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