Christmas isn't about what's under the tree, it's about who is around it

This time tomorrow we'll all be knee deep in ripped wrapping paper and a couple of Bucks Fizz down.  Presents will be exchanged, Christmas wishes text, and all the food eaten.

But for most people, there will be someone missing.  Whether it be someone who has passed away, a family member serving in the armed forces, someone working for the emergency services or volunteering their time to help others, or someone who is living in another country.  As we take our time to be thankful for our loved ones with us, we must also spare a thought for those who are without loved ones at this special time of year.

Whilst this has been a mega exciting year for me, it has also been tinged with sadness.  We lost my nana in July so this Christmas will be a strange one for us, especially my dad and grandpa.  Other people close to me have also lost relatives recently, and Christmas will be especially hard for them.

No amount of presents under the tree can make up for the empty chairs around the table on Christmas Day.  I'm sure all those who are missing people this Christmas Day would swap every item wrapped perfectly under their tree to share the day with their loved one.

Then there are those who are working hard to keep us all safe and well-provided for.  Those working as paramedics, police, fire fighters, doctors and nurses, in the armed forces, at restaurants, and more.  So many people take for granted having Christmas off work, finishing on 'Mad Friday' and not returning to work until January.  But many professions do not stop over Christmas and, if anything, are busier than the rest of the year.

Last Christmas, my brother stayed in America and we didn't get to see him.  It was his own fault, so we couldn't feel too sorry for him, but we still missed him greatly on Christmas Day.  This year, however, he managed to keep his passport in tact and is home to spend the festive period with us.  Not seeing him last year reminded me how important family is at Christmas time.

I said last year I felt that the true meaning of Christmas had been lost somehow, with Facebook and Instagram being filled with pictures of piles of presents and hashtags of #luckygirl.  I'm guilty of being materialistic, as I'm sure everyone else is, but last year reminded me it is about more than just presents.

I love giving people presents on Christmas morning and seeing their faces when they open them.  I love spoiling my family and friends.  But presents are just a small part of what Christmas is about.  Christmas is about spending time with family and friends, showing people you love them and remembering those who aren't with us.

For some people, Christmas is the hardest time of year.  I remember one of my teachers at primary school always saying to me that Christmas wasn't always a happy time for some people, and not everyone enjoyed it.  Some people prefer to ignore everything Christmas and keep their heads down until it is all over.  It can be a time that reminds those of pain, loss and heartbreak.

Christmas isn't about what is under the tree, it's about who is around it.

If this week's food diary doesn't convince you Slimming World is the best, I don't know what will!

I'm not quite sure how it happened but I lost 2lbs this week - and when you read my food diary below, you'll understand why I am so shocked.  I said in last week's blog that I wouldn't lose any more weight from then until the new year, with the Christmas party season being well and truly upon us.  And I genuinely thought that would be the case.

Instead, I managed to eat out three times (eating and drinking what I wanted each time) and still lose 2lbs!

A impromptu visit to Frankie and Benny's on Friday saw all my Slimming World beliefs go out the window when I decided I'd have a pizza. I did, however, ask for extra peppers and onion to increase the speeds - but it was futile, let's be honest. I also had a side salad, which was basically a bowl of lettuce.

If that wasn't bad enough, I followed it that evening with a large glass of white wine - right there I thought the wheels had well and truly come off this week.

I stuck to plan as best I could the rest of the week, but I knew it would be hard as we had two meals out on two consecutive days.

I had wine on Sunday with my meal, a mojito on Monday - I was not looking forward to those scales on Wednesday.  But, obviously, my food choices for the rest of my meals were good because I still managed a 2lb loss - taking my total loss to 1st 4.5lbs!!  My BMI is now 24.8 - which is finally back into a 'normal' weight (only just, but I'll take that).

This week I needed to lose 1.5lbs to get my 'Club 10' (which means I've lost 10 per cent of my starting weight).  I didn't think I was going to get it before Christmas, but low and behold I did!

If this week doesn't show how great Slimming World can be, and how you can still eat everything you want and enjoy going out and having a drink, I don't know what does.

I personally don't think the scales were working right, as I'm still in a state of disbelief.

Below is my weight loss progress so far.  Yes, I weighed that much when I started.  Tom told me the other day how much he weighs and, to my horror, when I started Slimming World I weighed more than him!!!!! If I hadn't already started Slimming World, that would have been all the motivation I needed to get there.

The green line is my Club 10 target, the purple is my final personal target

Looking at the graph, I should be at target for around mid-February.  That's obviously presuming I'll continue with the same average weight loss between now and then - which won't happen with Christmas and New Year.  There's also Tom's birthday to come in January.  So it will probably be more March time by the time I reach target.

I know I said this last week, but I definitely won't have a loss this week.

Last night I had three glasses of prosecco (4.5 syns per glass) and a few nibble bits from a buffet, so that's not really a great start.  It's also officially Christmas now, and I'm not going to deprive myself of nice food.  I've done so well in the six weeks I have been going to Slimming World, I can have one week where I have a little gain.  

My friend came round the other night and did my nails and said she's going to follow my food diaries each week to try and lose weight.  I maybe wouldn't recommend following this one, as there must have been some sort of miracle behind my losing weight!

I hope everyone has a lovely, food-filled Christmas and a very merry, boozy New Year!  That's certainly what I will be doing - a whole 1st 4.5lbs lighter than I would have been if I'd not joined Slimming World :)

Week six food diary

Day One

Breakfast: Overnight oats (35g porridge oats [HEB] with fat free natural yoghurt and frozen summer fruits)
Dinner: Chicken and speed salad
Snack: Caramel shortbread (18 syns)
Snack: Apple and pear
Tea: Chicken, lemon and garlic casserole with carrots, green beans and new potatoes.

Day Two:

Breakfast: Overnight oats
Dinner: Homemade SW butternut squash soup
Snack: Apple and pear
Snack: Melon, strawberries, apple, grapes and pomegranate 
Tea: Bruschetta and pizza at Frankie and Benny's (probably about 50-60 syns)
Drink: A large glass of white wine (12 syns)

Day Three:

Breakfast: Apple
Dinner: none
Tea: King Prawns cooked in garlic butter and fresh chilli served with rice and new potatoes

Day Four:

Breakfast: Poached eggs on one slice of wholemeal toast (HEB) with lean, fat free bacon, beans and loads of spinach.
Dinner: Jacket potato with tuna (1 syn for extra light mayo) and sweetcorn and a speed salad.
Tea: Antipasti meats (1/2 a syn per slice, so probably about 8 syns), pasta in tomato sauce with courgette, broccoli, spinach, mushroom and sugar snap peas, and tiramisu (7 syns)
Drink: Two large glasses of rose (18 syns)

Day Five:

Breakfast: Melon
Dinner: Leftover tuna and sweetcorn (1 syn for extra light mayo) with a speed salad
Snack: Cherry tomatoes
Snack: Apple and pear
Tea: Steak with carrots, greens and chips (6 syns)
Drink: Mojito (guessing about 8 syns)

Day Six:

Breakfast: Summer fruits in fat free natural yoghurt
Dinner: Chicken and speed salad
Snack: Apple and pear
Tea: SW easy chicken curry with spicy broccoli and green beans
Snack: 3 Celebrations (6 syns)
Snack: 1 champagne truffle (3 syns)

Day Seven: (weigh day)

Breakfast: Poached eggs with spinach and baked beans
Lunch: Carrot batons, salad, chicken breast and 4 chicken satay sticks (1/2 a syn each)
Snack: Apple and pear

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Show someone you love them this Christmas

A lovely, lovely lady who I once worked with gave me one of the best gifts I've ever received when I left the council - a little bag of happiness.

Sometimes when I'm feeling sad I still dig out the little bag and think of Fran and the love behind her gift. 

Fran and I worked together, just the two of us, for a number of months and, despite my initial intrepidation about working with her, we got on like a house on fire. I'd share my tales of my scandalous weekends, we'd swap animal tales, she'd tell me about her son and granddaughter, we'd talk about tv, and we'd laugh (lots!) 

Fran would give me so much good advice - whether it be about my love life, personal life or professional life. I'll never forget how happy she was when I told her that Tom and I were engaged. 

Today I learned that Fran passed away recently and I was so sad. 

As well as my little bag of happiness, when I left the council Fran also got me a lovely little notebook and a posh Parker pen. The notebook, which I keep on my desk to this day, said on the front 'Wherever you go, go with all your heart'. Every day I look at that notebook and remember Fran telling me to always follow my dreams. 

I never thought I'd be such good friends with someone 42 years older than myself, but me and Fran got on like a house on fire. 

Her passing has reminded me to tell your friends, whether you speak to them regularly or not, that you love them. I'm guilty of being terrible at keeping in touch with people sometimes, as I'm sure we all are. 

Whether it be a group whatsapp message, a note in a Christmas card, or a quick text - Christmas is the time we all make a concerted effort to reach out to our friends that we've not spoken to in a few too many months. 

Fran and I would regularly keep in touch over email. 'Littleweed', as she was known by her friend, would send me updates on her and her health, her family, and her beloved dogs. I've not spoken to her for a few months and was shocked to hear she had passed away. 

It's with that in mind that I am going to set my first New Years resolution - to keep in touch with friends who I don't see all the time better. 

If you're reading this and can relate to some of the points I've raised, send someone you've not spoken to for a while a message. Just a 'hi, how you doing?' Or a 'haven't spoken to you for a while, how's things?' Christmas is about reaching out to those we love and those we've lost touch with. 

Fran will never know how much I appreciated that little bag of happiness she bought me. And I'll forever keep her wise words close to my heart. 

I'm sat here writing about losing weight whilst eating a whopping caramel slice

It's getting tough to stay on the slimming train so close to Christmas, and this week my syns were so flexible that Olympic gymnasts would be proud!  I went well over my syns on three occasions (never done that on a previous week) but managed to stay (pretty much) on track the rest of the week resulting in a 1.5lbs loss this week.

My BMI is now just 0.2 above being classed as "normal" - woo hoo!!

This will definitely be the last week now until after Christmas that I lose any weight - which is understandable, it's Christmas after all! To be perfectly honest with you, as I am sat writing this, I am eating a huge caramel slice topped with white chocolate chips. I have no idea how many syns it contains and I don't feel guilty for eating it.

But, I am going to the gym tonight to try and counter-act it a tad.  Only because I want to make room for all the food I'm going to eat this weekend!

I can stick to this plan any time of year, but not Christmas and New Year.  Christmas wouldn't be Christmas if you didn't eat when you weren't even hungry and drink until there's nothing left.

My only hope is that I don't undo too much of the good work I have already done and end up putting on most of the weight I have lost.

Someone at my group last night said they were going to sack off the SW plan over Christmas and New Year and come back to it in January because she wouldn't be able to do it.  Our consultant asked her how many difficult/naughty meals she would have to face over those two weeks, and the lady worked out it would be five.  Our consultant said, that's 5 meals out of 42 that you can't food optimise - but the other 42 you can.  This is the sort of positive attitude and outlook I am going to try and have.

This week, I am going out to an Italian on Sunday and a snazzy restaurant on Monday.  They will be my only challenging meals this week (bar any sweet temptations at work/home etc).

Then, between Christmas and New Year, it will only really be Christmas Eve (the drink) and Christmas Day (everything) that will be a problem.  Christmas dinner is probably one of the easiest meals to food optimise over Christmas because it's Turkey (free) and veg (free/speed). Obviously the gravy, pigs in blankets and gallon of wine that goes with it are not so great, but it's all about focussing on the good.

I was tempted to also "sack it off" over Christmas, but I'll keep sticking to it best I can. All 21 of my meals a week won't be bad and worthy of "sacking it off", and I don't want to go to group on 30th December and see a huge gain, because that'll ruin my plans for getting trollied on New Year's Eve!

The support I'm getting from my consultant and group leader at the moment is invaluable.  And the fact that group is still running around Christmas and New Year will, I'm sure, help stop me eating so much unnecessarily.

I'm only 1.5lbs away from my 'Club 10' target (which is when I've lost 10% of my starting weight) and I would really love to get that, but I also would love to get it when I know I won't put the weight straight back on again.

And, if the inevitable happens and I do put a bit of weight back on, I am pretty sure I will not be the only one in my group or the country to have put on a few pounds over Christmas.  In my book, you've not enjoyed Christmas well enough if your jeans aren't a bit tight by January.

To keep with tradition, here's this week's food diary (which shows my three naughty days quite clearly!)

Week five's food diary

Day One:

Breakfast: Two apples
Lunch: (Christmas dinner with work!) 1/4 of a bowl of parsnip and chestnut soup; turkey with a tiny pig in blanket (not even bothering working out the syns it was so small), roast potatoes (5 syns), broccoli, cauliflower and gravy (2 syns); and nutmeg creme brûlée (11 syns)
Tea: Little bit of pasta with courgette, peppers, onion, chopped tomatoes, spinach, chilli and garlic and topped with 40g reduced fat cheddar (HEA)

Day Two:

Breakfast: Two apples and a pear
Lunch: Pasta with courgette, peppers, onion, chopped tomatoes, spinach, chilli and garlic topped with 40g reduced fat cheddar (HEA)
Tea: SW bolognese with a huge plate of spinach and a bit of spaghetti
Snack: Dairy Milk (9.5 syns)

Day Three:

Breakfast: Poached eggs on one slice of wholemeal toast (HEB)
Lunch: Two apples and an orange
Tea: Chicken jalfrezi (homemade) with boiled rice, a Co-Op low fat naan bread (5 syns) and four Sharwoods poppadoms (8 syns)
Drink: Two glasses of prosecco (9 syns)

Day Four:

Breakfast: Apple
Lunch: SW crustless quiche with a side salad 
Tea: Chicken jambalaya (SW recipe)

Day Five:

Breakfast: Melon
Lunch: SW crustless quiche with a side salad
Snack: Pear
Tea: Leftover chicken jambalaya

Day Six:

Breakfast: Melon
Snack: Apple
Lunch: SW crustless quiche with a side salad
Snack: Pear
Snack: Greggs white chocolate cookie (19 syns)
Tea: Slow cooked BBQ gammon (SW recipe) with new potatoes

Day Seven:

Breakfast: Melon
Snack: Apple and pear
Lunch: Leftover gammon with lettuce and spinach
Snack: Apple
Tea: Poached eggs on two slices of wholemeal toast (HEB)

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I'm now over a stone lighter than I was four weeks ago!

My fourth week 'anniversary' at Slimming World was marked with a nice bright blue certificate marking my one stone award *chorus of angels singing*

Another 3lbs off this week takes my total loss to 15lbs (1st 1lb)

Despite my continual good losses, my first week was the only week of the four that I knew I had lost weight and went to group feeling confident.  Every other week, as I've said in my blog, I've worried I've had a gain or maintained.  This week was just the same.

This week, I've enjoyed a few more syns than normal after giving in to a few of my chocolate and crisp cravings.  I've never gone over, but I've definitely made the most of those 15 a day on some days.

Despite almost every meal being 100% food optimised, I still had that feeling in the pit of my stomach on Tuesday night/all day Wednesday that I wasn't going to see good results on the scales.  Part of me was worried that last week's shock loss of 4lbs, when I didn't feel like I'd had a great week, would come back and bite me on the backside with this week's results.

I only needed to lose 2lbs this week to get my stone award and I think knowing that, and having that pressure, is why I felt so uneasy.

I was worried that because I've lost 4.5lbs, 3.5lbs, and 4lbs in the previous weeks that 'just 2lbs' meant I would get complacent and let it slide.  There was no worry of that, though.

I think what I need to start remembering is that Slimming World isn't a strict 'you can't eat this, and you can't eat that' diet.  I can still eat chocolate and crisps (as you'll see by my food diary below) and enjoy a whopping big pork sandwich with apple sauce and stuffing.  As long as I stick to plan and remember what is good, and fill my plate with that as much as possible, I'll be laughing all the way to the scales.

I honestly never thought Slimming World would be this easy and this good.  The last two weeks have almost been like 'normal' weeks, before I joined.  I've enjoyed wine, prosecco, chocolate brownies, a trip to Kitchen, Wagamama, chocolates, I have an advent calendar, crisps... And the weight is still dropping off!

With Christmas round the corner, I'd like to continue losing up until then so that I can enjoy myself and still be far lighter than I was in November.

Week Four's food diary

Day One:

Breakfast: Overnight oats (30g porridge oats [HEB], dollops of fat free fromage frais, and loads of frozen berries - redcurrants, blueberries, strawberries, and blackcurrants)
Lunch: Leftover SW chicken jambalaya with lettuce, spinach, rocket and watercress
Snack: Two-finger Kit Kat (5.5 syns)
Tea: SW spaghetti carbonara (40g reduced fat cheddar as HEA)
Snack: Crunchie (7.5 syns)

Day Two:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with passata and tomatoes.
Snack: Apple
Lunch: Homemade SW butternut squash soup
Tea: Leftover SW chicken jamabalaya with lettuce, spinach, rocket and watercress
Snack: Two satsumas
Snack: Three cadbury Roses (7.5 syns)

Day Three:

Breakfast: Two poached eggs, three rashers of bacon, half a tin of baked beans and loads of spinach.
Lunch: Homemade SW butternut squash soup
Snack: Walkers french fries (4.5 syns)
Tea: Turkey meatballs with ratatouille

Day Four:

Breakfast: Melon
Lunch: Pork sandwich with apple sauce and stuffing (11.5 syns for large white bread cake, not sure about the condiments)
Tea: SW pork and apple casserole with carrots, green beans and broccoli
Snack: Mini Milk (1.5 syns)

Day Five:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with one third of a tin of chopped tomatoes, half a red pepper and half a yellow pepper.
Lunch: Leftover SW pork and apple casserole with leftover ratatouille
Snack: An apple and a pear
Tea: Tuna salad (on tin of tuna mixed with one teaspoon of extra light mayo [1.5 syns] and lettuce, spinach, and peppers.)
Snack: Walkers french fries (4.5 syns)

Day Six:

Breakfast: Melon
Lunch: Homemade SW butternut squash soup
Snack: Walkers french fries (4.5 syns)
Snack: Pear
Tea: SW cottage pie (40g of reduced fat cheddar as HEA) with carrots, green beans and broccoli.

Day Seven:

Breakfast: Four-egg omelette with half a yellow, half a red and half an orange pepper and one tomato and two mini Babybel light (HEA).
Lunch: Salad with chicken breast (lettuce, spinach and other half of peppers had at breakfast)
Snack: Walkers french fries (4.5 syns)
Snack: Two apples and a pear
*was weighed before tea as I had to go to the earlier group tonight but I had a jacket potato with tuna mayo (1.5 syns for extra light mayo)

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How to eat chocolate brownie, drink prosecco, and eat out whilst still losing 4lbs in a week

Just when I thought I couldn't love Slimming World any more, this week happened!

Once again, I thought I was going to have gained weight this week when I stepped onto the scales last night.  I went prepared - I was wearing a dress and thin tights (and a chunky jumper so I didn't freeze which I whipped off for weigh-in).

Whilst I've had a fairly good week I have had a few more syns than previous weeks on more days.  Of course, I know you're allowed between 5 and 15 syns a day, but my self-control is shocking and if I start on something (chocolate, biscuits etc) I won't stop and then I'll eat it everyday.

For the first time since starting at Slimming World I've had a few glasses of wine/prosecco.  I've also accidentally stumbled on unknown syns.

I love raisins and sultanas and, whilst I was making a dessert on Sunday, I was stuffing them in my mouth, not realising how high in syns they are!

Then there was Monday when we went to Kitchen. I resisted all the amazing breads etc. and had a salad (which was beaut, don't get me wrong). I couldn't resist a cake, though, and had a huge brownie later that night.

On Wednesday, we went to Meadowhall and went to Wagamama at lunch. I thought I was being good with my choice but when I looked on the Slimming World app I found out it wasn't so good.

All those teamed together, I thought spelt disaster.

What I didn't realise was how good I'd been every other meal and had food optimised at every other opportunity, culminating in a 4lb weight loss.

Four frigging pounds!!!!

That's 12lbs in just three weeks.

If someone would have told me when I started on 11th November that I would be 12lbs lighter by December I would've laughed in their face.

This week, if I lose two pounds, I will get my stone award.  A stone in four weeks - I literally never thought it was possible to do whilst still eating everything I love. This last week I still ate cake, had crisps and enjoyed a few glasses of wine.  And I still managed to lose 4lbs!!

I hope it's not a delayed reaction which will catch up on me next week when I least expect it!

Not only did I lose a whopping 4lbs this week, I also got Slimmer of the Week in my group!! I was chuffed!

It's now stuck on the fridge alongside my half a stone award, reminding me all the time why I am doing this.

By Christmas I am hoping to have lost a few more pounds, so I can enjoy the festive season and still be slimmer and lighter than when I started in November.

I've had this week off work so have been getting myself prepared food-wise.  I find, some nights, when I go to the gym after work and don't get in until 7ish that I can't be bothered to cook a good, healthy meal from scratch. By the time I've had a showed and washed my hair it's getting on for half 7. With Tom being later home now, too, he's tired and can't be bothered either.

So I've capitalised having this week off and have made a SW curry, three teas worth of SW bolognaise, and two SW cottage pies all for the freezer.

So those nights when I come in and would be tempted to have a toastie or a pizza or something quick and easy (aka naughty) I now can reach into the freezer and still have something SW friendly.

I'm so determined to crack on this next week and get that one stone award next Wednesday! Some of the meals on this week's menu are... SW spaghetti carbonara, turkey meatballs with ratatouille, and SW pork and apple casserole.

This has become a weekly thing now, so no doubt I'll be back next Thursday to update you with how I've got on (hopefully with my one stone award in tow!)

Week  Three's food diary:

Day One:

Breakfast: Three poached eggs with a tin of baked beans and one slice of wholemeal toast (HEB)
Snack: Apple
Dinner: Salad - lettuce, rocket, watercress, spinach, peppers and tuna with chicken breast
Snack: Bag of Walkers French Fries (4.5 syns)
Snack: Pear
Tea: Cottage pie (SW recipe) with carrots and broccoli (40g of reduced fat cheddar on cottage pie was my HEA)

Day Two:

Breakfast: Melon
Dinner: Salad - lettuce, rocket, watercress, spinach, peppers and tuna with one teaspoon of extra light mayo (1 syn)
Snack: Bag of Walkers French Fries (4.5 syns)
Snack: Apple
Tea: Pork, chilli and garlic meatballs with ratatouille 
Snack: Pear

Day Three:

Breakfast: Two eggs scrambled with 200g of passata with onion and garlic, half a chopped red peppers, half a chopped yellow pepper and half a red onion with one slice of wholemeal toast (HEB)
Snack: An apple and a pear
Tea: Sweet chilli chicken (SW recipe) with rice, asparagus, broccoli and spinach, rocket and watercress.
Drinks: Two glasses of prosecco (4.5 syns per glass)

Day Four:

Breakfast: Two poached eggs, two rashers of lean bacon, half a tin of baked beans and one slice of wholemeal toast (HEB)
Snack: Lettuce, spinach
Snack: Apple and pear
Tea: Caribbean pepperpot stew (SW recipe)
Pudding: Apple Betty (SW recipe) - 3 syns
Drink: One small glass of white wine (4.5 syns)
Snack: Sultanas - I don't know how many so I don't know how many syns. I was snacking on these while making the Apple Betty thinking they were fine only to then discover they're full of syns *SOB*

Day Five:

Breakfast: Melon
Lunch: Chicken salad at Kitchen in Howden with a little pot of white bread (6 syns) 
Snack: A pear
Tea: Chicken breast with passata with onion and garlic, half a yellow and half a red pepper, garlic, one red chilli and one green chilli and salad (watercress, spinach, rocket)
Pudding: A brownie from Kitchen (16 syns)

Day Six:

Breakfast: Apple and a pear
Lunch: Four egg omelette with half a red and half a yellow pepper, half a red onion and two mini babybel lights (HEA)
Snack: Pear
Tea: Chicken jambalaya (SW recipe) with lettuce, spinach, rocket and watercress.

Day Seven: (weigh day)

Breakfast: Two apples and a pear
Lunch: Wagamama - Teriyaki Chicken Donburi (14.5 syns) and King Prawn lollipops (5 syns per serving)
Snack: Pear


I've shed 8lbs in just two weeks thanks to Slimming World

I was SO convinced this week I was going either gain weight or maintain let week's.  I had such a good first week with my 4.5lbs loss that I thought I'd get complacent and fall down this week.  Especially as we were out for an Indian on Friday night then out for a meal for my dad's birthday on Saturday.

I did some damage limitation when eating out on Friday, not so much Saturday, which clearly paid off as I lost 3.5lbs this week! Wooo!

Before going out for the Indian on Friday, I flicked through my SW book and found the Indian dish with the least syns. I'd never tried it before so was worried incase I didn't like it.  Without fail, I have a chicken balti every time we have an Indian.  As sure as the sun will rise in a morning, is that I will pick a chicken balti.  So had Tom not known why I was straying from my usual staple, I think he'd have worried I'd been swapped!

I had two poppadoms (4 syns each) and my chicken dhansak (10.5 syns for 500g) with boiled rice (free).  However, I was quite full after my poppadoms so only ate about half of the rice and picked the chicken out of the sauce.  So I'm sure it will have been lower than 10.5 syns for the dhansak (I went for 7 as a guess).  Good news, though, I loved the dish and will definitely be having it again!

Then, on Saturday, we went to a new restaurant in Selby (which was amazing). I was worried about what I could have here which wouldn't send my syns through the roof. I had belly pork for starter (but didn't eat the fatty bit), chicken breast with veggies and stuffing for main, and a chocolate tart for dessert.

The rest of the week I was quite strict - I kept my syns down and my speed foods and protein as high as possible.

I've definitely noticed I am not as hungry as I was, although I did have a few cravings for chocolate this week which were hard to fight off.  I knew if I had one bit, I'd crumble and eat every bit of chocolate in the house.  So, I stayed strong and reached for my go-to fruit when a sweet craving kicks in - a pear.  I've always liked pears but since doing SW I eat them all the time.  If I am having a chocolate craving, or want a biscuit or some sweets, I have a pear and it straight away eases the want for sweet things. It's also a speed food, which is even better!

I've got my half a stone award now and, in just two weeks, have lost a whopping 8lbs! I was a bit sceptical when I first started as to whether I would lose much weight and how well it would work, but it's going swimmingly so far.  I just hope I can keep it up!

I'm still loving going to group as well, I'm not sure I'd be as motivated if I didn't go there.

I don't have any curveballs in this week's plan - no meals out or tricky days.  I do, however, have next week off work - so I'll have loads of time to make loads of SW recipes for the freezer.  Tom has started his new job now and isn't home until just before 7. Those nights when I'm at the gym straight from work I find it hard to find the motivation to cook a good meal then and not just reach for something quick and easy (and bad!)

My aim now is to lose my next half a stone before Christmas and be a whole stone lighter (and almost half way towards target) than I was when I started.  With just four weeks until Christmas I only need to lose 1.5lbs a week up until the big day.

I've got this!

My food diary for week two.

Day One:

Breakfast: Three eggs scrambled with half a tin of chopped tomatoes, some spinach and half a green pepper chopped
Lunch: A jacket potato with tuna mayo (1 syn for extra light mayo)
Snack: An apple and a pear
Tea: Chicken and vegetable pasta (chopped tomatoes, passata, one courgette, two garlic cloves, a red chilli, spinach, one yellow pepper and two tomatoes)
Snack: One pear

Day Two:

Breakfast: Melon
Lunch: Leftover pasta from last night's tea with a big pile of lettuce and spinach
Snack: An apple and a pear
Tea: Two poppadoms (4 syns each), boiled rice and chicken dhansak (7 syns)

Day Three:

Breakfast: Two eggs poached, two rashers of lean bacon, half a tin of baked beans, some spinach and one slice of wholemeal toast (HEB)
Lunch: Leftover pasta from Thursday with lettuce
Snack: An apple
Tea: Belly pork to start (2.5 syns), Chicken breast for main with leeks, beetroot, celery, apple and other greens (there was a tiny bit of creamy sauce and some butter on the greens, but I don't know the syns for these), and a chocolate tart for dessert (8 syns).

Day Four:

Breakfast: Two eggs poached, half a tin of baked beans, one slice of wholemeal toast (HEB) and some spinach
Lunch: An omelette made with three eggs, tomato, onion, red onion, yellow pepper and three mini Babybels (HEA).
Tea: Roast chicken with carrots, broccoli and green beans.
Snack: Cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants and blackberries with 100g of natural yoghurt.

Day Five:

Breakfast: Melon
Lunch: Salad (lettuce, spinach, red onion, white onion, yellow pepper, tomato)
Snack: An apple and a pear
Tea: Jerk chicken skewers (SW recipe) with roasted vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, red onion, and courgette) - these were sensational! Probably one of my favourite SW recipes so far!

Day Six:

Breakfast: Three poached eggs with half a tin of baked beans
Lunch: Half a tin of baked beans on one slice of wholemeal toast (HEB)
Snack: An apple and a pear
Tea: Easy chicken curry with spicy broccoli and green beans (SW recipe) - also amazing!

Day Seven:

Breakfast: Three eggs scrambled with half a red pepper, half a green pepper, and 200g of passata with onions and garlic.
Lunch: Salad - lettuce, spinach, other half of red and green pepper, and a tomato.
Snack: An apple and a pear
Tea: Homemade turkey burgers (SW recipe) with a big ass salad (lettuce, carrot, beetroot, sweetcorn, and peppers)

You may also like: Why I've ditched the 'quick fixes' and joined Slimming World


Airbrushed images are unachievable and unrealistic, as we were all reminded this week

Like every year, once those jungle drums start on ITV I am glued to my sofa for three weeks to watch the trials, tribulations and tiffs on I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!

When the new additions were added in last night's episode, I sat admiring Spencer Matthews' toned physique when he whipped his top off after the trial.  I also clocked Ferne and Vicky's svelte, toned figures.

The pair of them looked incredible - normal, healthy, pretty girls.  But something was wrong.  The images plastered around in the media of the pair show them toned and tiny.  Something that didn't come across as strong on television.  Then this picture started doing the rounds and I got really cross.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Vicky and Ferne's bodies in the picture on the left.  Nor on the right, other than the fact it has been airbrushed.

The problem with the culture we live in is that women feel like they have to strive for the bodies on the right.  The bodies that even these two women, who have personal trainers coming out of their ears and the money to pay for all the sessions under the sun, don't really have.

These images were shared on the Daily Mail website ahead of Vicky's arrival into the jungle.  They show her wearing the same bikini and the above collage, yet she looks noticeably slimmer, more toned, and airbrushed.

I get that the light isn't all too flattering in the photo of Ferne and Vicky, and the quality is a bit grainy, but there is a noticeable difference.  And that is airbrushing.  Which begs the question - WHY?! Especially when they look perfectly good as they are!

Airbrushing is naughty and has always grated on me.  It's no wonder women, and men, have body confidence issues when we are fed these 'perfect' images.  All seeing them does is make women feel bad that they don't look like that.

It encourages faddy diets and everyone to seek a quick fix.  I should know, I've been there!  I've tried all the quick fixes under the sun to try and lose some weight and look like those images on the right.  And the closest I got? The picture on the left.  Why?  Because that's what is achievable and normal!

What is wrong with the world just accepting women for how they really look?  Why should images be airbrushed to fit in with this 'perfect', unachievable image?

I also saw this comparison floating around social media recently, with people asking which 'looked better'.

I've no doubt there will have been some airbrushing that went into the Victoria's Secret poster, but from watching their famous fashion shows, most of the models don't look too different to that image.

Most of the Victoria's Secrets models, and models in general, are naturally like that - you have no idea how much it pains me to say that.  Of course, there are those models who really are not well, but the majority are blessed with a slim, slender, model-like figure.

Kendall Jenner is a fine example.  She is really slim and toned - yet eats loads. I've seen her on KUWTK chowing down on a burger, pizza, chocolate, cakes...

Some people are just lucky.  Bastards.

But to airbrush a photo of someone and photoshop them to make them look 'better' is not right.  And to ask people to 'rate' which body shape is 'better' or 'more attractive' is barbaric.  We're not pieces of meat that you rate in the supermarket while deciding which one to buy.

Women should be proud of their bodies.  Whether they are curvy, flat, thin, or fat.  Whether they have wobbly bits, bony bits, a mole or a scar.  Women should support each other and stop body shaming or competing with each other.  We are who we are, and being mean to each other won't help us achieve that 'goal body' any quicker.

As that famous Mean Girls quote says: "Calling somebody else fat won't make you any skinnier."


And the media shouldn't encourage that to be commonplace by creating unrealistic images of what is 'perfect'.

I hope Ferne, Vicky, Jorgie and the rest of the women in the jungle continue to show off their bodies for all the women and young girls out there to see that is what these girls really look like.  And to realise there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  The images that are airbrushed are where the problem lies.

You may also like: 'The Gap' vs a chocolate digestive

Tom and I are finally going to be like a normal couple after today

After 18 months of working together in the same office, Tom and I will finally start a 'normal' relationship after today and only see each other on evenings and weekends.  Yes, the day many thought would come much sooner - we will no longer be working together.

If we had a pound for every time someone asked us how me manage to work together and live together, or how we don't kill each other spending so much time together, I don't think either of us would need to work for a while.

I'm not sure myself how it's worked, if I'm honest.  Tom and I started seeing each other about six weeks before I got the job at Selby Times, and we spent the first five months of my employment keeping us being together a secret.

When we first started messaging again we did the whole 'where are you working?' conversation and Tom said he was at Selby Times.  Immediately, alarm bells started ringing as I had literally, that afternoon, applied for a job there. 'Shit', I thought, 'he's going to think I'm a right stalker!'  But, little did I know, me getting an interview would be the reason we would end up together.

September 2015 we got to enjoy the O2 Media Awards together as our work team were nominated for Team of the Year (Print) 

I'll just share this little tale with you so you understand what I mean...

When Tom and I first became friends on Facebook (and after he inundated me with pokes for months) he spent weeks, probably months actually, trying to get me to go on a date with him, or to meet up with him.  Whether it be going to the cinema, going round to his, going for a drink - he tried everything.  And each time, I found an excuse to say no.  I'm not really sure why he kept pursuing me to be honest, I was brutal!

Then, when we both went off to university, we lost touch.  Come April 2014, after we both swiped the right way on Tinder, we got to talking again and exchanged loads of messages catching up with each other.  It was then that the Selby Times bombshell was dropped.  'There is no way we can be romantically involved if we will be working together,' I thought.  

Tom said he would come round to mine the night before my interview to help me prep and tell me all the things to say that would make them want to hire me, so it was set.  He found a way to see me without me making an excuse!  Although, to me, it was completely platonic.  When he came round, I made sure I looked absolutely shocking.  I had wet hair, no make-up, and a mint green onesie on (a look he still remembers to this day, whether that be good or bad!)  We talked my interview and had a catch up, then Tom left.  

The next day, after I found out I didn't get the job, I was really sad.  Tom said he would take me out at the weekend to cheer me up.  I contemplated finding an excuse but decided I really liked spending time with him when he came round, and since we weren't going to work together it wouldn't matter if we started seeing each other.  We went on a few dates and started seeing a lot more of each other, and everything was great.  Then, in June, found out I had a job at the Selby Times.

We kept our relationship a secret at first, so that one of us wouldn't get moved office, and from June 2014 worked together every day up until today.

Spending so much time with someone, anyone else, and I would want to kill them.  I'm a people person, but there's only so much I can take of one person before I need a break.  With Tom, I never felt that.  Since we moved in together properly last December, we've spent pretty much every single day together.  I don't think I could spend that much time with anyone else.

One of my favourite photos - Tom creeping on Rebecca Adlington at the opening of Selby Leisure Centre
Today is a day of mixed emotions for me.

The work Nat is super sad that her partner (in literally every sense of the word) is leaving her side after being her go-to guy for help, advice and things she doesn't understand since day one.  But home Nat is ridiculously happy and proud of her fiancé for following his dream of working for the national press.

Of course, there are advantages to us no longer working together.  Mainly that we can have time off together.  We've been so lucky whilst working together to have an amazing boss, who tried wherever possible to get us days off (and even a whole week in the summer!) But it will be nice to know that we can both use all four weeks of our holiday to do something together.

Tom, you make me so proud every single day when I watch you work.  We are polar opposites when it comes to work style and the type of reporter that we are, but I admire you every single day for what you do and how you do it.  I will miss getting the chance to see you work your magic every day, but I know you are going to do great.  I am so immensely proud of you for this and can't wait for the day you get your first national byline.  There will be a big hole left at the Selby Times but, luckily for me, I still get to share your achievements and experiences when we get home.

Your colleagues at the Selby Times and Goole Times will really miss you.


Why I've ditched the quick fixes and joined Slimming World

After months of moaning about how much weight I've put on and feeling unhappy with my body, last week I finally bit the bullet and joined Slimming World.

I've tried loads of 'quick fixes' before - shakes, drinks and pills - whether it be Bootea, Skinny Medical or ActiDerm shreds/wraps.  Those were fine to lose weight quickly, but give it a week or two and I was straight back to where I was before.  Whilst they provided great short-term results, they weren't the lasting solution I wanted.

My cousin has been doing Slimming World for a few months now and has seen the weight drop off her.  She often posts on Facebook how much she's lost or shares photos of food which doesn't look like your typical 'diet' food. She looks amazing now and was definitely my motivation to go for it and give it a try myself (Thanks Leanne! x)

As I walked into the group last week I felt sick to my stomach with nerves.  I felt totally out of my comfort zone and even a bit shy which, those who know me will know, is not like me at all!  But once it all started I felt totally relaxed.  Everyone was so kind and supportive and I could tell I was going to enjoy going to group.

My first day of 'food optimising' and I was a bit daunted by the whole thing.  Working out meals and syns and free foods and healthy extras made my mind boggle but, after sitting down and reading the book thoroughly, I soon understood - and I was determined to kick off my first week well.  What it took me a day or so to understand, though, was that I'm not on a diet.  I can still eat pretty much everything I did before!  It's all about food optimising (but I won't go into all that now!)

Everyone I have told that I have started Slimming World has all said the same thing: "why?" or "what for?"  Whilst that is a bit of a compliment, as people obviously don't think I need to lose weight, it did make me wonder whether people were just being nice or whether I really have imagined how much weight I've put on. (I definitely haven't, FYI - the scales never lie!)  I've felt so uncomfortable and so flabby the last few months and, when my clothes started to get too tight or to not fit, I knew it wasn't in my head.  Tom, bless him, said he'd not been able to tell any difference - but I could.

I joined Slimming World because I want to lose the flab and the big, wobbly belly, slim down a bit, and feel happy in myself again.  I want to be able to wear skinny jeans again (and fit back into some pairs that I've outgrown *sob*) without worrying about a huge basket of muffin tops hanging over the top.  I want to be able to feel confident wearing a high waisted skirt and a crop top again (maybe not in this cold weather, mind). I want to feel happy and confident in myself again, and I can already tell Slimming World is the way to help that.

I've set my target to lose two and a half stone, which will take me back to where I was last summer.

Last night was my first weigh-in and in my first week I lost 4.5lbs! It might not sound like a lot, but I can already tell a difference.  Besides, it's a marathon not a sprint.

I wasn't expecting my body to change so dramatically in just one week.  I could notice a difference by Tuesday (day six) when I wore the same trousers that I'd worn the previous Wednesday on my first weigh-in.  When I first bought said trousers, I couldn't wear them without a belt as they dropped down all the time.  Just before I started Slimming World, they were quite snug (the belt was long gone!)  Now, they're back to dropping down again - in a matter of days!!

I really wish I had measured myself (hips, belly, chest etc) before I started so I could really see how much I'd lost, but never mind.

 If I lose just 2.5lbs this week, I'll get my half a stone award next week.  This next week will be tough as we're off for an Indian for Tom's leaving do tomorrow night and out for a meal for my dad's birthday on Saturday, but I am so determined to get that first half a stone shifted and be one fifth of the way towards my target.  I've already chosen what I can have at the Indian by working it out on my syns calculator (Saturday will be much more difficult, though!)

Here's my food diary from last week so you can see how easy it was! I was quite strict and some days didn't have as many syns as I could have had or as many adventurous meals (I was still learning the ropes and getting to grips with everything!)

Day One

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with one third of a tin of chopped tomatoes and chopped red and yellow peppers.
Dinner: Tuna and salad (lettuce, spinach, peppers)
Snack: Apple
Tea: Grilled chicken breast with broccoli and carrot and parsnip 'chips'
Snack: Mini Twister lolly (2 syns)

Day Two

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with one third of a tin of chopped tomatoes and chopped red and yellow peppers.
Dinner: A tin of baked beans on wholemeal toast (HEB) with two mini Babybel lights (HEA) grated and sprinkled on top.
Snack: Apple and a pear
Snack: A small slice of caterpillar cake (8 syns) [there's always cake at work :( haha]
Tea: 'Pizza topped chicken' (SW recipe - chicken breast topped with chopped tomatoes, garlic, red onion and peppers with 25g of reduced fat mozzarella (2.5 syns)

Day Three

Breakfast: Two poached eggs on wholemeal toast (HEB) with half a tin of baked beans.
Dinner: A jacket potato with tuna mayo (1 syn for extra light mayo) and side salad
Snack: Apple
Tea: Bacon Double Cheeseburger (SW recipe - less than 5% fat beef mince with onions made into burgers and grilled on George Forman, two Dairylea light cheese slices (HEA) and lean back bacon with all fat cut off.)
Snack: 100g of vanilla ice-cream (8 syns) with Sweet Freedom chocolate sauce (2 syns)

Day Four

Breakfast: Two eggs scrambled with one third of a tin of chopped tomatoes, two rashers of lean bacon, and two slices of wholemeal toast (HEB).
Dinner: Jacket potato with half a tin of baked beans, 40g low fat mozzarella (HEA) and salad.
Snack: Apple and pear.
Tea: Caribbean Pepperpot Stew (SW recipe - Lean stewing beef, sweet potato, passata, green beans, garlic, and peppers.)
Snack: Stawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, blackberries and blueberries with 100g of fat free natural yoghurt 

Day Five

Breakfast: Two poached eggs with half a tin of baked beans on wholemeal toast (HEB).
Lunch: Leftover stew from last night's tea
Snack: Apple and pear
Tea: Chicken supreme (SW recipe - one chicken breast, two lean rashers of bacon, quark, onion, mushrooms and garlic.)
Snack: One fondant fancy (5 syns)
Drink: 250ml of milk (HEA)

Day Six

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs on toast (HEB) with one third of a tin of chopped tomatoes and chopped green pepper.
Dinner: Tuna and salad
Tea: Cheesy Broccoli Bake (SW recipe - broccoli, onions, tomatoes, fat free cottage cheese and reduced fat cheddar (HEA) served with carrots, sweetcorn and peas.)
Snack: Mini Milk lolly (1.5 syns)

Day Seven

Breakfast: Three poached eggs on wholemeal toast (HEB) with a whole tin of beans.
Dinner: Homemade leek and potato soup
Tea: Cottage pie (SW recipe - mince, kale, passata, garlic, onion, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, passata, fat free natural yoghurt, cheddar cheese (HEA) and mashed potato served with carrots.

On next week's menu (aside from the eating out) is a roast chicken Sunday dinner, Jerk chicken skewers (SW recipe), chicken curry with spicy broccoli and green beans (SW recipe), and a chicken and veggie pasta bake.

Wish me luck!


Apparently, a tampon is more of a luxury than a pitta bread.

The affectionately known 'tampon tax' is something that has rattled me for ages.  I've never quite understood why sanitary towels and tampons are deemed to be a "luxury".

Yet, as one Labour MP explained in Parliament recently, there are quite a few discrepancies over what are deemed luxuries and necessities.  Razor blades, jaffa cakes and even pitta breads are zero rated, thus deeming them more of a "necessity" than tampons or sanitary towels.

I'm sorry, but when Mother Nature makes her monthly visit to me I would deem a tampon far more of a necessity than a pitta bread (maybe not more than a jaffa cake - you know, chocolate and all that!)  What use is a bloody pitta bread?! You can't even make a proper sandwich out of it!

Yet these "necessities" - which are clearly more of a treat - are deemed more of an essential to our lives than a tampon?

My point is, to women, tampons and sanitary towels are among the most essential of items.  They're right up there with a bra - and even a bra isn't essential at night like a tampon or pad is!

Surely the only reason we are being taxed on them is because the government recognise their necessity to women and know they can always make money from it?  It's not like taxes on cigarettes or alcohol where sales will often fluctuate depending on time of year or big sporting occasion - the sales of tampons and sanitary items will be constant because women always need them.

If the tampon tax is to stay, then surely a tax should be added to a "luxury" male item - such as hair gel or razor blades.  After all, adding loads of product to your quiff is far more of a "luxury" than ensuring we don't see blood flowing freely from our nether regions every month.

Whatever will be next - will we be taxed on deodorant or shampoo because it's deemed luxury?  These items ensure that we all keep ourselves hygienic - which is exactly the purpose of tampons and sanitary towels.

I'm not one to harp on usually about gender inequalities etc, and it pains me a little bit to say it, but this is a glaring example of how women can be the victims of an unequal society.

If tampons or sanitary towels really were a "luxury", then only a handful of women would use them.  The rest would get by.  I'd consider Fox's biscuits a luxury - I'll only buy them when they're on offer.  This is what the attitude towards tampons and sanitary towels would be.  But it's not.  Do you know why?  Because it would be obvious!  And no woman in the world wants everyone to know when she's on her period.  Making these little saviours an absolute necessity.  For not only our personal hygiene but for our personal lives.


A special #ThrowbackThursday - a look at the last decade

As I approach my 24th birthday (I thought that was so old when I was little!) I've taken a little trip down memory lane at my birthday celebrations from the past decade.  Right back to the days where, before your friends came for a sleepover, your mum had to ring their mum to ask if they were allowed some 'alcopops' whilst they were round and, if so, how many.

As I trawled through the many albums of photos on my Facebook I came across some absolute horrors.  I'm sure we all think the same when looking at old pictures - what were we thinking?!

Apologies in advance for the old/embarrassing pictures that I have unearthed but it's always nice to look back and remember how far we have all come!  From braces, glasses, bad foundation and acne (and that's just me!) to where we are today, ten years on.

14th birthday - 2005

If I remember rightly, my 14th birthday was a girly sleepover at my house.  Mum and dad took my brother and his friends to the cinema and I was under strict instructions not to invite loads of people round and trash the house (mum and dad even got the neighbours to sit watching the house all night to make sure that nobody else came round!)

At 14 I had my first boyfriend, I had shed the 'geek' look a little and I finally had a group of girl friends.

We ate pizza and sweets, watched girly films, and were allowed two WKDs or Smirnoff Ice's each - rock and roll!

**2005 was well before Facebook so unfortunately all those photos from that night are lost forever on my old MySpace, Bebo and Piczo pages. Good news for the girls that were there, though!**

15th birthday - 2006

My 15th birthday was a big party - the first time I'd had a party for all my friends from school that wasn't a bouncy castle and chicken nuggets and chips in knock-off 'Happy Meal' boxes at Abbey Leisure Centre!

 It was supposed to be a joint party with my best friend at the time but, in true teenage girl style, we fell out and ended up having two separate parties.  I couldn't even tell you what we fell out about now, which makes me sad.  We even bought matching dresses to wear to our joint party - which we both then wore to our individual parties - so it wasn't all doom and gloom!

16th birthday - 2007

My 16th was another party but this time much smaller and at my house (in the garage to be precise).  Mum and dad put a little gazebo on the drive and put all twinkly lights in it - it was really cute actually. The only problem?  My birthday is October so it was absolutely freezing!

I powered through for so long before resorting to my pyjamas and one of the boy's hoodies!

17th birthday - 2008

I didn't have a party for my 17th, instead me and a group of my friends went to an Italian restaurant in town for a meal.  I remember feeling so grown up going out for a sophisticated birthday meal.

We tried to pretend it was my 18th birthday so that we could get some alcohol and go out in town afterwards (I even had an 18 badge) but I don't recall that working out all too well for us!

18th birthday - 2009

My 18th birthday was absolutely amazing!  I had a huge party at the pub in Drax and a massive marquee outside all decorated with lights and banners and glitter.

I decided I wanted a theme so that I could wear the complete opposite and stand out from everyone else.  I loved that everyone stuck to the theme (pink and black) with some going to a massive effort to stick to it.

The pub and marquee were packed all night and so many people came that the pub took more money on my birthday night than it had in the previous three months combined!!

19th birthday - 2010

My 19th birthday fell on the last night of our freshers.  And, my god, did I handle it badly.

It was my first birthday away from home and, being a little sensitive soul, I was so emotional all night.  I was also a little intoxicated, which I don't think helped proceedings.

I spent all night crying and drinking and crying some more, then drinking some more.

What I remember from the night, it wasn't my favourite birthday...!

20th birthday - 2011

A much calmer, classier affair, my 20th birthday was a meal out with my uni friends at an all you can eat buffet (helloooo) and a meal with my family.  No drunken debauchery or tears, just smiles and loads of food.

21st birthday - 2012

My 21st fell midweek which, to the full-time worker, is soul destroying but, to a student, is the best!  It was on a Wednesday which just so happened to be our favourite night out at the union - a cheesy 90s and 00s pop night.

We had all my friends round for pre-drinks before heading out and, according to the pictures, stealing sunglasses from people.

Then at the weekend I went home and celebrated with a family party and another night out with home friends.

22nd birthday - 2013

My first birthday post-uni and I wasn't ready to grow up just yet!  So off we went on a very drunken night out in York! 

23rd birthday - 2014

Last year's birthday was a much classier affair.

Me and mum went for lunch with my auntie:

I had a meal with mum, dad and Tom where mum presented her masterpiece for the year (she always makes me incredible cakes for my birthday!)

 And my and Tom went for a very posh meal at a restaurant in Leeds:

24th birthday - 2 days away

Looking back over the last ten years' birthdays have made me feel very nostalgic but also terrified at how fast time has gone.  Which leads me nicely into yesterday's post about how fast time is going.


The speed of time is always the same, yet it's never the speed we want

Every single day I find myself saying 'I can't believe that was x amount of years ago!'.  Most recently, thanks to my Timehop and 'On This Day' on Facebook, I'm reminded that I started university a whole five years ago.  FIVE YEARS AGO!

Each day, I'm greeted with photos of a fresh-faced 18-year-old enjoying freshers and settling into university life.  Fast forward five years and I now get up for work at the time I going to bed, and am going to bed at the time I was going out.  I can't function without at least eight hours sleep and hangovers tend to now stick around for at least a whole day.  There'd be no chance of me being able to manage a shift at work, lectures/seminars and a spin class on a hangover now.

When I started college (which I still can't believe was seven years ago!) one of my tutors said to me that time is man-made concept and can be one of the most difficult psychological barriers to overcome.  People become obsessed with time - either that it is running out for them to get something done, or it is going too slow before the weekend, or it's going too fast and they can't keep up.

Time always goes at the same speed, yet it's never the speed we want it to.  When we're looking forward to something, it seems to drag.  Yet when something exciting is happening or it's a happy occasion, time flies.

When I look back on the last few years, my time at university in particular, I realise how fast time is going.  When I was little, time used to feel like it went so slow - but that was because I had no real concept of time.  Now, weeks and months fly by in the blink of an eye.

I am guilty of sometimes wishing my time away, which I know I will regret when I'm older and wish I had savoured each moment more.

There's no cure to stopping time going so fast, just like there's no way to speed time up.  I've always wished I had a Bernard's Watch (every 90's kid at one point in their lives has wanted one of them, though) so that I could stop time and savour a moment or get something done quicker.

All we can do is live for the moment - enjoy everything that's happening when it's happening.  We only get to do each day once, so it's worth doing right.


21 signs you were a school girl in the 00's

The 90's and 00's were great decades - girl power reigned supreme, you could have turkey twizzlers for your school dinner and Britney Spears re-invented the school uniform.  We still went out and bought CD singles when they were released, we'd do dance routines to pop songs in the playground and played Snake on our Nokia's until our hearts were content.  It was a time of fashion mishaps, make-up disasters and ten years of horror hair - but it made us who we are today!

Here are 21 signs you were a schoolgirl in the 00's:

1. Having a sleepover and having to check with everyone's parents how many alcopops they were allowed - rock'n'roll!

2. Before GHDs we had a choice - straight, wavy or crimped.  And all on the same appliance too!

3. The one-stop-shop for all your ear piercing and jewellery needs:

4. You tipp-ex mouse running out of tipp-ex tape and not covering your mistakes properly.

5. This was how we worked out whether we were compatible with boys:

6. Every girl had one of these in her hand bags and a cloud of Charlie Red followed us wherever we went.

7. Body glitter was the in-thing until we realised it was only supposed to go on our cheeks and collarbones - not every visible bit of skin.
 8. Staying up late to watch Footballer's Wives and feeling really naughty.

9. Managing to smash the latest pop song as your ringtone and feeling like a God.

10. Choosing your top friends on MySpace was the toughest decision of your day.

11. Writing everything in smelly gel pens (whatever happened to them!?)

12. 'Too many clips' was not possible.
13. Jacqueline Wilson books were the best.

14. Going to Boots when you got your pocked money to buy some more 'Glitter Babes' make-up and nail varnish.

15. Crying real, teenage girl tears when Will Young beat Gareth Gates in Pop Idol.

16. Predicting everyone's future with these:

17. This was your PE bag:

18. Everyone's first perfume:

19: We all had some Groovy Chick stationery/bubble bath/bedding/everything

20: Feeling really grown up reading this because it mentioned snogging and thongs on the front cover!

21. Owning a pair of these and not being able to wear them outside when it rained:

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