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I will always love you

Dear Child of Mine

I want you to know that I will always love you.

I loved you when you were the size of a grain of rice and your heart beat was undetectable. When you made me sick and took away my ability to tie my own shoe laces. The strongest motivator to go through two days of the most pain I have ever felt was you. We hadn’t even met but I would have endured that pain for as long as it took to bring you into this world.

When you screamed at me for hours and refused to give me sleep, I loved you in every sob and exhausted scrap left of my being. When your head was adorned with delicate, golden curls or when you scowled with the flick of one eyebrow, I swooned at your beauty. You could be covered in snot and vomit and I still think you are the most lovely thing I have ever seen.

When you pulled my trousers down in the middle of a busy airport, when you lay on the floor of a playground and wouldn’t walk when I asked you to, when you broke three windows in one house, when you took out all your moods on me and that time when you said you hated me; I forgave you in a second and I loved you the whole time.

I have never felt so hopeless at a job than I have during my motherhood career. There have been times when I have truly sucked and failed miserably at being your mum. The times when I screamed at you because your dawdling made me late for work, or when I chose to watch TV instead of spending 10 minutes talking to you before you went to sleep. I have felt such shame at how badly I have done my job. And yet, despite the fact that the pay is non-existent, there are no holidays and motherhood has taken the biggest toll on my physical and mental health, it’s by far the best career choice I have ever made and I will never, ever, resign or retire.

I don’t care that you have made me dull and risk averse. Before you, I loved an adventure away from home. Now, all I can think of when I travel away from you, is when I can get back to cook your dinner. I used to love pushing myself physically, now there is a little voice that asks, what if I got hurt and I couldn’t take care of you. Plus being a mum means I have to say no so much and be responsible all the time. I know you won’t believe this but I used to be way more fun than that.

Becoming a mum meant I had to change so much about myself. Some changes just happened, some I had to work at, but they were all fuelled by this need to give you the launch pad to live your best life, have a childhood of happiness and a future full of opportunities. It has made me feel like I have lost myself and forced me to witness me at my very worst. It has been truly heartbreaking at times, but I treasure the scars. I have seen how strong I am, how faithful I can be, how wonderful it is to put another person’s needs before my own and to get a glimpse at how much I am loved by my heavenly Father. I’ll keep all the carnage to have the glory of knowing unconditional love.

If I am doing this right, then not too far in the future, you will start to push away from me, you will choose friends over parents, you’ll take risks I don’t want you to, you’ll give your heart to someone who will break it, you’ll leave home. Imagining what my life will be like when you are not dependent on me is probably the bleakest thing I could think of right now. And yet, I promise I will let you go. I will tell you to step out of the nest, make your own choices, go your own way. Live your life.

When that happens, know that from the second you were conceived, you had me for eternity. Even if you are a thousand miles away from me, I will be with you. I will always be yours, and I will always love you.

Mama x

In the mirror

I started working for a charity last year that is focussed on seeing homelessness eradicated.

Whilst I have always been aware of homelessness and have been involved with charities that work with homeless or deeply impoverished people, I have lived a life that has come nowhere near what people suffer when their choices and resources are so diminished that they have to live on the street.

I walk past someone who is sleeping on the street, see them in the news or depicted in films, hear stories about the injustices and abuse that have led people to the lowest of lows, and think that I am so far away from them that we have nothing in common.

It creates a sense of distance and separateness that means I don’t stop on the street when I see someone begging or just clearly in need, because my mind has these thoughts:

  • They’re asking for money and I don’t think that’s what I should give them, or more often than not I don’t have cash anyway
  • I don’t have anything alternative on me to give them, and I don’t have time to get something
  • What if I did take some time to get them some food or drink but then they don’t want it? It will be embarrassing for them and me (mostly me).
  • I could ask them what they would like, but what if they ask for something I don’t want to give them, like money or alcohol?
  • If I do speak to them, what do I say? I don’t want them to feel patronised or talked down to.
  • What if they touch me? Am I going to be OK with that? I have to be, but I know my tendency to worry about cleanliness will kick in and I would hate for them to see that.
  • What if they do something socially unexpected, like shout or say weird things? How will I handle that?

All these internal questions buzz around and I have walked past them and done nothing. On to the next thing. And as I walk on and shift back into what I was doing and where I was going before I saw the person, I explain away my ‘not stopping’ with these questions: when do I ever speak to strangers on the street? If a businessman was sat on a bench, would I go over to him and ask if there is anything he needs? Or join an unsuspecting pair of girls chatting and introduce myself? No, so why is this any different?

It’s different because they have asked for help. They may have spoken out and asked for money, or they have a sign in front of them asking for help. Even if they haven’t done either of these things, they have sat themselves on a busy street, where they know people will see them, in their unwashed and uncared for state. They have shown their vulnerability and shame to others. To people they know will judge them. They are asking for help.

I was a big fan of Michael Jackson when I was young and I can sing ‘Man in the mirror’ word for word. It describes what I am writing here – I’m looking at the woman in the mirror and realising that I want to make a change. I want to be a person that stops. That recognises that for all our differences, we are fundamentally the same because we are human. Our life experiences might be vastly different, but there will be things we can connect on, even if it’s just that at that moment we are currently standing under the same sky and experiencing the same weather. As we Brits know, one can always talk about the weather.

My job is forcing me to learn a lot about homelessness, its causes, its victims, its heroes, its injustices, its solutions, its despair and its hope. I am challenged on so many levels by my ignorance, my privilege, my worldview, the actions and prejudices of my ancestors (and me), the construct of my life that leaves no space for helping people outside of my social circle.

Just by educating myself and being open to understanding more about the problem of homelessness, I am exposing myself to knowledge that is causing me to want to change. I am convicted. I am inspired. I am convinced that I can approach a person on the street that is asking for help, and say ‘Hello. What do you need? Can I help?’

I’ll let you know how I get on.

The Middle

If I was to describe the relationship I currently have with my body, I would say that we’re not on speaking terms.

This has only happened a few times in my life. Most of the time, we’re the best of friends. This time, there was no major falling out, no dramatic incident, no third-party indiscretion.

That said, there were some warning signs she wasn’t quite her usual self.

Since 2018, I have had three mammograms and two ultrasounds to check as many breast lumps that have thankfully turned out to be cysts or ‘normal tissue’. A couple of years ago I had a polyp removed from my uterus and last year I started taking oestrogen and progesterone to help with some peri-menopausal symptoms that were significantly reducing my quality of life. My point being, I know exactly what stage of life I am in and I have been doing my utmost to listen to my body and give her what she needs to stay strong and healthy.

Which is why I have been a little taken aback by her recent, and might I say unreasonable behaviour. It was all very stealth and secretive, which meant it took me a few months to work out what was going on; but there is absolutely no way my body can deny what she’s been up to, it’s in plain sight and I have half a wardrobe of evidence that proves her untoward actions.

The bitch has started storing fat all over my middle.

Now I am no hour glass. My waist is not much narrower than my hips. Front view and I am straight up and down. Side view I have what is affectionately called a “potbelly”. I made my peace with my shape a long time ago. I haven’t worn a crop top since I was 19 and I am OK with that.

Through the seasons of every year, my body adds and subtracts some kilos but always within acceptable parameters.

I have been pregnant twice, which of course changed my shape drastically. My middle stretched to accommodate my beautifully, big babies, and was left with slightly looser skin once the babies had vacated. Fair enough.

My whole life, I have loved sport and there has only been a handful of times in my life when I haven’t run, biked, lifted weights, been on a team or followed YouTube HIIT classes in my living room on a weekly basis.

My love of sport and the gift of a normal, athletically shaped body means that I have jeans in my wardrobe that I bought when I was 20 and until about four months ago, could still fit into them.

During the other times when I couldn’t fit my favourite jeans, there was a clear reason why not: I was carrying another human being, I had just given birth to a human being and was eating biscuits during three feeds a night, I was suffering from a bulging disc and it hurt to move, over the 12 days of Christmas I had consumed three tins of Quality Street.

My inability to wear half of my wardrobe could be explained by the in-out theory, I was putting more fuel in than I was putting out. Fair enough.

This is not the case right now. I am more measured in my eating and consistent in my exercising than I have ever been and I still have gone up a dress size!

Finally, coming to this realisation has left me livid. Bemused. Indignant. Lost. Upset. In despair. Honestly, I am so mad I can’t even look at her right now.

Everyone said that women of a certain age (the one I am in) would start to get bigger round the middle, but reaching 45 it seemed like my body was remaining true to her younger self. OK she was getting cysts and polyps, the odd hot flush, mood swings, foggy head. She was losing some hormones, so I gave her HRT and balance returned. And yes, since hitting 40 I had noticed exercise alone wasn’t keeping me within my preferred parameters of weight, so I had adjusted portion size and reduced the sugar intake. Again, a healthy balance was achieved.

But this, this is out of order! It’s literally clamped to my middle. I feel like only a life of celery sticks and Miso soup would get me back into my favourite Howies jeans and that’s no life at all.

I’m devastated to say it, but the myth is true ladies, mid-life will strap itself to your middle and it seems nothing you do will remove it.

The hardest part of all is I now have to buy a whole new wardrobe or it’s muffin tops and back boobs for the foreseeable future. I know we will have to reconcile at some point, but right now, we’re not friends.

Fight or flight

Well hello there.

I think it might just be time to be back on here again. I’ve had ‘a bit of a day’ and I realise this neglected part of my life called writing, must come back to bring me some joy. I’ve just had a little wander round the blog and it’s 10 months since my last blog – oops!

There is a very good reason for that.  We only went and emigrated over to New Zealand again. Yep that’s some crazy beans we ate somewhere along the way eh. We’ve been back in the land of the long white cloud since September. Back in March – when I wrote my last blog – we were beginning to make plans to leave the UK, again.  That’s why there has been silence from me. First because I didn’t want to share until we knew what we were doing, then once we knew, I didn’t have time what with all the organising, packing and saying goodbye. Then we lived out of a suitcase for five months, first two months travelling around the UK, the rest camping in a rented house in New Zealand, setting up life again. Blogging was a luxury that had to go.

I’ve thought about blogging a lot through it all.  Thought what a missed opportunity it was to not share all the details and the emotions that we were going through. Literally.

I would be packing up my Jamie Oliver saucepans for the third time in six years and think to myself, I should share this crazy shizzle to make people feel better about their own life decisions. Or I’d be standing in a 20 row queue to have our bags checked through LA airport, looking at the deflated faces all around me, wishing I could sit my sweaty ass in a bath of ice and think, this could be a funny blog to make fun of the non-Disney like circus the Americans put us through. Or there was the day I couldn’t stop crying because I just wanted to buy a house, so I could unpack and find my Kitchen Aid. Woooh I had things to say that day.

So many moments, so many blogs. Didn’t happen.

To be honest, until about two weeks ago, I just wasn’t in the mood to write.  I wanted to write, but if I’d sat down to share some thoughts, I would have got up 30 seconds later to organise something or tick something off my to-do list.  When you emigrate, there is always a task to be done. I’m a task-orientated person, so I haven’t stopped since June.

I am likely to talk about some things on here eventually. I mean there is a lot of material:

  • Emigrated – repatriated – emigrated
  • Children attending five schools in two years
  • The financial implications of moving around the world
  • What it’s like to be a ping-pong pom
  • Deciding where home is
  • How parents decisions effect children’s mental health
  • Choosing to put others first
  • Leaving
  • Arriving
  • Disrupted careers
  • Losing a parent and then getting on a plane and flying over to the other side of the world
  • New Zealand verses Blighty
  • Self-care when you’re life is out of your control
  • Unimaginable levels of stress

The list goes on, but I need to work out what I think about all of the above and what I want to share. What I think will be encouraging to others and what is just me having a whinge. Plus now I have unpacked my Kitchen Aid, I can bake and I have discovered a lovely free-from chocolate cake that you’ll thank me for sharing.

Anyways I shall get to my point. The title of this blog.

Fight or flight. It’s an “acute stress response”. An American physiologist called Walter Cannon came up with the term in 1920.  He realised, “that a chain of rapidly occurring reactions inside the body helped to mobilise the body’s resources to deal with threatening circumstances.” Rapid heart beating and shallow breathing, pupils dilated, pale or flushed skin, trembling. The response dates back to cavemen, when they would face danger, like a dinosaur wanting to eat them. Today, in my privileged life, I experience it when I am in a stressful situation where I am not totally in control.  In the last 10 months that’s been a daily thing.

I realised on the weekend. When my gorgeous hubby tried to give me a spontaneous cuddle in the kitchen whilst I cooked dinner, and I batted him away because I ain’t got time for that non-task-accomplishing business. That I have become fixed in the fight or flight mode. Perhaps I needed to be for quite a while there, just to keep things working for the family. But we’re unpacked, my clothes are hanging up in the wardrobe, we have a routine, Christmas is over, we’re not planning anything. There is nowhere I need to sprint to like Tom Cruise running in an action movie. I can stop and have a cuddle.

For the first time in two years. We just have to live.



Happy Women’s Day to my women

As I scrolled through Instagram this morning, it seemed that there was an usually large amount of love going out to women on my feed. It took a moment to register as to be fair, in the current climate there is generally at least two or three ‘strong women lift each other up’ type posts every day. Today it’s almost constant, occasionally interrupted by a pretty plate of food  (I love me some #foodies).

It is of course International Women’s Day. It’s prompted me to think about the women in my life and I realise that there have been, are and will be a HUGE amount of significant women in my life. What better way to celebrate than say thank you.

To the most important woman in my life, who is yet to be a woman, my daughter. Thank you for being the little embryo that could. For giving me hope when I was at my most hopeless. You could forget every Mother’s Day and I will still be indebted to you for making me a mum. That said, you know how much I like gifts…

Thanks to my mum. Another warrior, who taught me to always take the next step no matter how hard it is. I just have to think of you and I feel safe and comforted, such is the legacy of a good upbringing.

Thanks to the mother of my husband. You gave birth to the man of my life. He is a fascinating mix of gentle, kind and stubborn. May I be so bold as to say all directly given by the woman who brought him up?

To my two sisters: The one I share parents with – thank you for showing me that you can be lifelong friends with someone who is different in almost every way. And to the sister who taught my husband to be a friends with a woman – thank you for loving your brother (my husband) so constantly.

Thanks to my cool aunt, who showed me that women can drive fast, play any sport and stay happily married for life.

Thanks to my grandma. You loved me with such delight, I always felt cherished by you. If you hadn’t been my grandma and were born 60 years later, I totally would have wanted to be your friend.

To the woman who showed me Jesus. Thank you for being the most faithful of followers and the best of mentors.

To the wise lady who welcomed me into her home and let me be messy. For introducing me to a counsellor in my troubled teens. And loving me like I was one of your own. I thank you.

To my friend who I picked up from Scotch Corner to start a new life. You have one of the strongest minds I know and you have the cutest booty on the dance floor. Thank you for being a rock of a friend since that summer we discovered each other.

To the women who teach my children. Especially to the one that sits with my son every day and helps him catch up with the rest of the children in his year. To motivate my son to read and write is no small feat!

To the GP (in NZ) who always seemed genuinely happy to see me, would listen to my fears, talk me down from Google paranoia and looked after me as a person not a number. I realise now, you are rare.

To two female bosses who inspired me to be professional, hard working, determined and to never “settle”.

To the friend that never forgets my children’s birthdays, loves going to the cinema as much as I do (perhaps more!) and laughs just as loud. Thanks for all the memories of pure joy, too many to mention.

Thanks to the soul sisters I have met in churches all over the world. For praying for me, standing with me and pushing me on. My faith is stronger because of your faith.

For the GFC ladies in Liverpool. Thanks for the most honest conversations I have ever had, over good food and lots of wine. Let’s all try and wind up in the same old people’s home so we can see out our days roaring with laughter!

To the woman who made my marriage legal. We literally wouldn’t have got there without you keeping me on the straight and narrow!

To the mother of two of my best friends, whose home I was married from. Thank you for teaching me what a gracious wife and mother looks like, and how to roast vegetables.

To my most badass friend, with the sharpest wit and tiniest waist. You may be petite but you have the biggest personality and I love hanging with you.

To my blog-writing buddy. Thanks for coming with me to hard medical appointments and not keeping your distance when you had three babies and I had none.

To my Melbourne-trip besties. Thanks for the Friday night gatherings, for sharing dreams and disasters and helping me to feel at home in a foreign land.

To the woman who scooped me up at Christchurch airport when we landed with our babies. It wasn’t your job to entertain random english children and find me a pushchair but you saw a need and met it.

To the woman whose mum gave me the best dog in the world. Your passion for parenting is a gift, thanks for sharing all your wisdom and inspiring me to parent with purpose.


To the mum’s in my village. Thank you for inviting me and my children into your homes and to your parties. Who knew such a little village could contain this many beautiful, talented and genuinely interesting women.

Thanks to Julia for the beauty, Mary for the cakes, Alice for the health, Alanis for the melancholy,  Michelle for the leadership, Jane for the love stories, Jenn for the worship and Sweaty Betty for the lycra.

There are a thousand others. I hope I remember to thank you in person when next we meet, because I love you all and I am so grateful for your lives.


By the way, if there is an International Men’s Day – I could totally fill a page of thanks to all the amazing men in my life!



It’s not OK, but it will be

Sometimes, it’s just not OK. You’re not OK. Life isn’t OK. Things are not OK. There is pain, disappointment, anger, fear and it feels like more than you can bear. You can’t stand up as it crashes down on you. You have nothing left. You’re lost. You can’t escape. But oh no, you’ll just have to go through it (yep that’s a ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ reference).

To be in a moment where it feels like you have nothing left, is the worst place to be on earth. And yet, I’m here to say, it is possible to walk on, to stand, to get through.

There is something that gives us what we need to conquer the giant in front of us. We see people do it all the time.

  • A husband stands outside the room as a team of medical staff help his wife fight to deliver their first born through shoulder dystocia.
  • A woman who has married three times before, in the face of her doubts and those around her, chooses to believe this one, in her present, is her forever love.
  • After the despair of a miscarriage, in the unrelenting grief for a child that was never held, a couple get pregnant again.
  • A first time entrepreneur gives up her steady job and spends all her savings on stock for her dream business.
  • A husband gets up, catches a train, walks into the office and puts his all into a job he knows is not for him.

These are all real-life examples. These are people I know. I have watched friends and family go through these things and I am amazed that they could do it. What got them through?


Hope that the doctors know what they’re doing, hope that they made the right decision, hope that something outside of themselves will bring change, hope that this time it will be different.

When we are in the depths of despair, like literally on the floor, can’t move: there is hope. Hope helps us to achieve the impossible. Because hope feeds the leap of faith. It fuels grit and determination. It pushes us forward to the light at the end of the tunnel.  As the original Superman says, “Once you choose hope, anything is possible”, (so said Christopher Reeve).

I am so thankful for hope. It’s a gift that rises to the surface when there is suffering. Have you noticed that? We don’t talk about hope when all is well, when we’re strong and sure. Hope comes to play when we are unsure, when things are out of our control, when the outcome is out of our hands.

I don’t think that hope ever leaves us. I think it is sewn into our souls from the moment we are given life. The Bible refers to it as one of the three things we need when all else is stripped away, “and now these three remain; faith, hope and love…” 

Without hope, life would be too hard. If life is hard for you right now. Let hope rise to the surface. You were born with faith, hope and love, and although they may be pushed down, bruised and battered, they never leave. No matter what happens, every human being has these three things inside of them. You have them and you have enough of them to live your life.

Music helps me find my hope. It connects with my soul so I can be vulnerable and connect with what’s going on inside. Through my life, there have been songs that I have literally drowned myself in, just to accompany me through the emotion I am feeling at that time.

After my daughter was born I was so broken. I had lost a lot of blood in the birth so I was anaemic and our little communicator would often just scream through the night. She had colic, which meant after her night feeds I would have to hold her upright in my arms for ages before I could put her down. I remember after a middle of the night feed, the normal half an hour had turned to two hours. I moved downstairs to the living room so Gareth wasn’t disturbed and I was circling our dark living room, feeling so alone, overwhelmed by disappointment and a voice in my head telling me I was failing, that I was getting it all wrong. First time mum anxiety was heavy upon me.

I had music on, and Ingrid Michaelson’s ‘Keep Breathing’ came on. For the next hour I put it on repeat and I walked round, sobbing. It let me connect to the hope I needed. It reminded me I just had to keep breathing, take every hour at a time, know that they would turn into days. Each day would bring change. My baby would grow, I would learn how to look after her, we would get through this. And we did. There was my hope. And what I hoped for (a whole night’s sleep), eventually came to pass.

The beginning of this week was Blue Monday, apparently the most depressing day of the year. I get it. It’s cold and dark (in the northern hemisphere), Christmas is over, we realise that just because it’s a new year, it doesn’t mean everything in our life becomes shiny and new. It’s all a bit grey.

Well we survived it and now it’s the weekend. And it’s less than six week’s until Spring. Take that Blue Monday!

You may have made a resolution or you may have a challenge coming up this year. Or you might be having a tough time right now. You might be in the middle of the storm and you feel overwhelmed by the waves crashing down on your head. Well there is hope. It’s inside you. It can’t be taken away. It’s yours for life. So allow it to do its work. Don’t push it down. Don’t ignore it. Put some music on (you can borrow my song if you like) and invite hope to rise to the surface.

Hope will move you forward.


Dear Joe Wicks (for the last time)

Happy New Year! Hope you had a good Christmas and your new book is selling well.

Thanks to you, I had a good start to the New Year. I graduated from the 90 Day SSS plan on Saturday 6th January.  I had worried that my interpretation of Cycle Three had been too flexible and my results would have started going in the wrong direction.

This is not to say that I went careering off the rails. But it was December, there were nights out, family gatherings, Christmas Day for heaven’s sake! I had planned to have blow-out days on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, but as the days (and nights) went on, it was obvious there were going to be quite a few mini blow-outs along the way. I had a few nights were I had a festive tipple and with a lot more treats in the house, I ate way more chocolate and sweets than I had in the previous cycles.

All that said, I did carry on with all the exercises and even threw in the odd extra 20-minute HIIT when I knew I was going to have an off-plan meal. Whilst I was pretty naughty by 90 Day SSS Plan standards, I would say it’s the healthiest Christmas I have ever had!

Once again, I wasn’t expecting too much on results day. My dread was that I would have put on some weight or inches so that in a couple of weeks with a few indulgent days my final results would be less of a reflection of all the hard work and disciplined days I had put in for the other 10 weeks. As it happens, like a Christmas miracle, I had still lost a bit more weight and a few more inches.

I don’t want to share my table of results with the world, because I feel like it leads to comparison.  Our bodies are all so unique and measurements are too. They are just numbers and they don’t reflect shape, water retention, menstrual cycle, bone density any of that. But I do want to give you credit where credit is due and show that your programme does make a difference. So I’ve put my overall results on the picture above. Hopefully this encourages someone else, who reads this and is wanting to get healthy and lean, to consider the 90 Day SSS Plan as something they could do.

For me, instead of starting 2018 feeling like I need to make the usual resolutions of eating better, giving up sweets, exercising more; I was walking into the New Year feeling pretty happy about my regime. I do now have the challenge of keeping up with the healthy lifestyle that I’ve developed on your programme. In some ways that is more challenging than the challenge itself, because now I am flying solo. No heroes to help me along. No prescribed meals and exercise sessions. Just Claire, committing to not eating Haribo every afternoon whilst cooking the dinner.

I do have hope though; that I will keep this up.  I’ve learnt so much and certainly I have changed my eating habits. The heartening thing is that it wasn’t terrible for me. I don’t miss having starchy carbohydrates with every meal. Eating more protein hasn’t turned me into the Hulk. When I eat lots of sugar now, it doesn’t make me feel great, in fact I feel really horrible sometimes. I like eating three big meals a day. I am going to find some different healthy snacks though, that soy yogurt with sugar-free jelly really was a low point!

I thought what would help, is for me to make a list of “rules” I have learnt along the way and that I can use as a focus, as I go forward without you. These aren’t strict but if I can aim for them, then I may have a healthy lifestyle for life.

  • Only have carbohydrate in meals after workouts. Although if I am going out for dinner and I haven’t worked out in the last 90 minutes, it’s OK to have the rice served up on my plate.
  • Only drink alcohol on the weekend.
  • Exercise five days a week. This can include long walks, Pilates and playing football with the children.
  • Do weights a few times a week. Got to keep that bone density!
  • Have (healthy) snacks in the day time, rather than the evening.
  • Add protein powder to smoothies and porridge.
  • Eat more lean protein in general; turkey bacon, chicken, fish, lean red meat, pulses, mushrooms, eggs are all good with me.
  • Drink at least 2 litres of water a day.
  • Have two meat-free dinners a week.
  • Be disciplined whenever possible but break the rules if I need/want to.
  • Choose dark chocolate before Candy King and Haribo.
  • Enjoy food, experiment, make up new recipes, give tofu a chance.

I have one resolution for this year – have the same measurements at the end of the year. The only way to achieve that – choose the healthy option. When in doubt, ask ‘what would Joe do?’

It’s been a great experience and I got what I was looking for: develop healthy food habits, get stronger and leaner, fit back into clothes I’d grown out of and graduate.

Thanks so much for doing what you do. All the best to you and your heroes!

Claire x

PS I didn’t get a six-pack…I knew it was too much to ask.


Dear Joe Wicks (again)

I am very pleased to report that I graduated from Cycle Two last week and today is my first day on Cycle Three of your 90 Day SSS Plan.

I have to say, it does feel good to be over halfway. It’s been such a positive experience for me. I guess it’s a good sign then, that I am beginning to feel like I have learnt enough and it would be quite nice to test my wings, and see if I can fly this balanced-diet-with-focussed-exercise journey alone.

That said, I do like to finish things that I start and after a weekend of letting myself off the hook a little, I am ready to be a good student and work to plan for a final 30 days.  This takes me, rather inconveniently, to the 2nd January. Nothing like increasing the challenge tenfold by doing the final cycle through the Christmas season eh!

It’s OK though. Don’t panic, I have a plan. One thing I have learnt so far is that calculated “blow outs” are no bad thing.  I could never eat only the good stuff day in day out, forevermore. I’ve found that I can be very disciplined for about 3-4 weeks, but at some point around week four, I need treats.  I find that if I plan it, book it in, decide on a day when I am allowed treats (in abundance), then it will be just that.  One day or one evening of indulgence. It’s not out of control, I haven’t fallen off the wagon, I have decided to enjoy the naughtiness. It’s a positive part of the plan.

So I am giving myself Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve off.  Plus when there are parties or festive gatherings, I am going to have a glass or two of wine. I am pretty sure if I stay on plan for the rest of the time and bash out the exercises, then progress will still be made.

Which takes me to my progress report for Cycle Two. My expectations were pretty low for this one as I’d read a lot of the graduate testimonies saying this was the cycle they saw the least change in.  Plus I have been enjoying the carbohydrate-for-every-meal rule on training days, so all that bread would surely not equate to major weight loss?  How wrong I was!

I don’t go on scales as a general rule, so I literally stand on the “sad step” once in the month to send in my results and would you believe it, I lost a further 5kg! This takes me to my pre-children weight. Along with that, I had lost a couple more inches off my waist and chest (not necessarily a good thing!).  Oddly, my hip measurement has gone up from end of Cycle One but is still less than where I started. I haven’t felt that in my clothes, in fact it’s been great this month, wearing trousers and jeans I haven’t worn in a few years. I am hoping it’s because my bottom has got more pert so it’s sticking out more? Arms and legs stayed the same.

Getting results is great.  Each time there has been change in the right direction and this gives me an enormous sense of well being (yeah I’m quoting Blur). What is far more exciting for me though, is the daily result of feeling stronger and more energetic. And enjoying wearing my clothes. I don’t have a muffin top over my jeans anymore. This is so liberating! When I am late to pick up the children from school, I can run up the hill and not arrive at the school gates out of breath. I can feel my muscles. I don’t mean I squeeze my biceps with my hands, I mean when I am moving I don’t feel like everything is wobbling, I feel like my body is working. It feels engaged with what I am asking it to do.  It’s hard to explain, but I just feel like my body is more alive/switched on.

Now then, I feel like perhaps the PR on food for Cycle Two was a little misleading.  I had understood that I was going to be given lots of freedom and be given permission to start using my own healthy recipes.  I was excited about smoothies for breakfast again and maybe enjoying some hoummus for lunch. That wasn’t really the case. I tried to get my favourite smoothie signed off by one of your heroes, but got a firm shut down.  Think it might be the splash of maple syrup they were opposed to, surely couldn’t have been the spinach or coconut water??  I even tried to get a couple of your smoothies through, but it was a hard no. I may have rebelled a couple of days…ahem…. Hoummus was nowhere to be seen on the rather strict list of allowed foods for my pick n’ mix meals, so chicken and salmon remained lunchtime faithfuls.

I took my freedom from the set-recipe regime of Cycle One and didn’t weigh things out anything like as much as I used to.  Perhaps this is also because I now know how much protein is the right amount and for my money, you can never have too much green veg on your plate.

Quite surprisingly, I found that having carbohydrate in every meal on training days, felt like too much.  I was happy to just have it after the training.  Although as I train mostly in the mornings, being able to have carbohydrate for my evening meal, particularly when I was out or having dinner with friends made life a little easier.  As I planned my menu for my first Cycle Three week, I realised that I can only have one dinner this week with carbohydrate. It’s all good for a relatively quiet week but when the social engagements come up, it’ll be tough!

The introduction of weights into the programme has gone really well.  I was a little daunted as free weights haven’t been in my routine in the past, but I found dumbbells straight forward and I was able to adapt the weights to the exercises to work to the right level. Perhaps I thought I would see more results than I have.  I don’t really see any definition in my arms, shoulders or legs.  And yet, I always ached the next day so I’m pretty sure I was doing it right.  Maybe the definition comes in Cycle Three with the ‘pyramid training’?  I shall let you know.

Overall, I am happy with the results.  We’re going in the right direction. I am starting to think about how it will be in the New Year, when I am fully graduated and free to take the reins myself.  I think I will be ready. I’m going to write out some rules as I see you did on Instagram, I’ll show you mine when I write at the end.

Have a lovely Christmas, don’t eat too much Ben & Jerry’s!

Claire x

Oaty Millionnaire’s Slice

At the moment, I am not getting much opportunity to bake. I miss it. I need a school fundraiser or something!!

Once a week, I bake something sweet for the children to have in their packed lunches or as a yummy treat when they come in from school.  I always want to have something in the house that I can offer to anyone who pops in. To have a tin with something in is what makes a kitchen homely I think.

Normally I love experimenting with dairy free baking, but as I’m on the SSS 90 Day Plan at the moment (you can read about what I am up to here and here) I am going all out on baking with butter, cream and milk, so I can’t be tempted. This one is full of it!

I LOVE caramel and I am of the opinion that Millionnaire’s Shortbread is just one of the best slices ever. This recipe adds some extra goodness with oats and coconut getting in the mix.  My theory is that although the slice is still full of all the naughty stuff like gooey caramel and chocolate on top, it has the added bonus of oats and coconut to give it more substance. A little portion will go longer than your average slice.

I got the ingredients from Jo Seagar’s recipe for ‘Caramel Oat Slice’ in The Great New Zealand Baking Book, but the method is a little different to make it more Millionnaire’s Shortbread like.



2 cups of plain flour

1 cup of self-raising flour

1 cup of desiccated coconut

2 cups of brown sugar

3 cups of rolled oats

2 eggs

300g of melted butter

Caramel middle

200g of butter

400g of condensed milk (sweetened)

4 tbsp of golden syrup

1 tsp of vanilla essence (although it strikes me you could experiment with other flavours)

Chocolate top

390g milk chocolate (this makes a pretty thick layer so you could do less)


Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a large 25cm by 35cm slice tin. Make sure the baking paper comes well over the top of the edge of the tin to help get the slice out.

Combine all the dry ingredients for the base, give them a really good stir. Add the two eggs and melted butter.  Work it through until there is no more dry mix left.  Press this firmly into the base of the tin and put it in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Until the top is going a lovely golden brown.

10 minutes into the base cooking, melt all the caramel ingredients together.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture has thickened slightly. Whilst it’s simmering, stir continually.  If you leave it for even a few seconds it will burn and then you have little brown bits floating round the caramel, not a good look.  Get a magazine or your phone ready, so you don’t get bored standing there.

After 10 minutes of the caramel simmering, the base should be ready to come out of the oven.  Put it on a cooling rack and then pour the caramel over the top, making sure it gets all the way to the edges and there is an even coverage. Leave to cool completely, until the caramel is set.

When it’s cold, melt the chocolate in a bowl sat over a pan of simmering water. Once it’s melted, pour it over the caramel. Again, make sure it goes right to the edges and you get an even coverage. Let this cool and set.

Once the chocolate is set, you can carefully pull the slice out of the tin and on a flat surface cut it into squares.  I would make them relatively small as each one does pack a full punch of oats, butter and sugar!  Adults can always go back for a second slice.

Making it even punchier: I haven’t tried this so I don’t have measurements to give you, but I just thought this would be even more decadent (although not suitable for packed lunches) if you stirred some smooth peanut butter into the caramel before you poured it onto the slice. Then you could sprinkle crushed salted, roasted peanuts on top of the chocolate after you have poured that on, so the nuts set into the chocolate. Oh my gosh that is so naughty!!

Lessons from the Body Coach

One of my main motivations for challenging myself to do Joe Wicks’ 90 Day SSS Plan was to learn some new habits. I’ve always loved sport and exercise, but after having a bulging disc and then the operation to sort it, my fitness routine had taken a bit of a battering. Selling our house and moving back to the UK had played havoc with my diet too.  Normally a healthy eater, who likes treats on the weekend and special occasions, I had got into the habit of eating a 100g bar of chocolate before 5pm every day. Apart from anything else, it was getting expensive!

You may be the same as me, busy and distracted by being as good a mum as you can? Doing something that is good for your well-being often comes second to putting the needs of your children and husband first. You know you need to look after yourself so you’re in a good place to look after your loved ones, but it takes discipline to actually do it. Simple truth is that there has to be balance in your life, which means sometimes you need to channel your efforts into you. For me, signing up to this was a way of swinging the pendulum over to my side.  For my birthday I asked for this and vouchers so I could have facials as rewards at each milestone.  There is some financial investment (£125 for 90 Day SSS Plan + £180 for three facials) but the biggest investment is from me; every day to eat well and be active.

This is why I chose to do this: I wanted the structure, I wanted an end goal to aim for, I wanted to try something new, I wanted to learn, I wanted to see some muscles!

Halfway in, here are the things I have learnt/taken from it so far:

  1. To lean up and see muscle, you need to up your protein.  I’d always considered a high protein diet to be for men wanting to get buff so you would NEVER see me tipping protein powder in my smoothies. I realise now, that when the increase in protein is in a balanced diet that isn’t also full of sugary and fatty foods, and you’re working out regularly, you get lean muscles. No bulk. No thunder thighs.
  2. You have to look at every meal, as a meal. Normally I would consider dinner at 6pm with the family, as The Meal of the day. Breakfast and lunch were quick food stops that simply filled a hole.  Lunch would often be missed and I would just graze through the day. Grazing doesn’t work for me, because I lose awareness of what is going in. The stretch from 4pm to 6pm would be my worst time for chocolate and crisps consumption. I’ve learnt to respect each meal of the day as an opportunity to get all the good things in and you know what, I haven’t missed grazing at all.
  3. Carbohydrate doesn’t need to be in every meal.  On this plan, carbohydrate consumption relates to exercise.  Essentially you have to work for your bread! I suspected that the large pasta, rice, bread element of our meals was probably not ideal or necessary, for me and Gareth.  We have lots of meals now where there is no carbohydrate at all, just protein and tons of vegetables. I’ve never felt hungry after any of my meals.
  4. Anyone who knows me, knows I have a sweet tooth. Sugar doesn’t really feature in this plan.  You can only have one piece of fruit per day. I have no intention of keeping to this once I am off the plan, but I hope that in 90 days my body will get used to a low amount of sugar per day so treats become a weekly event, instead of daily.
  5. To help keep on plan, Pepsi Max has come back into my diet.  I know, I know – diet drinks are of the devil (although actually they aren’t, see here). I called the Body Coach support crew about this and was surprised when they said it was an acceptable way of managing the sweet cravings.  Of course they encourage you to have as little as possible, mainly because fizzy drinks aren’t good for your tummy. For the purposes of this plan it’s a lesser evil than other things, but when dark chocolate is back on the menu I’ll be shunning the aspartame.
  6. What I eat has a bigger impact on my body than the exercise I do. Exercise is important and necessary (see next point), but it is the input not the output that makes the difference. I’ve always exercised but my body shape never really changes and since having babies, just upping exercise doesn’t equal trimming down. Less carbohydrates, no sugar and more protein is giving me a leaner body. Fact.
  7. As I get older I realise that being fit is not as much for the aesthetics, as it is for my quality and length of life. I want my heart, lungs, mind and bones to get me to a ripe old age.  Exercise isn’t a guarantee to a long life but it ups your chances of getting past 80, which is where I want to be when I say goodbye to this life on earth. Apparently lifting weights is key for us ladies who start losing bone density once we get into our middle life (check out this article), so buy yourself some dumbbells and pump some iron four times a week ladies.
  8. My shape is tall and athletic. I have broad shoulders, a wide rib cage and no boobs to speak of. I am built for running, not burlesque dancing. My limbs are long, which is lovely thank you God, but I’ve always had a tummy that sticks out and at my heavier times, creeps over my waistband. I envy friends who have curves with a small waist line and when I stand to the side, I would love to not look four months pregnant. I don’t know if I actually will get a flat tummy as I keep going, but for the first time in a long time, I don’t have a muffin top in my jeans and I don’t have to keep billowing my tops out when I sit down as a way of disguising my pot belly.  I can feel muscle is under there and maybe, just maybe it will be visible in 45 days time. Crop tops will not be returning to my wardrobe, but the tucked shirt into a pair of fitted trousers may make an appearance.
  9. I’m not bored on this plan. I thought I would get sick of eating healthy all the time. I did get a bit over the recipes provided in Cycle One, so it’s good to be in the phase where you can make up your meals. I’ve been buying recipe books that are more focussed on healthy eating and I’m looking forward to being fully in control. Sure I’m going to bring back chocolate and sweets but I’m preparing to have an 80% lean diet, not just for me either. Less sweets in the house is good for everyone!
  10. Supplements do make a difference. Everyone is different and your body may lack or need different things to what mine does.  I’d been suffering from sore boobs all the month long.  I even went to the GP about it.  She suggested Starflower Oil and my mum already had me on Evening Primose Oil.  These taken every day, possibly combined with a lower intake of sugar, has meant I’m not even getting sore boobs before my period – nice. I also take Omega 3 and a probiotic, the latter of which I think has really helped to look after my digestive system, again combined with no dairy, less sugar and little caffeine. Happy tummy.

I think the big take-away so far from the 90 Day SSS Plan is that whilst this feels like a big commitment, coming from a place where I wasn’t really focussing on my health much at all. It is teaching me that it’s actually pretty straight forward to eat well and small changes on a daily basis make a big difference to your body.