hand in hand with that.

How can exercise help our childrens mental wellbeing?

  • Builds confidence
  • Manages anxiety and depression
  • Increases self esteem
  • Improves cognitive skills
  • They will reach new goals
  • Meet new friends and gain social skills
EXERCISE RELEASES ENDORPHINES WHICH CORRELATE TO A HAPPY CHILD

Studies have shown that moderate to vigorous physical activity at ages 6-8 is linked to fewer symptoms of depression two years later.

I felt that the best way for me to understand and explain how exercise can help a childs mental wellbeing was to get some information from three professional companies. One is a one line fitness company, one is a fitness centre and lastly a sports coach. I wanted to hear about how they think exercise benefits our children

Online – Muscle Fit Nation

natahn muscle fit

Online fitness wear brand and fitness advocates Muscle Fit Nation have an excellent attitude to exercise. They want to promote health and wellbeing, to motivate poeple to work hard so they can fulfill their dreams. I managed to get Nathan to write some really great words about exercise and mental health.

“Being in the industry we hear of many different ways and reasons why people stay active. One is mental health and we believe this is becoming one of the main reasons people are more active nowadays. Being active releases endorphins which has a positive effect on your mood and wellbeing. 

Whether it’s an adult or child struggling with mental health eating well and exercising regularly can have a huge impact on their life. 

Firstly, let’s start with eating healthly. We feel with a good balanced diet people will feel better within themselves (I.e have more energy, immune system working correctly, bowels working correctly). If you can start to feel healthier and more energetic then you have more chance of improving your mental wellbeing. 

Secondly, if you have a balanced diet so you feel energised because your taking in the right amount of nutrients then you are more likely to exercise. This doesn’t necessarily mean joining a gym, this could mean running, walking, cycling, just something that increases your heart rate. “

If you would like to know more about Muscle Fit Nation Click here

Fitness Centre – Gymfinity

When I first heard about Gymfinity I was blown away by such an amazing club, partly due to my girls loving gym but also by the vibrance and postive feeling it gave me (and this was me just looking on their website). Then after getting in contact with Josie at their head office I heard that they promote positive mental health and even have a campaign called Gymfinity and Beyond. This is their way of showing through personal experience how exercise (in their case gymnastics) has helped mental health.

The club values speak volumes about the company as a whole;

Deliver the very best child-focused gymnastics and ninja programs, that teach “totally crazy superhero flying tricks”

Build safestate-of-the-artpurpose-built clubs with “spongey cake floors and rainbow crayon colours”

Create a club full of encouragement, inspiration and motivation, where every child matters and only the “nicest humans in the world” are coaches

I also spoke to club manager Andrew Brunning who said

 “Our club recognises that in order to be healthy inside and out it’s important to take steps to look after your body and mind together. Sports activities like gymnastics and ninja at Gymfinity Kids are a great way for children to get active in a safe and nurturing environment with a positive coaching approach.”

I would also like to attach a link for you to read which is Stellas story about how Gymfinity helped with her mental health, this is part of their #gymfinityandbeyondcampaign to read click here

Local Sports Coach – Scott Forbes

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Lastly but certainly not least I had the pleasure of speaking to local sports coach Scott Forbes. Every child in my local area knows this guy because of his upbeat and fairly infectious personality, I have never seen one person be able to tame a party of 40 children like he can. The ex professional footballer now coaches football teams, runs activity holiday camps, 1 on 1 personal trainer plus probably the most in demand party service in Essex. He is busy man so I was so happy that I have been able to get  him to write a few words about why he thinks that teaching the kids helps their mental wellbeing;

“I have been working with children now for 25 years and mental health and exercise have been proven to be closely related – and more so in children.  Additionally, creating a positive communicative environment is not only key for self development, but key to social development in all ages.

My ethos for teaching exercise is that fitness should be fun. How else will they find the drive and desire to take part unless it is fun. Using fun to inspire exercise makes desire to exercise consequential. Exercise releases endorphins which trigger positive feeling, and so the cycle continues. 

My job to help children develop in a positive environment, growing their confidence and allowing them, within reason, to express their own selves and be proud of who they are.”

To contact Scott yourself Click here

I think its clear from all three professionals that the importance of exercise for our children mental health is not one we can ignore.

You dont need to pay for exercise

I know I have used clubs and coaches as sources for this blog but that is because they are professionals in the field. What I wanted to reiterate that exercise does not need to cost money, but encouraging your child to keep active really doesnt hold a value for their health.

Yes joining clubs and having professional around them does have benefits but the most important thing is that all children get fresh air and their heart racing so get out and kick a ball with your daughter or climb trees with your son, encouraging them will give them the confidence to do these things all on their own.

Thank you for reading

Jo

All Thei

 

 

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Childrens Mental Wellbeing – Food

This week is Childrens Mental Health Week and I am writing three blogs highlighting the main areas that we can actively work on to help our children have a healthy mental wellbeing. Previously I have done sleep and I will finish with exercise. Today I am going to be writing about food.

abundance-agriculture-bananas-264537

I love food, my family loves food. I love to cook, my family doesn’t always like what I cook but its about getting your children to try new foods and broden their tastes, the world would be a boring place in my opinion if we only ate a few favourite dishes. Educating our children like this is our job as parents. Anyway, this blog isnt about ensuring your child like sushi but for me to discuss how important what your child eats and whats in their diet, and how it can have a very positive effect on their mental wellbeing as well as their physical health.

Having a healthy diet has shown these benefits

  • Doing better at school
  • Feeling better about themselves
  • Feeling better about their bodies
  • Feeling better about their abilities
  • Coping better with stress
  • Managing their emotions
  • Sleeping better

The other factor that to me is ultimately the most important thing is that we much teach our children to be healthy and also teach them to cook so that in adult life they can do this for themselves. The more knowledge we have about food, the better choices we make about what we are eating.

What should my child be eating?

Each child is different so there is no fixed rule about what should be eaten and when, children are different sizes and do different amounts of exercise so there can be no strict rule on how much they should eat. There are charts that show you guidelines by the British Nutrition Foundation which I have attached here. These are based on your childs health in general but I would like to focus on their mental health.

For a healthy mental health we need foods that

  • give us energy
  • keep us full
  • that we enjoy

 

If we have energy then we can achieve more, when we achieve more we feel better about ourselves. POSITIVE MENTAL WELLBEING

When we are full we able to concentrate on what we are doing and do it to our best ability. It will also enable us to have a great nights sleep. POSITIVE MENTAL WELLBEING.

Enjoying food shows us that we can enjoy something. One of the signs of depression is not enjoying food and struggling eat. Having food that you enjoy and you know is healthy is a winning combination. POSITIVE MENTAL WELLBEING.

Its not that confusing and its no different for children. I could say that kids need pulses and nuts all day but its not going to happen, they simply wont eat it.

So lets work through the day.

Breakfast

It is the most important meal of the day and it does ‘break the fast’ so we need to make it a good meal. One common mistake with children is feeding them sugary cereals, they are no good and thats the end of it. Not only will children get a rush followed by a crash from sugar it will also potentially give children a sweet tooth.

My advice is to give a non sugar coated cereal such a weetabix, shreaded wheat, bran flakes and if necessary add some honey and fruit. Wholemeal toast is a good option too with butter and honey or some palm oil free peanut butter. These foods will keep them full and learn better at school. Keeping alert in lessons will mean that they learn more and their confidence will flourish.

Even on the weekends I wouldnt recommend “treat” cereals on both days. You want your children to achieve things on the weekend, whether it be a great painting or a really muddy walk. Giving them a good breakfast will enable them to have the energy to learn new skills that are not the ones that are taught to them at school, we want our kids to seek new adventures (essentially not be stuck to screens where the adventures are made for them nor have no energy from poor food choices).

If you are feeling flashy then eggs are the ideal breakfast with a lovely wholemeal bagel, packed full of protein, fats and carbs it really is a brilliant start to the day.

Lunch

Packed Lunches – The amount of rubbish that is so easy to put in packed lunches is endless. A packed lunch is what our child is having in the middle of their “working” day. We need it to be packed full of fruit, veg, protein and carbs. I give my daughter a small wholemeal roll or pitta with cheese or ham or chicken (she doesnt like having tuna at school as it smells fishy!!). Then I will add a little cheese block or a bit of salami depending what the sandwich is. I then have one of those compratment lunch boxes so I put different vegetables in each (fruit is for snack time). I do allow her some crisps or a different treat but I pick baked crisps or some ricecakes.

Lunches at home generally can be similar to packed lunches. I find my kids love a “picky” meal and for my older ones I just do a bigger sandwich.

Dinner

Kids need carbs! To get them through the night they NEED carbs. Yes they also need protein and fat and veg but to ensure good sleep then carbs is the answer for children. Also they burn calories at a fast rate so carbs are perfect.

Pasta (wholemeal is better), jacket potatoes, rice (again wholemeal is best), sweet potatoes, noodles… these are easy bases for all your favourite meals. For a full break down on what your child could and should have then please follow the link above but here are a few of the meals we have at home.

  • Spaghetti bolognese with hidden veg, soya mince and wholemeal pasta.
  • Chicken noodles with loads of much loved veggies (sweetcorn, peppers, brocolli etc)
  • Jacket potates beans and cheese (stick a salad on the side and its a great meal!)
  • Salmon pasta with philadelphia. Veggies on the side
  • Chicken curry and rice. Stick some chikpeas, cauliflower and spinach in the mix!
  • Sweet potato fries, keep the skin on and make a homemade nandos!!

What is a great thing to do once a week is let your child cook with you. Not only will this allow them to see what is going in their dinner, they will also learn how to prepare and cook it (this process is going to make them more likely to eat the meal). The other thing that cooking with your child will do is allow you to have a time to talk, maybe for your child to open up about potential issues that have been affecting them, when the mind is given a different task some of the underlying issues can come out.

Snacks

At school I only allow fruit, I dont allow cereal bars because they are packed full of sugar. If in need a box of raisins comes to the rescue.

At home I make fruit salad bowls and I also make sure I have rich tea biscuits in the tin. These have the lowest amount of sugar in them and my girls love them, dont get me wrong the girls have treats too. I just try to limit them. I also ensure that they only get them when they have eaten ALL of their dinner/lunch.

Yoghurts are also great and much needed for the calcium.

I know all this already

I am sure I am just rambling away to people who know far more than me (or not and nobody is reading it so it doesnt matter). I am not claiming to be a professional in this area I just know that what we eat will help our kids to have a clear and healthy head to take on the challenges of their day. Fuel your kids to achieve their absolute best!

Thank you for reading

Jo xxx

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Childrens Mental Wellbeing – Sleep

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Today marks the start of Childrens Mental Health week 2019 so I thought I would write three blogs. Each blog will be centred around one subject that really affects all of our mental health. The blogs will be about Sleep, Exercise and Food. I think that if we can instill in our children lives healthy relationships with these subjects and give them tips to help them through difficult times we will be giving  them a great foundation for their current and on going health (mental and physical). So the first of this trio of blogs is sleep.

mental health week

SLEEP

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Sleep is so important to our health. Not just mental but phsyical too. While we sleep our body repairs itself from the strains it has been through that day and it allows our brains to process all the information it has taken on and goes through all of the memories it has retained. During these hours our body works to support a healthy brain function as well as maintaining our physical health.

It seems obvious that we all need a good nights sleep and it is no different for children. In fact children are learning at a rate of knots, growing constantly and developing minute by minute so they need more sleep so to allow for growth of their body and mind. Sleep lets them tackle the new skills that each new day brings. Hence why children generally need 10 hours sleep a night (give or take).

How does lack of sleep affect our children?

There are many physical and mental issues that can arise due to lack of sleep. I am focusing on mental health rather than phsyical but in every way these two are linked so here are a few problems that may occur from lack of sleep (I have attached the NHS gudelines for how much sleep your child needs below);-

  • Slowing down of physical development
  • Lowers immunity to germs
  • More accident prone
  • More anxious
  • It is linked to obesity and diabetes
  • Feeling unable to cope with normal situations
  • Lack of appetite/raised appetite

 

What if my child sleeps too much?

Normally a child wont over sleep, they generallty sleep when they are tired and once in a while will sleep in excess of their normal amount by a few hours. They probably just need this as they are tired.

If your child has slept a lot more than normal all of a sudden they may be coming down with something so keep an eye on them and check their temperature etc.

If your child regularly over sleeps (meaning for example a 5 year old needs 10-12 hours sleep so if they are sleep 14+ hours regularly that is over sleeping) then it may be a sign of some other problems going on. It is not a good habit for children to regularly over sleep and if they continue to do so it may be a sign of certain mental health problems as well as physical ones. Remember children should be full of energy, that is why they may go to bed from 7-7. My youngest daughter doesnt sleep great but she also doesnt stop! If a child over sleeps and then is inactive all day with little energy then it may be a sign of one of the problems below;

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Sleep opnea

Here is a link to the NHS site showing how many hours sleep children should be having HERE

How can we ensure our children get a good nights sleep?

I am going to list some tips and ideas to get your children to have a good nights sleep, remember a child that sleeps well, means a parent can sleep well …

  • Have a set bed time
  • Have a routine in the evening. You dont need to bath a child every day but its good to have a nice relaxing time before your child gets into bed. Stories are the best way to unwind with your children. I would suggest at least 2 stories.
  • Time to talk. Quite often children store all their worries up until just before bed. This can be fairly frustrating for us parents who are ready for down time or need to get onto the next job on the list. We must try and give kids a moment to share so that they dont go to sleep with these worries or thoughts swirling around their heads. Its better than them waking in the night!
  • No screen time for an hour before bed (tablets, phones and tvs). Apart from the content that is on the screen making your child awake and excited it is also the simple factor of the light coming from the screen. The light that comes off screens (is a blue light) which affects the melatonin production and fools the brain into thinking that its not ready for sleep. This is just as important for us adults. I put my phone down and read before bed, its helped me a lot.
  • Eat. Having enough time before bed (a couple of hours) is good plus having enough to eat so that your child isnt hungry. Try to avoid “fast food” type meals in the evening. A more wholesome meal with carbs will keep your child fuller for longer. Also avoid sugary food and drinks for a few hours before sleep.
  • Make their bedrooms a lovely place to be. Lots of kids want to get into bed with their parents (unfortunately this wont help anyones sleep even though snuggles are lovely), try to make your child see that their room is best and keep putting them back to bed. I know it can  be hard.
  • Dim the lights. Keeping their bedrooms as dark as possible will help them sleep sounder for longer. Each child is different and I know my youngest has her room far too light for my liking but its still with dim colours and lamps.
  • Set a time to get up. This is simply by doing the maths (see the link earlier to show how much sleep your child needs). Getting them to wake up at a regular time will make it easier to get the bedtime routine running smoothly. Plus a child needs to get on with their day, a productive day is great for the brain and the mind. Staying in bed long into the morning leads to lethargy which isnt a good for anyone. (This is important for over sleepers and helps them break the routine).
  • The temperature of your child and their room needs to be right. My youngest daughter has night terrors and often it because she is too hot (this is just an example of how the temperature can affect us). Onesies are popular and snuggly but often too hot for the middle of the night. We are all different and you know your own child but being too hot in bed can lead to a very fractious and unsettled night.
  • Get exercise every day. I am not saying that your child needs to run cross country in the morning and play a football match in the afternoon but children should be active every day. Runing around in the garden, going to the park, swimming and generally wanting to be up and about playing is essential to a good nights sleep. I will talk more about exercise in my next blog.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you if you have any problems with your child and sleep.

Sleep really is the be all and end all for us to be “okay”. Our mood can be very much dependant of a good night sleep and for children who have to learn so much every day its essential to keep their minds, brains and bodies healthy.

Thank you for reading and the next blog will focus on exercise.

All Thei

 

 

 

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When it comes to body image, how can I be a good role model?

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After having my first daughter I developed an eating disorder, I suppose it would come under anorexia as I really struggled to eat and felt like even the smallest amount of food would make me fat, I would skip meals by telling people I was going out for dinner later (and so wouldn’t eat lunch) and then do the opposite later on in the day, some days I wouldn’t eat, on days I would eat I would then make myself sick. I looked awful, really really awful. My skin was bad, my body was all out of proportion and my hair was thinning. I weighed 7 and a half stone, I had a BMI of 16.4 (that’s seriously underweight and should be between 18.5 and 25). It impacted into every part of my life and it would cause me panic when it came to anything food related for example family events, weekends away and birthdays. It was a very low point in my life.

Fast forward to now (11 years later) I weigh 9 and half stone and have a BMI of 20.6. I try and keep myself around this weight although last year I was a stone heavier, I only lost the weight again (very slowly) so my clothes would fit better as I can’t afford to buy a whole new wardrobe. I understand that I will always have a strange relationship with food and that I can slip into a negative place from time to time, but I have come a long way since those darker days, but what I must make sure is that I do not project this bad relationship with food and body image onto my children, but just how does someone who has had (and will in a small way always have) an eating disorder do that? How does any parent do that? We all have hang ups don’t we?

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I have used my experience as a mum to three girls (one of whom is at a very delicate age of nearly 12), plus I have done a fair amount of research. Here are my ideas how we project a positive body image onto our children.

  • Listen – When my child comes to me, I listen, no matter how silly or small the problem is I give them time. Obviously there are times where you have ask them to wait till you are free, but they do get my ear eventually and I do listen. When I am faced with problems about the body, or things that have been said about their image at school I sympathise, it doesn’t matter if what has been said is ridiculous, if it has hurt your child then its serious to them and to you. I let my girls know about situations in my life where I have faced similar scenarios as by letting them into my life I feel they let me into theirs a bit more. Yes we need to be strong for our kids but they also need to know we are human too.

  • Skills, talents and achievements – As we know there is so much more to us in this life than just how we look, but as a child/ teenager there will be stages where it doesn’t feel like that. As well a listening we need to make sure that our children know that their skills and achievements are acknowledged. Many of these skills (especially academically) will stay with them forever, where as the way we look will change drastically (looking back at photos of me aged 12 is actually hysterical and only my Mum would be able to tell that it was me). We are all special and unique, we are all good at things and we should all be proud of ourselves, this doesn’t come naturally and we must help our children realise their potential. So pay your children compliments, about the way they look AND what they are good at.

  • Self Love – This is the hardest one for me, and I cant preach that I am remotely good at it, but I do know its important. We must try and show outward body confidence, easier said than done, I know, but while researching for this and contemplating writing this bit of advice (as I feel hypocritical) it got me thinking that we all must try to be more confident for the sake of our children, and I think the more we do, the more we will believe it. Remember, our children think we are the most beautiful women in the world, lets not burst their bubble!

  • Self affirmations – A while ago, my best friend Jennie said to my girls that they must believe in themselves and love themselves, she told them to write self affirmations and say them to themselves every morning. Well, they sniggered at her. Later that week I made them do it, and though they don’t read them everyday, they decorated them and we have kept them, so when we have a down day we can get them out and read them. I kept them relative to their age, very simple to more meaningful, but not too complex. I have photographed mine and an example of a child’s. Give it a go, it helped me at least.
  • Dads – My girls are lucky enough to have a Dad and a Step Dad. A man’s perspective on women and themselves is incredibly important. The way that your husband or partner talks to you and them about appearance (men and women) is as integral as you as Mum. The same goes with the way they feel about their own appearance.

  • Food  – An essential part of life is eating and if you are like me, then sometimes it can be an issue. The way I see it is that you should show your children how to be healthy (by making healthy food choices and cooking homemade food) and also by having some treats. Let them see you eat a slab of cake once in a while, or a big burger and fries. Never eat in secret, this is a something I have real knowledge of and is very harming to children, there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to eating. I know some of us women like people to think that we live off lettuce leaves and air, but when we get home will be eating ham or another quick fridge find straight out the pack. Well I am telling you, we shouldn’t do this, for ourselves and our kids. Food is great, and is a social enjoyable thing, family meals are so important too, sitting toegther and enjoying food will give your children a healthy relationship with it.
  • Modern technology –  This is THE BIG ONE. The world has changed/ evolved and nearly all kids have use of the internet and eventually social media. I read a horrendous statistic today in an article called ‘uncomfortable in your skin report’ that young girls who use social media are bombarded by up to 5000 digitally enhanced images every week, what on earth will that be doing to the way they feel they should look. I don’t believe that we can stop this, yes we can educate our children to follow appropriate people but if you have a daughter like mine I think I am asking the impossible. She loves the Kardashians and that’s that. I think as parents in this day and age we have to adjust our mindset and work with this being part of our children’s lives, we have to teach them that it’s not real and I think we can show them some amazing people who are far better role models, so that they may follow them alongside the digitally enhanced loves of their lives. I have found a few amazing instagram/ web sites that are fantastic for every one to help with body image, firstly the beautiful Megan Jayne Crabbe (bodyposipanda) and Taryn Brumfitt (body image movement) both pages are rammed full of fantastic content. I have also attached a link to Taryns trailerHere  for her amazing Embrace documentary, give it a watch and if you want to you watch the full film on Netflix, I recommend it for all you Mums and Dads out there and then decide if you want to show your children, they advise on the website that it is for age 10/11+ but as that’s at the parents discretion.

I hope this has helped and as always I have found it invigorating to write. I hate to imagine my children being unhappy with their perfect bodies but I think we have to accept at times it will happen (I know I have already faced a fair few problems with the kids), it’s about us dealing with them and supporting our children in their journey.

Thanks for reading

Jo

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Today the fog came down

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My name’s Jo and I have depression. It’s not a badge I wear often but it is something that I live with, it’s something that so many of us live with and what us people (who live with it) will know is that some days are a great deal harder than the others, what those of you who don’t have depression won’t know is that the hard days can feel impossible and it’s like a grey fog descending onto your world, a thick fog that almost makes it hard to move let alone see clearly.

Today is one of those days and I have never written about how a bad day feels like so I thought, with my journey of writing and self improvement, it could be a cathartic exercise.

I actually felt the fog come down yesterday evening, it came on all of a sudden. I am very tired (I have previously said that lack of sleep is my number one trigger to the dark place) and I am  coming out of having the flu, so my body isn’t really playing ball physically. I had worked all day, done the school runs, done the clubs, been to the shop, made two lots of dinner (for the youngsters and then us adults), hung up the washing, then did bedtime,  and that’s where my line was drawn, I had had enough. If it had been up to my head I would have just gone to bed and probably should have done, I felt achy and my lingering cough was annoying me. I sat on the sofa and even the dogs’ sleepy breathing was getting to me. It wasn’t anyone else’s fault to my mood being this way it was simply my depression reminding me that she is still there.

There is no logic (apart from sleep deprivation) to the ups and downs of my depression, I am on a good run at the moment and am really trying to improve my mental well being by making positive steps in my life. This blog I have started is doing really well and I am really enjoying it, I am using my brain when I write and I find I am reading so many more articles that a broadening my learning.

If I just look at where I am with my week I should feel I am doing really well, I have just survived the kid weekend and the house stayed relatively tidy (as I had a big push on Sunday to get jobs done and not get myself into a panic), I have been to my little job (which over the past month just hasn’t happened due to illness of myself and kids) and the husband and I are going away next week for our anniversary which is going to be amazing. Life should be looking peachy, yet as I am well aware of this means nothing when it comes to the fog.

I woke this morning immediately knowing it had not left (not helped by Frankie waking 3 times in the middle of the night) but I set off with my routine and my normal techniques to keep the mood at bay. I make a nice coffee, I get the girls to school and I wrote my list of jobs (my daily list is my way of keeping on top of things but also reminding myself of what I have done and achieved). It does help and as I tick those jobs off, safe in the knowledge the kids are happy at school my mood sometimes begins to budge, but I can’t shake this off today. I note bad days because if I go over a week of it I will maybe book in with the doc,  but generally this doesn’t happen. The sun is even shining which normally helps me hugely (I don’t know if I actually suffer from SADS but a grey sky really hinders my outlook).

I am trying so hard to be positive but I still want to give up a little and cry. On days like today it is the children that get me through because deep down I want to curl away from the world, I want to shut the door and shut everything out. I can’t, because I am a Mum, but today the school run was a struggle, keeping eye contact was hard and even being interested in my daughters day I find myself zoning in and out, but I did it.

So as I sit and write this I realise that it has in fact helped me. Just noting the good and realising that I did too much yesterday puts my head in perspective, I am human and not indestructible, it was understandable that I got to my limit. I must look after myself, because going a million miles an hour and not stopping to eat and rest will put anyone in a bad mood. This evening my friend is coming for tea with her kids, it will force me stop and I have prepared everything so that we have food ready and even a bottle of wine if we fancy a little glass.

I just need to remind myself that life is good, it’s Wednesday already,  and come the end of the week I will have a little break from the kids and I will enjoy my days with my husband and our anniversary (and hopefully a few cocktails!). I am also going to work hard the next few days to be ready with blogs to post up next week so that I dont panic when I am away. I will even get my nails painted as a treat. 

I am so lucky and need to just stop and breath a bit more. None of this will stop me having depression, but my aim for the future is to have a little more control over it and instead of letting it rule me completely, I would like to own it even if just slightly.

I am almost through today and hope that tomorrow feels lighter. lts about taking one day at a time. 

If anyone has any good daily tricks and tips to break through a temporary mood please let me know, I am on a journey of self improvement and in no way do I know it all. I think if we can help each other we will all feel good for it.

Jo xx

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Not quite Veganuary

I am in awe of all of my friends who are vegans and I can see how positive it is physically, environmentally and in many ways spiritually. Problem with me is I truly love steak and I like it rare and bloody (i’m currently day dreaming of a Hawksmoor porterhouse with Bernaise sauce and creamed spinach), yet with the blink of an eye I am yet again envious of my vegan friends and all their vegetables.

It’s with these paradoxical thoughts that 12 months ago (almost to the day) the Johnson household started “meat free Mondays”… we knew we couldn’t be vegans (unless I was willing to be a two time divorcee by the end of March), nor could we even manage veganuary but Meat free Monday we have stuck too and a year later I can’t see it stopping. Though only once a week, even that small change has benefited our health (which equates to more wine on Friday, right?) and done a little bit for the environment too, plus, I personally really love it and have added more vegetarian and vegan meals into my diet (it’s not had the same affect on my husband but he doesn’t hate Mondays dinner).

It would be fair to say that we have had a few fails, one evening I tried to make a certain Mr Oliver’s best ever bean burgers, my eldest daughter and I devoured ours with words like “who needs meat” and “let’s have these every Monday”… I looked up to my husband who’s face was like a hamster storing his food, he was in fact storing his best ever bean burger because he couldn’t actually swallow it. After removing said mouthful into a bit of kitchen roll he didn’t eat another bit and requested that he never had to again. I haven’t made them since.

A year later and I have come up with our top 5 meat free Monday offerings and I thought I would share them. They are easy and delicious (my 11 year old eats them all too, so family safe) and none of them should bust the bank. It’s a small change and nowhere near being vegan but it’s a healthy step and opened my eyes to different options, why don’t you give it a go?

Tofu Thai curry

Ingredients
1 pack of Cauldron organic marinated tofu pieces
1 pack baby sweet corn
1 pack mange tout
1 pack tender stem broccoli
1 red onion
Veg stock pot
Garlic clove
2 tsp Red or green Thai curry paste (mae ploy)
1 can coconut milk
Coconut oil
Fish sauce

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Fry onion in a pan till soft and add garlic

Add in veg (cut the broccoli a little smaller and half the corn lengthways)

When it’s a softening add in the tofu and the stock pot

Add the Thai paste and mix in till all the vegetables are cooked, then add the milk and cook until hot through and then take off the heat.

Add a small splash of fish sauce and serve with rice.

(Sometimes I add extra tofu (if on offer) and whatever veg is on offer/ reduced also if you don’t mind and only have chicken stock then add that, I also like throwing in some cherry tomatoes at the end too)

Roast veggie Tart

1 sheet puff pastry
1/2 Aubergine
Courgette
Red pepper
8 Sundried tomatoes
Red onion
1/2 jar pasta sauce (or red pesto, but anything you have left over in the fridge will do)
130g goats cheese
Oregano

Caramalised onion marmalade

(Side salad of your choice)

Preheat oven to 180

Chop all veg up and put in an oven dish, season and pour some of the oil from the jar of sundried tomatoes, add oregano

Put in the oven for 40mins

On a large baking sheet lie the puff pastry down and score around the edge about 1cm in.

Spread the sauce over the inside of the base

When the veg is done spread that on top of the sauce

Sprinkle over the goats cheese, add a few blobs of the caramelised onions and season

Stick back in the oven for 20minutes and serve with a side salad

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Cauliflower, spinach and chickpea curry

1/2 cauliflower (cut into small steaks) (add some broccoli too if you have any)
Bag spinach
Can chickpeas
Red onion thinly sliced
Garlic
Pataks tikka masala paste
Coconut milk
Veg stock pot
Coconut oil

Fry the onions until soft and add the garlic

Add the cauliflower and fry so it’s browned then lower the heat and add a few splashes of water and put a lid on the pan, leave for 5 minutes.

Add 2 tblsp of curry paste and add the drained chick peas

Stir and add the stock pot, if it gets dry then add water as needed

When the cauliflower is cooked then add the coconut milk, when it is heated through turn off the heat.

Now stick the spinach on top and put the lid on it. Leave for a minute and then stir the spinach through.

Serve with rice

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Butternut squash risotto

1 small butternut squash
Thyme
1 red onion finely chopped (or white onion but the red onion gives it a caramelised taste)
90g Parmesan
300g risotto rice
1 litre vegetable stock
Butter
175ml white wine
Olive oil

Heat oven at 180

Cut butternut squash into small cubes, put on an oven tray, drizzle with olive oil, season and sprinkle with thyme

Cook for 45 minutes (this can be done ahead of cooking the risotto)

Get a large frying pan and melt a big knob if butter and add the onion

When it’s softened add the rice, stir around till the rice is slightly translucent and then add the wine

Once the wine has cooked into rice add the first label of stock and a pinch of Maldon salt

Keep stirring the risotto with the heat down

When it gets dry just add more stock and keep stirring, continue this till the rice is cooked (if you run out of stock then add boiling water)

Add in the butternut squash and stir till it’s hot, turn off the heat and add the Parmesan. Season well and serve.

My gorgeous Tabitha (aged 7) loves to cook with me and though she did eventually get bored making risotto (it is a labour of love), she helped me start and i think its really important to get kids cooking early and loving food.

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Last but not least…

If you are busy and gymnastics over runs or you can’t find the brownie uniform the last recipe is the one

Jacket potato beans and cheese

Potatoes (sweet or jacket)
Baked beans
Cheese
Coleslaw
Salad

(I won’t insult you with the method)

If you try the recipes please let me know how you get on, I am no chef and simply a mum who tries to cook good meals, cheaply and as quick a possible.

Jo