Posts tagged ‘health’

February 11, 2014

Living Naturally Soapnut shampoo bar.

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In an attempt to reduce the amount of plastic we use, I’ve been reviewing all my toiletries. I know already that I’ll decide not to replace some things; I’m very attached to my favourite beauty products!  Because of this, I’ve been going for quick wins where I have no emotional resistance. Shampoo was first on my list.

I have no particular brand preference but my dry, curly hair has to be washed, or at least dampened every day. Goodness knows what I do in my sleep but I always wake up with it sticking up like a scarecrow. The daily washing doesn’t help with the dryness though—although I rarely use a hairdryer so at least it’s not getting heat damaged too.

My friend Jo suggested soapnuts as a solution to my packaging dilemma, and gave me this Soapnut shampoo bar from Living Nature to try. Soapnuts are basically dried husks of the berries from the soapnut tree. You can find out more by clicking here. They’re really good for people with excema or skin conditions that react badly to the chemicals in a lot of toiletries or laundry products, so if you or a member of your family suffer in this way they’re definitely worth investigating.

The soapnut bar I tried is apparently suitable for the whole body as well as the hair, but I decided to approach it the old-fashioned way for this trial, and just washed my hair in the sink. The bar lathered up quite nicely and it definitely felt like it was doing a good job of cleaning my hair. What I hadn’t initially realised is that, as well as the soapnuts and Dead Sea salt, the soap bar also contains several oils (olive, coconut, palm and castor) which left my hair feeling really moisturised. I think if you have oily hair already, this might not feel so great, but it helped combat the frizz I get with my dry hair so was a real benefit to me.

Other ingredients in the bar are essential oils of lavender, rosemary, cedarwood and cypress, so it smells gorgeous, slightly medicinal and woody. I think it probably goes without saying, but it’s also handmade, vegan and free of any chemicals.

I really enjoyed this product and, given that the oils help with the dryness of my hair, it might have actually helped me to find a replacement for styling products too! Definitely a keeper…and it’s made me wonder what other soapnut products we could try.

Have you tried any soapnut products? Or other packaging-free shampoo? I’d love to hear from you!

 

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August 23, 2013

Microadventure: a few lessons learnt.

I posted recently about Alistair Humphrey’s inspiring microadventures, and how I was planning to have ‘Micra’ Adventures. That plan was recently put into action with the first of what I hope will be many (tiny but nonetheless brilliant) adventures around our fair Isle.

We set off on our journey with a borrowed tent, not much specialist kit and little in the way of a plan. Which, naturally made  the whole thing far more exciting. Happily, the campsite we kind of thought we would end up in had a space for us, and so we spent the first night in the lovely Lake District before a morning spent walking up Castle Crag and then, after admiring the stunning lakeland scenery from the top, walking back down and eating giant cream teas. Splendid.

After a spot of shopping (for the amazing new jacket in the photo, which was in an equally amazing sale!), we then set off for Scotland, with a meandering drive through beautiful scenery. We pitched up somewhere outside Edinburgh – after a tiny worry about finding somewhere to stay, but happily it seems that wild camping is far less of a problem in Scotland, so we’d have been fine. Then we went onwards again to Aberdeen for a couple of days before coming home, via a walk up Clachnaben.

Climbing Clachnaben

At Clachnaben.

So, what did I learn?

Above and beyond, that I need to spend time outdoors. I need fresh air, exercise and a bit of freedom – I know, I’m making myself sound like a zoo animal or something, but it’s true. A few days away from the stresses of everyday life have given me a bit of spirit again.

I also learnt the following truths:

1: Adventure doesn’t have to happen in places far away, nor take up long periods of time. Adventure is waiting for me, to fill the tiny gaps in my life whenever I want it to happen.

2: Waiting for everything to be perfect means waiting too long. Thanks for my lovely family and friends, we were able to beg and borrow some kit, but for a larger part, we just made do with what we had, and hacked it to make it work.

3: Planning ahead means that I can be spontaneous later. So, knowing what I really need beforehand, what I can do without (see number 2 above) and, crucially, where it all is means I can pack up at the last minute and go!

Do you have micro adventures? Is there anywhere that you’d recommend for camping, walking, adventuring? I’d love to hear from you…

January 7, 2013

On Smoking.

I was going to start my 2013 blog posts with one about my plans for the year, but then I got a bit side-tracked by listening to a radio show about the most common New Year resolutions people make. Unsurprisingly, giving up smoking was high on the list and it made me think of my own history of smoking and about how I managed to quit.

I started smoking relatively late, at the age of 21. An interest in horses, plus being largely bullied or ignored at school meant that I never developed any bad habits there. In something of a tired cliché, it was with an unsuitable boyfriend that I started smoking. A musician. I know, cliché piled upon cliché. True though, nonetheless. We spent a summer together and by the time the relationship ended and I went away to college, I was pretty much surgically attached to my Marlboro Lights. For the next three years, during the whole of my degree, I smoked. Less so during the holidays, and with a dramatic increase during exam times, when I barely opened my eyes on a morning before lighting up the first smoke of the day. It makes me shudder to think of it now.

After I finished my degree, I went home, got a sensible job with the Council and carried on smoking. I made wonderful friends at work, one of whom I used to share cigarette breaks with. At 42, she was older than me and on the verge of a divorce and a fresh start in life. I took her rock climbing, to concerts, out dancing. I left that job a year later, in July, but we kept in touch. We still went out and still smoked together. In November of that year, she was off sick with a sudden ‘flu’, when I went to Australia. On Christmas Eve, I returned home to a message telling me that she was dead. The cancer was swift and vicious. I didn’t get to say good-bye, or to attend her funeral. My only consolation was that she had told all our friends how much she loved that I’d taken to do all the things she’d really wanted to try.

I continued to smoke through my grief.

My new job brought new friends, many of whom are still very close friends. Being young, free and single, we spent many an evening with a ‘swift half’ in the pub after work that tended to end with us being kicked out at closing time. In those pre-smoking ban days half the people who didn’t usually smoke would ask for the occasional cigarette and I always obliged. It used to cost a fortune. But more than that, it legitimised my smoking. We drunkenly put the world to rights, and worked our way through several packets of cigarettes a night. The morning after usually brought me a sore throat and an empty purse.

In January 2005, however, something happened that made me finally give up smoking. A party. We held a 60th birthday party,complete with céilidh band, for a  colleague. Mike is a pretty unique kind of chap. When I was off work with a long term problem, he sent me the most wonderful long hand-written letter, with a mix CD of country music (“because it’s guaranteed to make you feel better about your own situation” ) and comedy. I still have it to this day. The venue was upstairs, and so every time I wanted a cigarette, I had to go downstairs, smoke outside, and then climb back up the stairs, arriving red-faced and out of breath to start dancing again. With a 60 year old man who was clearly fitter than I was…

At the end of the party, there was a speech. I don’t remember it all but I do remember Mike saying how grateful he was to still be alive. How sad he was that not all of his friends had made it to 60. And that, combined with my realisation of how horrible and ill I’d been feeling all night, was enough. I quit the following day. I’ve not smoked since. I had to go through it without any aids, because I’m allergic to plasters so couldn’t use the patches and the nicotine gum made my mouth swell up. I don’t remember it being particularly easy. I don’t remember it being particularly hard either, beyond the first few weeks and a complete inability to drink alcohol, because in my head the two activities belonged together. You’ll be glad to know that I’ve got past the not-drinking problem!  I do know beyond all shadow of doubt that it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I would never, ever go back.

So, to everyone who has decided that ‘give up smoking’ will be their resolution this year, I applaud you. Never give up giving up. It’s not easy, but it’s the best thing you’ll ever do. I can run now, never mind climb some stairs or dance a ceilidh. And that’s the greatest feeling in the world…

December 3, 2012

Returning to Running.

A couple of weeks ago, during an appointment for something completely unrelated, my doctor checked my blood pressure and announced that unless I could manage to get it to come down, I’d have to start taking some medication for it. And that once I was taking that medication, it would be for the rest of my life.

My immediate response was to go home, burst into stressful tears and drink beer on the stairs. Excellent. And a touch over-dramatic, I know. Not the first time I’ve had that kind of response to something a doctor has told me. Once I’d pulled myself together, splendidly supported by a soundtrack suggested by Twitter (and in particular from the always-on-the-money @wandapops) I started to think about the last time I’d been told that I needed to reduce my blood pressure and how I’d managed it.

Since my first pregnancy ended at thirty weeks with severe pre-eclampsia, I’ve suffered with high blood pressure and the only thing that has really worked to reduce it is running. Since returning to full time work after the birth of my second child, I’ve struggled to fit it into my schedule. And, like many people, looking after myself has dropped further and further down the list until it barely registers at all. Now, though, I have to re-think how I approach exercise. Not as a luxury bit of time for myself – which is how I’ve increasingly come to think of it – but as something essential, something that underpins the rest of my life.

Alongside running, I’ve got to lose a bit of weight again, and try to eat healthily and drink less alcohol. All those behavioural things that, even if they don’t give you a longer life, certainly make it feel as though you’ve lived longer! I’m not going to turn into a fun-free Puritan though. Everything in moderation. But I know that I owe it to myself and the people that love me to make a decent job of looking after myself a bit better. I know that taking medication is not the end of the world, and I’m grateful that it exists, should I need it. However, I really want to return to better habits, so that I don’t need to just yet.  I feel too young to be taking beta-blockers!

So, a new schedule is needed. One in which running is built in as an essential element, not as an afterthought. I’ve struggled with running on and off for the past few years. I have poor feet and knees. But I’ve been out three times this week, and I’ve surprised myself by enjoying it enormously. I’ve learnt that what Jayne from Veggie Runners told me is very true  – namely that once you’ve been a runner, no matter how long the break, it’ll be easier to run again than it was the first time around. This is very encouraging, and has helped me to keep going when it’s been tough, cold and muddy. I’m also grateful to those people who have offered to run with me. I’m better in (slow!) company,  I think. My initial goal is to do a decent time at a Parkrun in January, and then see how I get on, perhaps with Outlaw Runners in Leeds. But this time, I’m less bothered about improving times, entering races or anything like that. This time the only numbers that count are 120/80, and my goal is to get closer to them…

See, I told you it was muddy…

August 14, 2012

London 2012:The Olympic Games

I’m sure half the bloggers in the country have written an Olympics post by now, I know I’ve read a few. Still, there’s room on the internet for my two penn’orth.

I fell in love with the London 2012 Olympic Games during the Opening Ceremony. I wasn’t one of the people who had spent hours online trying and in many cases failing to get tickets. I hadn’t been gripped by any kind of Olympic fever but neither was I against the Games. If I was asked about it, my response was little more than a shoulder shrug. I spent three weeks of July in my usual Tour de France mind-set, and watching the incredible Bradley Wiggins winning the yellow jersey. After his broken collarbone the year before, it was the most magnificent return to the Tour and instantly there was talk of what he might do at the Olympics. For the first time, my thoughts really turned to the Games.

So, on holiday, we watched the utterly incredible Opening Ceremony, and I did one of the three things that I have done constantly throughout the two weeks of the Olympics. I cried. For two weeks since watching that Ceremony, I have found myself either holding my breath, shouting at the telly, or in tears. That’s it. Just those things. I’ve cried about cyclists and boxers. I’ve cried about swimmers, rowers, runners, riders and in one case, over the most beautiful extended trot I’ve ever seen. The equestrian events are the ones I know the best and if you’d told me that we’d win medals in all three disciplines, and two golds in the dressage, I’d never have believed you. I’ve cried over women competing from all the involved nations. I’ve cried at the sheer goodwill and volume of noise coming from stadium after stadium. I’ve cried as I’ve watched athletes from all nationalities, in all events, try their absolute heart out. I’ve cried when we won and when we lost.

I’ve shouted too. I’ve shouted at Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton and many, many more. I’ve held my breath as I watched Tom Daley get his bronze, when watching the almost-perfect dressage, when our team gymnasts had to wait for the results of an enquiry before finding out their medal results.

When I’ve not been shouting, breath-holding or crying in front of the TV, I’ve been outside. I suspect I’m not the only one who has compensated for all those extra hours in front of the tv by doing more exercise too. The motto of the Games may well have been about inspiring the next generation, but I tell you, they’ve inspired this old 36 year old too. Even though that inspiration led me to do a rather misjudged cartwheel that nearly popped out my hip…

With my kids, I’ve been running, swimming and bike riding. Playing football. Teaching my daughter how to cartwheel (badly). My children are quite young, so they’re not really aware about negative body images in the media or about vacuous, talentless ‘celebrity’ culture, but my daughter in particular has been captivated by watching women compete in sports as diverse as athletics, football, gymnastics and rowing. When we went out for a walk at the weekend, both the children ran in front of us, and my daughter shouted “I’m at the front, that means I win GOOOOOLD!” and my heart sang.

Now the Games have ended and there is a bit of a hole in my life. All a bit over-dramatic, I know, especially when I wasn’t remotely bothered about them beforehand but at the moment it feels true. I’m anxiously waiting for the start of the Paralympics so I can recommence my shouting, breath-holding and crying routine but beyond that I want to remember that feeling of pride, positivity, athleticism. Of positive body-image for women of all sizes. Of my children getting excited about competing in sports.

Let me leave aside the bad bits; the corporate sponsorship and logo-banning all over the place, the seating fiascos, the jarring note (for me, anyway) of supermodels at the closing ceremony (and, actually, quite a lot of the closing ceremony) the farce of G4S, and just concentrate on the sport, the volunteers and the spectators.  It’s really shown the best of Great Britain, of who we can be and of what we can achieve. I make no apologies for my over-enthusiasm or for my tears. Or for starting to save up to go to Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. I don’t want to be just sitting in front of the tv when they arrive.