Recharge | Refocus | Renew

2016-04-13 08.41.17I’ve just returned from a blissful 4-day break at Ragdale Hall Health Spa in Leicestershire (that’s right in the middle of England for my non-UK friends – around 2.5 hours’ drive from my home, west of London).  I went with my Mother – it’s something we’ve been doing for a few years, to celebrate our birthdays and have a little mother-and-daughter time.  It’s her treat to me – and quite a treat it is!

Birthday flowers came to Ragdale too
Birthday flowers came to Ragdale too
When it comes to health spas, Ragdale Hall is in a league of its own. They have an elegant estate in a beautiful rural setting, a wonderful attitude to customer care, a stupendous array of treatments, a creative and imaginative way with food, and fabulous facilities.  Hard to beat, on every level.

From the moment you pull up at the door and a young man emerges to take your case whilst another valet parks your car, to the moment you leave, there is no detail left unattended. It’s one of those places that looks perfectly sublime on the surface, but you can only imagine what goes on backstage to deliver that calm, professional and infinitely relaxed ambience.

Behind Ragdale in the early morning mist, the fields stretch for miles
Behind Ragdale in the early morning mist, the fields stretch for miles
This year, visiting Ragdale Hall with over 50 fewer fatty pounds on my bones was a truly invigorating experience in a host of new ways. With more energy to spare, I enjoyed a brisk walk and a swim every morning, before blissing-out in the thermal spa. I found the gym! I walked around all day – like everyone else does – in a towelling robe (not previously possible, as the only robe which fitted me last year weighed a ton and left me sweating and uncomfortable). I enjoyed a wonderful dry flotation experience (again, not possible last year, as I exceeded their weight limit for this facility).  I made healthy choices at the generous lunchtime buffets and turned my back on all the yummy desserts – awarding myself many smug-points as I watched others heap their plates.  I was exfoliated, scrubbed, buffed, massaged and aromatherapised until my skin was velvet-smooth and my muscles stretched.  At the gift shop, I bought a bracelet with a magnetic clasp – something I could not have done last year as even my wrists were too big. I slept well.  Yes!  I slept wonderfully well.

Homework - but in a good way
Homework – but in a good way
I took some homework with me, as it seemed an appropriate place to re-focus and plan the next few months and years: The Life Plan by Australian Life Coach, Shannah Kennedy. I read cover-to-cover and begin some of the many exercises designed to help me figure out what I want from my future.  I know… some people think that’s all a bit cranky, but not me. I was a Life Coach for a while, so you shouldn’t be surprised – I do actually practice what I preached! I’ve done this kind of life audit in one form or another three or four times over the years, and it’s always proved worthwhile.  This time, healthy lifestyle is front-and-centre of my priorities.  I boosted my resolve still further by ploughing into Sugar Salt Fat – How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss.

Do I sound a little evangelical about my Ragdale experience and the opportunity it gave me to celebrate my dietary and lifestyle success to date, whilst looking forward to a healthier and more energetic future?  Guilty as charged, m’lud.

I came home relaxed and refreshed (not even the long crawl down the M1 could have disrupted my blissful state), ready for the second half of my healthy weight-loss journey – the next 50 pounds (and more…).

My Singing Ringing Tree in its full glory
My Singing Ringing Tree in its full glory
Back home in the garden, my amelanchier – my beautiful Singing Ringing Tree – had burst into blossom.  It looks perfect in its shower of white flowers, for just a few days, and I’ve occasionally missed it – but not this year.

You can see why I love it and why it feeds my soul, can’t you?

50 Losses – and 50 Gains

2016-02-13 18.30.55This weekend was a memorable one for me, in weight-loss terms. I’ve shaken off 50 pounds since I begun a new healthier lifestyle last September. I still have a long way to go (I’m not quite half-way to my most ambitious goal, since you ask). But at 50 pounds – that’s over 3½ stone or over 22 kilos, depending on your measurement of choice – I’ve just exceeded the most I’ve ever lost on any healthy eating campaign (note the absence of the word ‘diet’) before.

Weirdly, and I don’t want to labour this as it could easily depress me and I don’t want to get depressed… I’m now back to the weight I was when I started the weight loss campaign when I managed to shift what was until yesterday the most I’d ever lost before. But back then (2002) I had crawled to the upper 40’s and couldn’t keep it going.  It all went (excuse the pun) belly-up.  On that occasion, I’d gone to Weightwatchers, and it was good while it lasted. But as soon as I took my eye off the ‘points’ ball, my weight soared back on. Yes, soared back on at a rate which terrified me and which I could not even begin to understand. In all, I put on an average of 1 pound per week over the next 18 months (and then still more thereafter); a catastrophe from which, after several false starts in the mid noughties, I am only now recovering.

But I don’t want to jump aboard the trauma train. The whole point of this post is to mark an achievement, and highlight some of the many, many wins, gains and benefits that I’ve seen from the loss of this first 50 pounds.

So, here they are, in no particular order – all the ones that spring to mind at least:

  1. I’ve dropped 3 dress sizes
  2. I’m wearing ‘old favourite’ outfits that haven’t fitted me for 8 or 10 years
  3. I’m back to the weight I last carried over 14 years ago
  4. My ankles are pretty again, no more heavy, fluid-filled balloons
  5. I’m wearing high heels again and loving the increased stature and well-being
  6. I can go for a walk without pouring with sweat
  7. I’ve discarded a giant pile of ‘fat clothes’ that I hated having to wear
  8. I’m breathing more deeply, not catching my breath
  9. My resting heart rate has dropped over 10 bpm
  10. My nails are unblemished and healthy
  11. I haven’t had a cold all winter
  12. I can bend and touch my toes
  13. I can see my toes!
  14. My waist and once proud hourglass figure is re-emerging
  15. I’m wearing pretty bras again
  16. Yes, I’ll say it, I feel sexy again
  17. I’m standing straighter and taller
  18. When I pull my tummy in, it actually goes in a bit
  19. I like myself because I feel in control of my eating habits
  20. I feel good when I take exercise
  21. I feel good that I take exercise regularly
  22. I feel great when I get home from taking exercise
  23. I’m relishing many compliments from friends, family and colleagues
  24. I’ve surprised one or two people who haven’t seen me in a while – that’s been fun
  25. My feet have shrunk
  26. My boobs have only shrunk a little
  27. Pilates has become more fun again
  28. I can lie on my stomach and still be able to breathe
  29. I’ve rediscovered vegetables, nuts and seeds
  30. I’m looking forward to warm summer days ahead, not fearing discomfort
  31. I’ve eliminated 99% of added sugar from my life – and totally lost my sweet tooth
  32. I’m able to make healthy, balanced choices in restaurants
  33. I can fit into bucket seats without cutting off the blood supply to my legs
  34. I can sit on folding chairs without worrying they will collapse
  35. I won’t need an extender belt next time I fly
  36. I’ve learned to live without… toast
  37. I’ve discovered I can lose weight and still enjoy butter and cheese
  38. I can wear trousers that do up with buttons and a zip
  39. My favourite dressing gown wraps right around me again
  40. Tight toilet cubicles are no longer an embarrassing challenge
  41. I can buy ordinary clothes at Marks & Spencer
  42. I can buy actual sportswear
  43. I have swimming costumes which hold everything that has to stay… held
  44. My neck is slimmer and necklaces sit so much more comfortably and attractively
  45. My fingers are slimmer and I can wear rings I haven’t worn for years
  46. My wrists are slimmer and I can wear watches and bracelets again
  47. My hips no longer ache when I walk
  48. I can run upstairs
  49. I don’t get acid reflux after evening meals
  50. I no longer worry that I’m slowly killing myself

And a bonus ball…

“Hold yourself to a higher standard, and enjoy the self-esteem that comes with each single, small, disciplined act.”   Tony Robbins

… I am indeed enjoying the self-esteem that comes from ‘holding myself to a higher standard’…

What about you.  Are you, or have you ever been on a weight-loss, healthy lifestyle journey? If so, what were the most significant gains for you?