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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Healthy Feet, Happy Mind

I didn't have a full lunch break yesterday so I took a long one today and got my little toes done. The benefits of a pedicure (as well as being fun to do and making toes and feet look pretty) include keeping nails trimmed, calluses and dead skin build up controlled and the skin nice and soft.

Along with paying attention to the nails, good pedicures should focus on the whole foot and lower leg – including soaking in soothing bath salts, exfoliation, massage and moisturising. Massaging and stimulating the surface like this improves blood circulation, and helps to cleanse the body. It’s great for relaxation and easing fatigue too as it can help stretch out and loosen the muscles.

According to Eastern medicine the internal organs are linked to the feet, so giving them care and attention can transfer positive energy to the rest of your body. I don’t know about all that, but I know it felt damn good as I sank back in my lovely chair...

I always choose a bright coral or orange - it makes me think of tropical holidays, hibiscus flowers and cocktails. Orange is supposed to symbolise radiance, warmth and happiness - which is very appropriate for pleasurable weight loss. Orange is even said to bring emotional strength and to uplift the spirit. I can't argue with that... 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Healing Space

I've been reading a lot on the positive affects that your environment can have on your well being and peace of mind. I'm beginning to appreciate the magical affects that a positive and happy mind can have on your body (I've lost 10lb since beginning the Pleasurable Weight Loss programme). My previous scoffing that health and spirit are inextricably linked have been well and truly silenced. 

We are moving house on Saturday (I hope!) and as you can imagine it's a potential situation for stress. Boxes are piled high, we can't find things we've packed, the new housemate's stuff is blocking most doors, there are bills to sort, things to purchase and of course our jobs and all the regular stuff which need doing. It's a typical scenario where I would be freaking out and eating to get away from my anxiety and to calm myself down.

It is claimed that in places of healing, lovely smells can reduce blood pressure and lower pain perception levels, music or stories provide a restful atmosphere for patients and may improve immune system function, while art and images with positive subjects is said to reduce anxiety. If just a few tweaks to a hospital can do all this, imagine what a tidy and calming home can do. 

This weekend I have made sure that the bed is made, some nice music is playing, candles are lit and it feels like a pleasurable environment to be in. Even just a few things changed the mood (and so our moods) completely and I've already noticed the difference. Moving house is a time when everything is in complete disarray, so just spending 10 minutes balancing that out provides tranquility that I am missing in the chaos. 

In the past my attitude to cleaning, housework and keeping a made bed has been one of reluctance and apathy. My motivation has always been a "should". Now I know it gives me pleasure to have such a lovely environment (pleasure that truly feeds me) and of course the good it can do mentally, spiritually and therefore physically, it's completely changed to something I can't wait to do. When we move into our new home interior design is going to be one of my main pleasurable pass times! 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Fluffy American Pancakes

For a fantastically decadent Easter weekend brunch, nothing quite beats pancakes. I've always been in the 'fluffier the better' camp, and would always plump for these babies over a crĂªpe any day. Covered in thickly whipped Chantilly cream with a dash of vanilla and piled with fresh berries and jam, they are complete pleasure.

For the batter, you will need: 
(Makes about 6 pancakes)

135g/ 4 ¾ oz flour (I used self raising to get them really fluffy)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar 
130ml/4½fl oz milk
1 large egg, beaten
2 tbsp melted butter, plus extra for cooking

Decorate with whatever you want, but I used whipped double cream with a touch of sugar and vanilla beaten in, then fresh fruit and jam.

First sieve your flour into a bowl with the rest of the dry ingredients. Beat your egg and milk together, then add in the melted butter. 
Combine the flour mix with the liquid and beat until all the lumps have gone. If it feels a little thick, add in a touch more milk so it's lose enough to ladle and pools evenly. Don't make it too thin though! 

Gently heat a knob of butter in a shallow pan and spoon out your mix. When bubbles start to form and the first side is golden it's time to flip. Keep the heat low so they don't burn. 

Layer a couple per person on a plate, smear with jam, add a dollop of cream and juicy raspberries and strawberries. Enjoy with a big cup of tea. 

If you have any strawberries left, add to a glass of ice cold water with fresh mint and enjoy while you relax in the bath after all your hard work in the kitchen... 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Art Therapy

Tonight I was tired. Too tired for body movement, Zumba, Pilates or even walking. But I wanted to do something different, relaxing and pleasurable. I've been really admiring the work of a Romanian artist who does beautiful brightly coloured paintings - her name is Ana Maria Edulescu and you can take a peek at her work here.
Inspired, I decided to pop into our local art shop and buy some new oils and a canvas.

I couldn't wait to get home and try out my new goodies. I popped Spotify on, lit my nice smelly candle and brought my flowers to where I could see and enjoy them, and I set up. 

I began by sketching my scene lightly. I'm very impatient, so my style of working will always be loose, rough and chunky. I like my art to have texture and body - oil or acrylic is perfect for that.

I built up the white washed walls of my little houses first...using a smaller brush created a less smooth finish to the paint. I wanted to give the impression of true Mediterranean plaster wall texture.

Next came the water. I used a sea green base and then built blues on top. I then used a flat pallet knife to scrape waves across. I wanted a choppy sea with drama, movement and expression. 

I chose a bright red for the roofs - mirroring Ana's work. I think the way she does this is so simple and crude, but I love the impact it has, and reflects the bare simplicity of the Med's architecture and landscape. 

Using the thin edge of the knife I scratched in black to define the shapes of the buildings - I worked quickly to keep it rough and scruffy.

A dash of yellow for lift and light and my painting was complete.

I found this such an enjoyable way to pass a few hours on my own. In my little world and totally from my heart. Especially as now I have my own work to hang up in our new home next week - I can't wait to paint again. I think this may become my new go to pleasurable tool for those lonely nights
It goes without saying that tonight I had a simple and pleasurable meal when I was hungry and felt no need to eat at all. I was having too much fun! 

Weight Loss that Really Works

Yesterday was such a beautiful day, I got my pleasure throughout the day by having a 45 minute lunch break (I nipped out of the office for a sunbed – naughty I know, but it gave my boost). I enjoyed (and I mean really really enjoyed) a Krispy Kreme doughnut for breakfast (!) and bought myself a colourful bunch of flowers and lit a scented candle when I got home. 

I’ve downloaded a load of new music, which is something I haven’t done in a while and decided to walk the 3 miles home through my city. I wanted to move my body – I’ve found the things I am getting most pleasure out of right now are the things which take me out of my mind to relax. 

I loved every minute of it, and could feel my inner self/child/animal/authentic self soaking up all the sounds and sun and fresh air like I'd been on a complete pleasure diet all this time. I just couldn't get enough. 

The light sat beautifully on the buildings – bouncing off brick, reflective metal and streaming over warehouse rooftops, and I felt truly lucky and at peace for the first time in a while.   

When I first started properly adding pleasure to my routine about three weeks ago, my first thought was how much money I’d have to spend or how selfish I would become. The idea to do it seemed impossible – how am I going to add pleasure? I don’t enjoy anything! I don’t find anything pleasurable…
But as the days go on I am actually coming up with more and more ways to find pleasure – what about art, painting, swimming, more movement…? And this is just after 21 days – 7 if you count belief and commitment kicking in as marking the beginning.

I can feel myself changing. Changing to wake up and look forward to life, changing to want to expand and explore my pleasure… changing to become inventive and controller of my own life and destiny. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I’ve actually been just letting life happen to me, for once I feel powerful and in control of my experiences – and that is very strong. 

Oh and the weight I hear you ask? Well, that’s the amazing thing too… half a stone gone. After nearly 2 years of being the same weight. After 2 years of trying to practice CBT methods to control negative thoughts as my main coping strategy, and exploring all methods of losing weight through natural eating and understanding my emotions, I've found the answer is completely the opposite. It's not about changing thought patterns, it's not about years and years of hard work, it's not about punishment. It's about opening ourselves up to pleasure. To loving who we are enough today, just as we are without having to change. 

After just a week of beginning to add in pleasure it has worked mentally and physically faster than anything I have ever done. I’m in awe, and want to learn more about the science behind this – because in terms of calories? I’m eating about the same. It’s just… being received and burned in a different way. It’s like my body has turned into a fat burning, pound melting machine, I’m still able to eat what I want, enjoy it more and do things I truly love doing? It’s like a dream. A very good dream. 

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