The blog has moved!

Hello everyone!

Just a note to say that Tough Cookie has now moved onto its very own website – so this blog will no longer exist as Tough Cookie.

If you’d like to carry on following (I hope you do!) you can find me here: http://www.toughcookieblog.co.uk.

Thank you and see you soon!

Rose xx

6 things we can learn from Maya Angelou

Many people had never heard of Maya Angelou until her passing earlier last year. Yet she was a woman who spoke her mind and turned the adversity she faced throughout her life into a catalogue of insightful, inspirational commentaries to encourage and bring positivity to others.

There are simply too many of her quotes that I take inspiration from to list here, but I’ve managed to shortlist just 6 to share with you today.

MAYA ANGELOU

‘If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.’

We are under so much pressure to conform in this life. If we stand out or are different, we are ostracised and singled out, we are ‘wrong’ somehow. But what is ‘normal’? We are all different. Plus, conventions are different no matter where you go – and everyone can ‘fit in’ – you just have to find like-minded people. What is ‘cool’ or ‘fashionable’ in one country or one era differs from one to the next – doesn’t that show that none of us are ‘wrong’? Trying to be someone else wastes everything that’s good about you; and prevents you from reaching your full potential.

‘You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated.’

It’s easy to see one more negative thing at the end of a string of unfortunate events as the ‘last straw’. But think back now to something which at the time was equally as challenging – chances are you feel fine about it now, and possibly can even laugh about it. Part of life, and individual aspects of life, is dealing with the downs as well as the ups. Without the downs, there wouldn’t be any ups! And allowing yourself to go through them and deal with them means you can enjoy the ups even more.

‘If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.’

I often say that perspective is everything. This quote is very black and white – most of the time if we are stressed over something, chances are we can’t change it – that’s why we’re stressed. Especially if we have control issues.  

Often the worst things that happen to us are blessings (wearing a very good disguise!) and with a bit of reflection we can find something good in them. As human beings we are fighters, we rarely accept defeat. It’s this dogged determination that keeps us ploughing on. And how do we do that? We adopt a different attitude, see the positives and continue.

‘If you only have one smile in you, give it to the people you love.’

It’s easy to reserve the best side of ourselves for strangers, taking out our anger and frustration on our loved ones because they are there for us unconditionally. These people are there for you no matter what – they won’t judge you for how you treat them, but think about the effect it has on them. They deserve your kindness – and whilst of course it’s important (and sometimes imperative) to spend energy on people we dislike or who don’t deserve it, make sure you reserve at least a little bit for the best people in your life.

‘We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely acknowledge the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.’

Success doesn’t come overnight. Our society with its vacuous celebrity culture perpetuates the mistaken view that quite simply and with little talent or experience each one of us can be destined for great things. But it’s simply not true.

Each one of us has experienced our own struggle – even the ones who appear to have ‘made it’ have bad days and good days. We need to praise people for their achievements but also ask them: ‘What have you gone through to achieve this?’ Recognise that nobody is perfect, and behind every success there have often been hardships, failure and missed opportunities along the way.

In addition the more good you have and in being successful, the more you lose sight of how lucky you are and become greedy for more – that’s why gratitude is so important.

‘I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.’

Everything ‘negative’ that happens takes a little piece of us, sets us back a little bit. But often in time we replace that little piece which allows us to grow and move on. I think this is just a little reminder that we can and should learn and grow from bad experiences, rather than be reduced little by little to eventually be broken down by life.

It’s very much easier said than done – however I genuinely believe that it can be achieved with a shift in perspective.

mayaangelou1

What’s your favourite Maya Angelou quote? (If you can pick just one!)

Rose xx

Wholesome Food Review – Primal Kitchen

primalkitchenbarsThere was a time when the only wholesome, natural, not-filled-with-crap snack on the market was a Nakd bar (and even then you’d be lucky to find them in a supermarket of any insignificant size!) – but now there is a huge range of raw, natural snack bars on offer to keep you full and happy and satisfy afternoon sweet cravings or serve as an impromptu breakfast. They’re all free from refined sugars, chemicals, preservatives or artificial sweeteners; best thing for me is, most of them are gluten free (yay!) and for the lactose-intolerant some are also dairy free.

I found Primal Kitchen bars difficult to resist when I came across on particular flavour, cherry and brazil nut. Two of my favourite foods!  A substantial-sized bar too, not at all skimpy on content and packed with good energy. They’re a fab snack but I also think they’d be good for breakfast on the go. I normally have a mix of hazelnuts, coconut, chopped dates and berries for breakfast so in fairness, it’s basically a more portable version of what I usually have!

Sweet and satisfying and full of lovely chunks of brazil nuts – totally in love. As I say, I love brazil nuts, they’re one of my favourites. I’ll eat them raw on their own but sometimes it is nice to have a variation (other than having them with raw chocolate) and this was a really pleasant departure from what I’m used to. I’ll definitely be purchasing the coconut and macadamia version (I LOVE coconut and macadamias) but there’s hazelnut and cocoa and almond and cashew, too.

I think wholesome, natural convenience food is getting better and better as the months go on and I’m really excited to try more. Seen anything you think I should try? Give me a shout!

Rose xx

The Generation Gap  – how and why do expectations differ?

child-adult-holding-hands

‘Life begins just outside your comfort zone’

For a twenty- or thirty- something in today’s society, there are a heck of a lot of pressures and stresses which seem only to have transpired in the last 10 years. Is it technology? Feminism? The economy?

As I have spoken about in ‘You can’t do it all’, women are expected to be and do lots of different things, all to a high standard. Yet we can’t do all of these things – at least not all of them very well. None of us are superhuman.

When I look at my parents and speak to them about their own experiences, I see stark differences worlds apart from even the chasm between their generation and that of their own parents.

In the 1980’s (which wasn’t THAT long ago), women still trailed behind men considerably in the workplace and in education. In schools, there was still a tendency to encourage girls to do subjects such as home economics and boys to do woodwork. Whilst many shunned the norm and set us on a path to where we are today, many women did just as their own mothers had done; met someone at school, had children, bought a house and became a housewife.

Nowadays, women (and men) of our generation are told they can ‘be whoever they want to be’. We are all talented, we can all do whatever we wish to do – we just have to believe and work hard and we will succeed. An increasingly materialistic society has only been encouraged by social media, upon which we are assaulted by an onslaught of photographs depicting luxury resorts, fast cars and millionaire beach houses.

What’s the problem with this? Well, it’s unrealistic. We can’t all be successful. There are always people at the top of the pile, people at the bottom, and people in between. Telling people they can all be successful and have potential if they work hard is really an untruth – hard work doesn’t always equate to financial abundance. There are other factors such as luck, economy and skill, and of course what you choose to go into.

If a woman is seen to be dependent on a man, or looking for a man to ‘settle down with’, she is looked upon with a certain level of disdain by today’s society. Where’s the ambition? How dare she expect a man to share his fortunes with her? Why can’t she or doesn’t she have her own?

I myself am fiercely self-sufficient, and I often find myself harbouring the same views on other girls who tell me it is their ambition to ‘find someone rich to marry’. Yet I also find myself struggling to afford the lifestyle society tells me I should have (and am entitled to) as single woman. If I focus solely on my career, I can’t have an amazing body because I have no time or energy for the gym. I can’t go out every week because I am knackered. Yet if I don’t focus on my career, I could keep up an unsustainable party lifestyle on a low wage for an inordinate amount of time but then where would that leave me? I’d have all sorts of memories, but I’d also be 30 and still living with my parents. Something I very much wish to avoid.

‘Life is for living’, yes, but how? And isn’t that often motivated by what we want but dictated by what we need? A difficult balance to achieve, if you ask me.

I think the important thing to remember is that whilst a lot is expected of us from many different parties (parents, friends, partners, work, society), all that really matters is our own personal happiness. Your instincts and personal preferences dictate what you really want in life – and even though it’s scary to take a leap of faith (especially when everyone is categorically telling you it’s a bad idea) regretting not taking a chance is much worse than ‘failing’ (as I’ve said before, there’s no such thing as failure!) The best things are apparently ‘outside our comfort zone’ – yet our comfort zone is exactly that – a protective bubble which we place around ourselves for a reason.

This is something I am convincing myself of at the moment. I think we all are! I know it is true – but risk-taking really is scary and I understand that.  Watch this space as I travel out of my comfort zone to see what’s really out there and prove it’s not as scary as we all think!

Rose xx

Wholesome Food Review: Pukka Vanilla Chai

VanillaChai-FT_CMYK_NEW

I’m a little divided when it comes to herbal teas. Some I taste and I am absolutely in love – others I feel I’m ingesting an unpleasant hot potion similar to the kind Harry Potter drinks to turn into another person!

So, I can certainly recognise that herbal tea is not for everyone, or at least that there may be likes and dislikes when it comes to tea.

This tea however is like a big warm hug. It’s just the right amount of spicy cinnamon and warming vanilla. I actually think this tea is sweet enough on its own but I reckon it would be really nice with a little honey or agave. Even a touch of milk, although I’ve yet to try this! It infuses really well too – I left the tea bag in and it didn’t go too strong yet when I took my first sip it wasn’t weak or watery either.

I’m going to try some more Pukka teas – so let me know your thoughts or if there are any you’d like me to review!

Rose xx

How to eat well – frugally

fruit-and-veg2-534x356In my post on 13th January, I discuss the expense of living and eating well.

Here are my top tips on eating ‘clean’ and nutritiously on a tighter budget.

  1. Shop Local. I’m not talking about these fancy ‘farm shops’ where a raspberry meringue sets you back £3 (although I do LOVE wasting money in those places). Most people think that going to your local grocer, butcher or fishmonger is expensive in comparison to the supermarket but often they are surprisingly competitive – don’t forget they now have to compete with the price wars going on at top level to keep local custom. You also have the added advantage of the produce being locally sourced and often organic, even if it is not advertised as such. Delicatessens stocking local cold meats and cheeses are also fab – there’s a lot of fairly-priced artisan food out there nowadays which is sourced right here in the UK.
  2. Look Online. Brands stocked in Holland and Barrett, Tesco and Win Naturally are mostly available online for a reduced price or in wholesale packs (ebay is good for this). Often if you place a large order you also get free delivery, so it’s win-win. The internet is also fab for buying dried fruit and raw nuts, which are frankly extortionate at the supermarket and only ever come in tiny bags! Specialist foods such as gluten free flours, oils and natural sugar alternatives are also more readily available.
  3. Buy in Bulk. Whether that’s through a mail order meat site such as Muscle Food or through your local butcher, as I say in my post about prep if you are lucky enough to have the freezer space, it’s easier (and cheaper) to think ahead and stock up with a lot of food at once. It will keep fresh and you can get excellent quality meat and fish at much lower prices when you buy a lot of it.
  4. Don’t discount Aldi and Lidl. So many more people are latching on to the Aldi and Lidl frenzy now but there are still many who are slightly sceptical when it comes to buying produce. I buy loads of basics (such as oats, unsalted butter, whole milk) from Aldi; but it’s also great for genuine specialist continental foods such as big juicy olives, rich cheeses and spicy meats. The fruit and veg is cheap as chips and they’ve even started an organic range now which unsurprisingly is also perfectly priced. Both Lidl and Aldi also do a great range of raw nuts – Lidl even has a ‘pick n mix nut bar’ where you can choose your own.

All in all, eating naturally will always cost you a little more than if you relied on processed foods. However if you can afford it, the benefits are incredible. Your body is your most precious asset!! I hope that this post demonstrates that it can be done on a budget.

Any more ideas I have missed on living and eating well frugally? Share them here!

Rose  xx

Wholesome Food Review – Lick Frozen Yoghurt

It’s still pretty chilly, yet who doesn’t fancy a bowl of ice cream now and again?

Previously there was nothing on the market if you wanted a cool sweet treat without eating a load of sugar and/or preservatives. A truly nutritious, healthy sweet treat was non-existent.

Say hello to Lick – which I found to my delight in my nearest Sainsbury’s Local last summer. Whilst the rest of the office were tucking into ice-cream, I happily opened the lid on two little pots of frozen joy – one Blueberry and Raspberry, one Banana and Honey. Each was so sweet and yummy – and had the perfect taste and consistency. I was full from eating the 2 little pots as well, which is likely down to the protein in the natural yoghurt used as a base for these tasty little desserts.

So why are these better for you than conventional frozen yoghurt?

Well frozen yoghurt, contrary to popular belief, is generally not that good for you. Whilst it may be ‘0% fat’, as with most ‘health foods’ sporting this claim, the lack of fat is made up for with copious amounts of much more unhealthy sugar.

Lick frozen yoghurts however are different – they are 100% natural and are sweetened with beet sugar and honey, plus of course the sweetness you get from the fruit. This means guilt-free, tongue-happy and body-friendly snacking, which is you ask me is a winner whether it’s scorching hot or freezing cold outside!! They’re available in Plain, Banana and Honey, Blueberry and Raspberry and Strawberry and Elderflower flavours.

Have you tried Lick? Let me know your thoughts!

LICK 2

Rose xx

Why are more of us having ‘quarter life crises’?

women-midife-crisis

It’s a term that’s being banded around a lot lately – ‘Quarter life Crisis’. A variation on the well-known ‘Mid-Life Crisis’ suffered predominantly by males (which I’m told involves running off with women half your age and buying a sports car), it seems to now be a phenomenon afflicting the 20-30 year olds of the first world.

But what exactly constitutes a ‘Quarter Life Crisis’? Surely people of this age shouldn’t be experiencing any sort of anguish – they should be too busy having fun, right?

But that is just one of the pressures and expectations laid on youngsters by society which makes this time a difficult one. Conventions and socially acceptable practices are changing rapidly, but are also shackled by old-style mentalities. For example, women are expected to go to university and follow a decent, respectable career, to be independent. Yet if a woman is living alone and not married by 30, she is whispered about and constantly reminded of her ‘biological clock’, however successful her career is. We are all obsessed with material things and competing in futile desperation to be ‘the best’ at life – but only by society’s standards. In the back of our minds, our own values and dreams remind us occasionally of what we really want, but cannot bring ourselves to break from convention to obtain.

Not only should we be having fun in our twenties, we should also be building a solid career and saving for a house and for the point at which our lives suddenly become full of unavoidable responsibility. Fresh out of university or battling your way through the dark, unforgiving forest of employment, it’s enough just to pay rent, council tax and heating bills, let alone save for a deposit and mortgage on a meagre wage AND have money to spend on copious amounts of alcohol and expensive holidays .

As I touch on in a previous post, you can’t do it all. And I think that’s what a Quarter Life Crisis is all about – feeling as if you should do it all, and simply feeling like a big fat failure when you’re understandably unable to do so. That added to the confusion of not knowing what you want to do or how you want to live your life – and the pressure to have it all figured out as your twenties start to fly before your eyes.

This blog covers a lot of my tips for surviving this strange era in which we live, such as living more simply and rationing social media. Watch this space – but in the meantime take a look at the following posts which I hope will make you feel a little better! Realise we are all in it together, and nobody really knows what they’re doing, even if they look like they do.

  • Procrastination – the thief of time (and sanity)
  • You can’t do it all
  • Good things are just around the corner!

Suggestions for alternative posts? Send them in!

Rose xx

Why BMI and Weight mean absolutely nothing

Need diet

As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, weight is a number on a scale which essentially tells you what your relationship with gravity is. It doesn’t tell you anything else; it doesn’t take into account other physical or personal qualities. I wanted to expand a little bit on this though because I get a lot of people talking to me about ‘weight loss’ and when I explain why I disagree with that so much I’m often met with a lot of confusion and questions!

I think the main reason for this confusion is the conditioning we have all been subject to over the last 30 plus years, which has seen the idea of ‘weight loss’ painted as a positive and ‘fat’ as a negative.

Of course in the 40’s, there was an influx of adverts promising ‘curviness’ for ‘skinny’ girls, who were ostracised just as bigger women are nowadays for their ‘undesirable’ size. Doesn’t that just go to show the power of the media, and the consequent effect it has on society? Someone, somewhere decides what is ‘normal’ or ‘good’ and we all follow blindly as we are told to do. At the moment, ‘skinny’ is in, and as a consequence we have all become obsessed with how much we weigh, with fat as a rule avoided like the plague.

BMI has long been painted by health professionals as an accurate and reliable gauge of a person’s health, based on the correlation between their height and weight. Contrary to this, many will now tell you that it in fact does the opposite and tells us very little about a person’s physical make up and overall health. Here’s an example: take a body builder who is very lean but has a heck of a lot of muscle. Muscle is more dense than fat, so they weigh quite a lot. They are however lacking in height – meaning their BMI indicates that they are clinically obese. Yet this person does not have a scrap of fat on them – so how can they possibly be obese?

This outdated system lumps people into categories of ‘healthy’, ‘unhealthy’ and ‘really unhealthy’ on opposite ends of the scale.  Another example is a naturally slim, tall person whose height and weight indicate that they are drastically underweight and dangerously so. Yet this is simply how they are made up naturally – it’s impossible for them to put on any weight.

What concerns me about this reliance on BMI is that many people are being told they are ‘clinically obese’ when that simply is not true. It focuses us even more keenly on a number on a scale, and not the health of our bodies as a whole. More recently, worrying stories of children and young adults being berated for the product of their BMI results have emerged in the press, which of course is unhelpful to say the least at such a formative stage both mentally and physically.

 

This brings me back to ‘weight’ as a whole. I admit I weigh myself once a week, same time, same day, so I absolutely cannot sit here and tell anybody not to weigh themselves at all, even though in all honesty that would be the ideal alternative. I know people who weigh themselves incessantly; sometimes twice in a day. When you have body dysmorphia or an eating disorder, gaining one pound can alter your whole perception of yourself and how you feel for the rest of that day. Clothes feel tighter, imaginary rolls of fat appear in the mirror. ‘Weight’ means nothing. The weight of our bodies depends on many different factors and varies from hour to hour, day to day, week to week. Women especially are subject to daily hormonal changes and don’t forget the contribution of our digestive systems to how much (or little) we weigh.

So what’s the alternative? Whilst I don’t suggest that this is widely used and suitable for everybody, I think it’s better to look to more accurate techniques such as fat calliper testing to get a clear indication of someone’s overall health. This coupled with other investigations can really give a true picture of how a person is made up, and where. If you are carrying excess fat, where it is on your body is important, as this often determines whether it poses a risk to your health and also the cause of its presence. Not everyone who carries excess fat eats cake for breakfast!

Next time you find yourself at the doctor’s and they insist on working out your BMI, please don’t lose heart if it isn’t favourable. It is a vague indication, if that, of your health and physical components. Not only that, there is more to you than a number on a scale. You are a wonderful person on the inside, and as long as you are also healthy, that is all that matters.

Rose xx

 

Gluten-free – it’s not for everyone

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I talk about fad diets on here and my hatred of anything that encourages you to cut anything out of your daily routine completely or starve yourself as I believe that these are harmful and unhealthy – I think that they normalise a difficult relationship with food.

You may have noticed from the blog that I don’t eat gluten. I don’t eat any foods with gluten in them because I have IBS as a result of my anxiety disorder, which means I struggle to digest food in general because of my constant state of anxiety, but especially ‘heavy’ foods like bread and pasta. It’s not simply an issue with gluten; I wouldn’t be able to eat any gluten free breads and I struggle with potato too. So essentially it’s not intolerance as such and more an inability to process heavy foods rather than an intolerance to gluten in an isolated way.

Some people have gluten intolerances or allergies (known as Coeliac disease), very much like lactose allergies and intolerance. These are serious medical conditions which cause people to become very poorly if they consume the foods in question – in the case of allergies, all precautions must be taken to ensure sufferers’ foods have not at all come into contact with any gluten. In the same way if I eat heavy foods I feel very poorly but Irritable Bowel Syndrome is still an illness with very little known about the causes, triggers and treatments and therefore it’s a grey area compared to the above.

Contrary to the seriousness which is widely associated with nut allergies, we’ve become very ignorant and dismissive about gluten allergies and intolerances and often group them as the same thing, or worse group them with those on fad diets who don’t have intolerance or allergies at all. Similarly, it’s more difficult to tell now whether somebody has a medical issue, or whether they’re just avoiding the food group altogether because they have read an article in a magazine and decided to go on a fad diet. Unfortunately, all those who are avoiding gluten for genuine reasons find themselves subject to disapproval and a fair amount of eye-rolling, tutting, ridicule and sometimes anger (yes anger – it’s happened!)

Gluten-free has become the latest fad diet on the market. Celebrities have taken it up in force and magazines rave about the benefits including a ‘flat stomach’ and the fact that gluten causes undesirable effects in even the most robust digestive system. This often means that when I turn down a sandwich or tell somebody I’m not able to eat that cake or biscuit, they snort and say ‘Oh, you’re on low carb?’ or look at me disdainfully because clearly I’m just being a faddy eater and being incredibly inconvenient (having had an eating disorder, I’m used to this look as I’m sure you can imagine!) Generally, people don’t believe me when I tell them about my IBS and how it affects me (and I really don’t fancy going into detail about my bowel movements to convince them that I am telling the truth!).

I think this misunderstanding is because the popularity and promotion of gluten-free has led to people who have no history of intolerance and who have not been to see a doctor self-diagnosing an intolerance and cutting out gluten altogether in favour of expensive gluten-free alternatives, of which there is now an increasingly diverse range in the supermarkets (isn’t that just proof of the adoption of gluten free?) The problem is that because people see it as a diet and weight loss method, and not as a necessary (or unnecessary for most, as it happens) lifestyle choice, they feel they can consume as much gluten-free produce as they please and that they will be healthy and lose weight as a result. Sadly, they’re wrong.

Processed gluten-free products are often full of the same nasty chemicals and preservatives as are in foods containing gluten – and in fact sometimes they have more because they are not made in a ‘traditional’ way as some ‘normal’ products are. They contain just as much sugar too, so eating a gluten-free pack of biscuits instead of the occasional ‘normal biscuit’ is absolutely no good for your body.

There’s varying schools of thought scientifically as to whether cutting gluten out of your diet is beneficial medically-speaking, however a fair few of these contradict each other ,with some saying it may help, others which categorically deny that, unless you have medical reason to, gluten has any reason to be excluded from your diet. As I always say, eating a healthy, balanced, as natural as possible range of foods is absolutely the best thing for your body. Gluten-based foods have been around for centuries and whilst our variations of them (such as refined breads and processed cakes and biscuits) aren’t the best, gluten itself is only the enemy for a select few who genuinely struggle to process it.

Have you experienced any prejudice because of a genuine allergy or intolerance?

Rose xx