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

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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.

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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?

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‘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

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

Wholesome Food Review – Beond NEED IMAGES

I’d actually never heard of Beond until I spotted them on Tesco’s Nutribar a few weeks ago. Apprehensive at first, I popped two of their bite-size morsels into my trolley. (I also thought ‘They’ll probably be exactly the same as Nakd’ when I saw they consisted predominantly of dates).

However Beond are very different in several ways to Nakd Bars (I love both, let me just emphasise that!). I chose the blueberry and raw cocoa varieties – both of which were really soft, smooth and chewy and more like nougat than a bar made with fruit, nuts and seeds. They are really sweet and filling – in fairness I ate both but that was enough for a mid-afternoon snack. The cocoa bar is really chocolatey and whilst I love Nakd bars (because I like dates and nuts) I think these are a great alternative for people who dislike the taste of dried fruit or nuts and want to go for something more traditionally sweet. They’re 100% organic to boot so really nourishing as sweet snacks go.

As well as these handy little bites you can also purchase full size bars. They come in Raw Chocolate, Acai Berry, Baobab Pineapple, Apple Cinnamon and Blueberry flavours – currently in Tesco they only had Chocolate and Blueberry but I’m very much looking forward to seeing the new flavours on the shelves as they sound delicious! They’re a little pricey at tesco at over £1 per tiny bar (yikes) but if you look online or buy in bulk they’re much more reasonably priced.

Have you tried Beond? Let me know what you think!

Rose xx