The Big Boy Room

The thing about proper gym training is that the relationship you build with your trainer becomes so much more than that of a task manager.  The thing about being with someone who really knows what they are doing is that at a certain point they know your body and its limits better than you do.  Darrell stepped up our training by taking me to the area of the gym where the big boys train.  That part that I dared not tread in the past as I felt this area was off limits to me.  I am not sure if this is the former fatty talking or just someone who happens to have a vagina rather than a penis.  But, there is something about the testosterone fuelled weight lifting floor that scared the hell out of me.  But, full of excitement and a bag of nerves I followed Darrell into belly of the beast, also known as the body building floor.

Today we were going to do dead lifts.  I was going to do deadlifts!! My form was good and I felt stronger than I ever had my whole life.  That’s the thing about living in a fat suit, when you are in it though you are pushing every possible physical boundary with the sheer mass you are carrying you don’t feel strong.  Quite the opposite, you feel weak and at the mercy of something you need for survival yet can’t control.  So, this new feeling of strength was something almost spiritual.  Having spent the better part of my life hiding my body the idea of lifting weights was a bit cathartic.  The “big boy” room thick with testosterone and heaving with the kind of men that I feared would judge me actually respected my effort.  It was another stamp to add to my “passport” of places I felt I was not allowed to enter as a fat girl.  Whether societal or self-imposed there were just some things that were off limits to me in my old body.

But, this wasn’t all about my head.  Under Darrell’s expert guidance my body so beaten and scared from weight loss and plastic surgery was toned and taut.  The results were hard to dismiss and furthered my original hypothesis that it was all about excuses.  Once the barriers were dropped and I really took on board what Darrell was teaching me I had complete faith in the process.

Since this was written Darrell has moved.  What is a huge loss to me is a massive gain to clients in Leeds.  Darrell is so much more than a trainer.  He helped me in ways I could not have imagined.  You see the last thing I had wanted in the beginning was a male trainer.   Men in the gym generally had been something I tried to avoid at all costs.  But, the idea of working one on one with a male PT was something of nightmares.  It was my own jaded view of men in general I suppose, but in my mind they represented everything that kept me weak.  These were the kind of guys that mooed at the 16 year old Melissa.  I suppose I stereotyped all “fit” men in this way.  But, Darrell changed all that.  He showed me that my only limitations were self-imposed and anything was possible.  He pushed me continuously and encouraged me to lift more and was always there to spot me when I needed it, whilst at the same time knowing when to hold back and let me take care of business.  The sessions we had were about pushing the limits I had and helping me attain a strength I didn’t think possible. We had many a conversation that started with me saying “I want to be able to do Tough Mudder or I think I want to enter a charity boxing match or I want to be able to do pull ups unaided.”  His reply was always “you can do it” “we can train for that”.

So, Darrell I can’t possibly thank you enough for what you have given me.  You are a credit not only to your profession, but more importantly to your gender.

I will continue this journey with a new trainer.  So, this is not over yet!

Watch this space…

#NoExcuses

14721649_669567459868728_1004468577750512185_nSo it begins! I have never made my advocacy  for the Abby Pell’s of this world a secret. Those amazing super humans who embraced the “no excuses” hashtag with both hands and got mostly hate for their effort.  I remain an advocate for all body shapes.  But, why is it that these women who have chosen to push their physical limits get so much hate?  As anyone who has followed me knows I used to weigh over 350 pounds.  I am certainly not the poster girl for gym bunnies by any stretch of the imagination.  But, this topic intrigues me, particularly in light of the recent controversy over Eugenia Cooney’s YouTube channel and the petition to ban her.  Now I do agree she certainly has an eating disorder.  But, has the pendulum swung so far that it is now ok to body shame those we consider too skinny?  There are super sized (by their own description) fashion bloggers that if they were experiencing the same vitriol as Eugenia we would be going out of our way to defend them.  Are they not just as much of an example of an eating disorder as Eugenia? I don’t know the answer.  But, I digress.  This is about really digging deep and saying NO actually there is no excuse for this middle age spread.  Yes, I have lost a lot of weight and have been incredibly lucky to have been able to have the extensive plastic surgery to remove loose skin.  But, that just put me on a more level playing field with the majority of women.  I am an extremely busy mum of seven year old twins.  I don’t want to get up at 5am to do crunches in my living room any more than anyone else.  But, having lived most of my life in a fat suit feel I would be doing myself the ultimate dis-service by not finding out what is possible.

7d8d319de325f162b18b58dfdf687460So, my question was; what happens when an average mum drops all excuses and hits the gym?  Well the first step like most of my body transformation would require expert help.  This would seem the easy part.  But, I soon found out that picking a personal trainer is very much like finding a therapist or partner for that matter.  You need someone you trust and that you can work with.  I searched for months before I found Darrell Wilson of DW Holistic Fitness.  During our first meeting he blinded me with the science of exercise.  It’s not that I expected a personal trainer to be dim.  But, I suppose we all hold silly stereotypes of the super fit perhaps being more muscle than brain, to which I profusely apologise.  Darrell has an incredible knowledge of not only the science of behind exercise, but also knows everything you can possibly think of about the nutrition needed to lose weight and gain muscle. His ability to explain the reasons behind every movement is nothing short of astounding.

Over my many years as a serial dieter I have possessed many a gym membership.  For the most part it was the usual story.  Following the obligatory “New Year’s resolution” I happily handed over my bank details to a very pushy sales person and for a month or two religiously went to the gym losing that same two stone repeatedly each year only to gain it back the second I eyeballed a cream cake. But, the fact is walking halfheartedly on a treadmill and pushing around a couple of dumbbells for an hour does not a six pack make.

There is certainly much more reason to be motivated when you have someone at your side to tell you exactly what is happening to your body during exercise.   Having thought I knew quite a lot about the topic myself soon learned I didn’t know much at all.  So, having found “the one” we started training. I think the best part of working with a great PT is that you are really motivated to make progress.  Was I sore the next day?  Yes!  I found muscles I didn’t know existed.  The feeling of satisfaction following each workout cannot be put into words.  The truly amazing thing is how quickly I felt the results.  I am obviously a work in progress, but having been working with Darrell for just over a month now the difference in my body is very noticeable.  The satisfaction in seeing the free weights go up each week is an awesome feeling.  He is a ball buster in the nicest possible way!  The workouts are always challenging, but the fact that I am seeing the results is such a great motivator.  I started out with a marked weakness on my left side as compared to the right.  But, over the last few weeks I have seen such a big difference that my left side has nearly caught up.

I have certainly come a long way from the “Davina” hand weights collecting dust under my bed.  Having that support from someone at your side each session is extra motivation to stay on track.  I have been resistant to having a trainer in the past because I felt self-conscious.  But, Darrell in addition to knowing what he is talking about is a genuinely nice person that spurs you on in such a positive way.  I can’t think of a better cheerleader in this very foreign territory.

So, I remain without excuses and on the way to finding out what is truly possible.  This is chapter one of a series on building a better body.  Will I end up with a six pack? Don’t know! But, what is certain is that building a better body is so much more complex then losing weight.  So, with science, good nutrition and a truly inspirational Trainer there are no excuses and no limits!

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Shot of Sleep, Straight Up

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Before

I’ve heard people talk about something called sleep. I believe it’s something I used to do before children and the weight of the world got the better of me.  I try my best with make-up and what can only be described as industrial grade concealer to hide the stress and lack of sleep that has taken residence under my eyes.  With bags big enough to hold all my luggage and dark circles that would be the envy of most raccoons there is only so much a mere cosmetic can be expected to do.  I have tried all the light reflecting magic, miracle potions out there and don’t get me wrong they can make a difference up to a point.  But, the 24/7 hustle of being a working mum who’s building a brand, writing as well as 9 to 5’ing takes a toll.

I am obviously very open minded when it comes to aesthetics and plastics. So, when I learned about the use of fillers to treat Tear Troughs, the area around the eyes, I was more than intrigued.  Now, don’t get me wrong the idea of having a filler, in this case Teosyal injected into the eye socket sounds a bit frightening. However, I was incredibly lucky to have had a Teoxane Trainer carrying out my treatment.

Dr Linea Strachan is trained dentist, but has been doing aesthetics for nearly 10 years.  She is the clinical director of A&L Clinics, which is one of the best and busiest cosmetic clinics in Suffolk. Luckily for me she has recently started running a clinic from Harley Street.  She is the teacher for intermediate and advanced filler techniques for Teoxane UK.  Dr Strachan is an award winning practitioner having won in two categories in facial aesthetics in the Aesthetic Dentistry Awards 2016.

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Before

I met Dr Strachan in Harley Street on the day of the treatment. As a rule of thumb people will often tell you that the best way to judge someone’s aesthetic skill is by looking at them.  Well Dr Strachan is certainly an amazing advert for her work.  She is as brilliant as she is stunning.  Following in intensive consultation and taking a set of before photos she explained that she would be using a new bit of technology for the treatment called a Teosyalpen.  It is basically an electronic dispenser that distributes the filler into the area being treated.  Dr Strachan first put in a small cannula which was then attached to the Teosyalpen.  I have had filler on many occasions and even with a numbing cream there is often a sting.  Not overly painful but usually enough to cause the eyes water a bit.  But, with the pen there was literally nothing.  I did not have any numbing cream and the only thing I felt was the tinniest scratch when the cannula was put in and just a bit of vibration as the teosyal went into the tear trough.  This was hands down the least painful treatment I have ever had.  It took no more than 15 minutes per side and the results were instant.  Because of the technique Dr Strachan uses there was no bruising and I couldn’t even see the entry point from the needle.

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After

Following the procedure you look like you have just come out of a week long nap! I was in awe of the difference.  There was minimal swelling which was pretty much gone within the week.  No down time whatsoever and a result that lasts up to a year.  Seriously, what’s not to love?

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After

Time for a safety lecture and some words of caution about this and all aesthetic treatments. A tear trough should not under any circumstances be administered by a non-medically trained practitioner!  Now I realise there are a number of people who are happy to be injected with any number of things by beauticians, I am not one of them.  Every single one of these procedures have the ability to cause serious and life altering side effects in the wrong hands.  Prior to any procedure an extensive consultation should be carried out to ensure you are suitable and safe to have the treatment. In addition the person injecting you should have the training to deal with complications should they arise.  I know a “bit of filler” seems like no bid deal.  But, if you were to have an allergic reaction to it does that beautician injecting you in the backroom of a salon have the medical training to deal with an anaphylactic shock? Will basic life support even be something he or she is trained in much less the injection of adrenaline in an emergency.   I say this as a nurse not just a blogger. These are things you need to consider when undertaking a “bit of a tweak”.   Beauticians are amazing at their jobs and in no way am I putting down their skills for “beauty treatments”. Injecting chemicals into the skin though done for non-medical reasons are still medical procedures and should be respected as that.   I believe that aesthetic treatments should be regulated in such a way as to make it illegal for anyone other than medically trained professionals to inject them.  With the treatment of your Tear Troughs in particular the experience and education of your practitioner is absolutely your number one priority.

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Rapunzel Me!

Gimme head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming,
Streaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer hair
Here baby, there mama
everywhere daddy daddy

You get the idea!! Hair is probably something those who have it in abundance take for granted.  There was a time many, many years ago I had thick hair.  So, thick in fact my mum would cut it short because it was so unmanageable.  I cannot pinpoint the exact time in my life that my hair started thinning.  But, as someone who was diagnosed with Poly cystic Ovarian Syndrome in my twenties I think it’s probably likely that is when it all went south.  One of the unfortunate side effects of PCOS as it is known is hormone imbalance which in part causes a higher level of testosterone which sadly means thinning of hair where you want it and more hair where you don’t.  Enter ladybeard! But, that’s another story altogether. As I got older my hair gradually got thinner with the last straw being massive weight loss.  Having lost so much weight over such a short amount of meant that I unintentionally left myself vulnerable to vitamin deficiencies.  I am the first one to admit I was not as vigilant as I should have been in taking my supplements.

There are lots excellent aesthetic treatments such as PRP and Mesotherapy to treat thinning hair.  The science behind them is impressive and in a later blog I will discuss my own results with Mesotherapy.  However, I have a very short attention span and want instant gratification!

How do you create a head of hair out of nothing?  Well extensions of course.  This was something I had thought about a lot.  I had an increasing number of followers asking me my opinion on hair extensions.  I recall a wonderful article written by Dr Miriam Stoppard about all the reasons women over 40 should consider extensions.  Not the least of which is, that long flowing hair is associated with being carefree and youthful.

So, mission directive established I was off to get hair.  An exercise that was surely completely straightforward and simple, right? Actually, not so much! There is clip in, glue in, weaves, wefts, wigs, falls, Brazilian, Indian, Russian, micro loop, human hair synthetic and a multitude of other options to choose from.  Clearly, I would need to find a true expert.

dendelenIn looking at the different types of extensions one of the first things I learned is that there are few things that will kill your look quicker than a dodgy set of extensions.In order to maintain the integrity of your natural hair you need expert advice!  This is not something I would ever recommend as a diy project.  The pages and pages of hideous pictures of matted half bald scalps following a bad weave were endless.

I researched and researched the best and the brightest and was incredibly lucky that it just so happened that the cream of the crop Den Delen Owner/Director and generally amazing Wonder Woman entrepreneur and expert Hair Extension practitioner was right on my door step in SE London.  Her salon Showoff Hair Extensions had an excellent reputation and so off I went to see the lady herself to get properly Rapunzel’ed.   She did a consultation explaining exactly what type of hair I would need to achieve a natural look.  I was colour matched and advised that a combination of Nano and Micro loop Russian hair extensions would be used.  The tiny nano were placed at the sides in order to wear my hair up and not see any of the tiny bits that were looped into my own hair at the base. The extensions took roughly  two-three hours to put in. Watching her work was amazing as to me all these little bits look so fiddly, but in expert hands there was a rhythm of looping and clamping that was beyond impressive.  It was easy to see why Showoff had such a great reputation.  It is a beautiful tranquil environment that offers a number of aesthetic and beauty treatments as well as hair.

Once the hair was placed I got the big reveal!  I almost cried it was so beautiful! The hair was perfectly matched and looked 100% all mine.  I couldn’t stop touching it.  In the days that followed as I grew accustomed to this amazing mane I loved it more each day.  Den was careful to explain all the necessary information to keep the hair perfect. Rules around the way you wash, brush and generally everything you could possibly need to know to make sure it always looks its best.

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This was my first event with the new hair.  What can I say? Awesome!!

 

I must digress slightly here though.  I normally do not comment about specific customer service issues when reviewing a treatment.  But, whilst I was at Showoff something so amazing and extraordinary happened I think it would be remiss of me if I did not mention it.  There was a young woman in the salon who was crying and so distressed.  It unfolded that she was due to be married on the following Saturday and the company that she had paid to provide pretty much everything for her wedding had gone into administration that afternoon and she had just been informed that her day was basically ruined.  Den and the girls stopped everything that they were doing to help this girl.  The issues she was having had nothing to do with the services they offered. But, they went above and beyond to calm her down and helped her arrange new equipment, etc.  So, I can honestly say that with Showoff Hair Extensions customer service is Queen!

They are truly an amazing team of very talented women.  So much so they have been nominated for the Perrys Exceptional Customer Service Award.  They truly deserve it and if you would like to take a moment and vote for the amazing girls of Showoff please email exceptionalawards@pmwcom.co.uk writing Showoff Hair Extensions in the subject line!

A Clockwork Orange Peel

Cellulite!!  Ugh!  It is not even a pretty word.  A bit like moist, every time I hear it I just cringe!  First of all everyone has a bit of cellulite at one point or another.  But, unfortunately I have it all the time.  Primarily because I spent the majority of my life morbidly obese, cellulite is the price I have to pay for my years of gluttony. Although I have lost a huge amount of weight and have had reconstructive surgery for loose skin, the cellulite in one form or another remains.

I have tried lotions, potions and various notions.  Short of voodoo I have yet to find a miracle.  Now I am sure you have heard of the various anti-cellulite tights and leggings.  There are several companies that make them, all with very ambitious claims about “impregnated” fabric and that they sacrifice a live chicken in the factory to ensure your positive results.  Ok, I made that last bit up!! But, you see where I am going.  There are some very grand claims out there for what is often a very mediocre product.   As some of these products are very expensive, the last thing you want is to spend £200 on what ends being a pair of lazy pants you wear on the school run.

I am very much a believer in finding those special treasures in places you would not normally look.  I love the idea of trying something from a lesser known company as often they have something super special, but perhaps the world hasn’t discovered them yet.  I met this amazing and very inspiring entrepreneur Fabia Santos at a plastic surgery conference.  Her company called Yoga Compression Garments was not one I had heard of before, but her belief and dedication to her products hooked me right in.  I wasn’t sure why at the time, but she was definitely someone I wanted to know better.  There was the added bonus I suppose because it is a Brazilian company I thought if anyone in the world is going to know how to make your ass look good, it’s going to be them!

Over the course of researching the products what I learned was that in addition to the leggings which I will get to later, Fabia has dedicated herself to helping women going through reconstructive surgeries.  She attends hospitals herself to ensure post surgical garments are fitted properly and educates medical staff on the importance of garment fitting in the healing process.  I suppose this resonated with me because I have been in the position of trying to get myself into post surgery garments that in retrospect did more harm than good.  One very ill-fitting corset I had following abdominoplasty  I referred to as “the juicer”.  The second I put it on my clothes were soaked with the excess drainage.  So, the work she does is an integral part of the healing process for women that are already feeling quite vulnerable following life changing operations that are not always cosmetic.  As a professional Fabia is someone who really “walks the talk”.

The leggings are called The Yoga Emana.  They absorb heat from the body and return in the form of “long infrared rays”.  The rays are then absorbed into the skin and stimulate circulation and cellular metabolism.  The leggings contain bio-active crystals and so these properties are not lost when they are washed.  Amongst the many benefits that are purported:

Increased cellular metabolism
Increased skin elasticity
Reducing the appearance of cellulite
Thermal equilibrium
Reduction of muscle fatigue

So, with my magic leggings in hand I was off to try them myself in hopes of conquering these beastly dimples! Putting aside that they are meant to benefit you by wearing them, as a product they are beautiful and really flattering.  The instructions are that you are to wear them 12 hours a day.  I must say this was easy as they go with everything and really give you a beautiful shape.  They are so comfortable, yet hold everything in as well as pushing that excess junk in the trunk up perfectly.

The initial trial is meant to show results within weeks.  As I have particularly bad cellulite I took before pictures over six weeks.  The results were everything that was promised.  There was a marked difference in the smoothness of the skin and I definitely found the dimpling in my upper thighs in particular to have reduced.

Although I was primarily trialling them in order to ascertain the anti-cellulite properties I did actually find that there was a marked difference in how my legs felt following a run when wearing them.  So, there is definitely something too the claims about reducing fatigue.  From day one I was able to pack more punch into a workout wearing my Emana’s.  All in all the trial was extremely successful.  I can’t recommend them enough.  They retail for £95, which is a reasonable price for leggings that deliver the goods.  They remain in my normal rotation as my go to workout wear as well as sneaking them under other garments as a much more comfortable option to your standard “suck in your gut” pants.  An all around great product from a fabulous company.

 

Unbotched

1235099_10151916503800955_1325535349_nIt seems at the moment we are saturated with headlines and television shows all about the horrors of plastic surgery and aesthetics gone wrong.  Now don’t get me wrong I love a bit of reality television.  My own massive physical transformation was the result of participating in  reality/documentary television.  But, I have been thinking lately that the emphasis seems to have shifted from the “feel good”, albeit cheesy style of the ugly duckling that in the end becomes a beautiful swan to the disasters.  Because if you unpick the whole aesthetic and plastics industry you will find that for every botched boob job or filler fiasco there are thousands and thousands of very happy patients whose lives have been changed for the better following their procedures.  I do love a fairy tale! But, what this is really about is celebrating the amazing work of those who do get it right the first time. 

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Before reconstruction

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After

My own experience could not be further from the “Woman’s implant explodes on the school run” horror stories that get so much attention.    Following a huge weight loss I had a disfigured body.  Even the biggest body confidence cheerleaders could not possibly argue that the body I had following weight loss was nothing less than a train wreck.  Masses of loose skin that hung from every bone on my body, which even the most vigorous boot camp, would not be able to shift.  In addition to the unpleasant aesthetic, the skin was a health hazard that only served as a dark reminder of what decades of obesity had done to me.  It was a dark cloud that hung over the success of my weight loss.

 But, I was offered the holy grail!   My loose skin was removed under the most professional and expert conditions.  Mr Paul Baguley is nothing short of amazing!  He, like the many other professionals registered with The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS – Ya I know!) that do amazing work.  These are in fact the very people often left with the task of putting humpty dumpty back together again following a fall off a dodgy surgeons table.  But, sadly what we see most of the time are the disasters.  These are often the ones that will be discussed on internet forums for what is seen as “stupidity in the name of vanity”.  Putting aside that at some point there was probably a really good reason they wanted the surgery in the first place.  One should never be punished for the desire to improve how they look or correct something that is not quite right.

IMG_20140227_110505Yes, as a matter of fact I am trying to recapture my lost youth, what is wrong with that?  Sadly when I was in my 20’s the world was not ready for the 300 pound pin up.  Keep in mind this was a pre-Beth Ditto/Tess Holiday world.  As glamourous as I tried to be I was never going to be anyone’s pin up girl.  Unfortunately I was relegated to the fat heap with the rest of the retro rejects.  I am not in any way condoning that but, it was what it was.  As a result I never enjoyed the body freedom that I wished for.

The fact remains that plastics along with the non-surgical options such as Botox, fillers, thread lifts, etc give those that choose it a much needed boost some times.  It is not about making you look like someone else, but about looking like a better version of yourself.  I understand the politics and this essay is not about that.  I will save that for another time.  But, what I am talking about is focusing on the safe and talented professionals out there that are making people’s lives better.  I for one am grateful for every nip/tuck and syringe I have had.  It has allowed me to be the person I didn’t get to be at 18.

**There are of course situations when things do go wrong and luckily there is help out there when that happens.  The Safety in Beauty Campaign is an initiative that supports those who have had less than satisfactory results.  They use their position to educate the public about safe practice and advise those who in extremes are left disfigured by poor practice.

Escape from Hormone Hell

mbHave you ever woke up and realised pretty much every aspect of your life is toxic?  I cannot think of any time this would be remotely pleasant.  But, 45 it is particularly distressing.  A serious detox was definitely in order!

It seems that stress has overwhelmed me in every possible way.  My ongoing and most tragic relationship with food seems the obvious place to start.  In addition the perimenopause appears to have become the wolf at the door, his knocking becoming louder by the minute.

Putting it into a classically catholic analogy the perimenopause is a state of feminine “limbo” not quite menopause, but not very fertile Myrtle either.  Peri-pause is pretty much all the fun of period and cramps along with the added bonus of hormone hell and hot flushes.  Seriously universe, I only manage to get a kind of normal body and you hand me this?  We need a chat for sure!

Enter the amazing Jenny Adams of The Meadow Clinic.  I have spoken of her before in an article called “Freezing Myself Thin”.  She is an amazing aesthetic practitioner and did some miraculous things with my various fat pockets.  But, in addition to her beauty talent she iPerimenopause_doctors_Chicago_0s a Nutritional Therapist who practices Metabolic Balance at the clinic.  Now of course I am always looking to shift the same 10 pounds I lose and gain each month permanently.  So, following a very intensive consultation about my health goals I decided to go for it.  Now I say health goals because Metabolic Balance is not necessarily about weight loss.  Jenny’s work is about the whole person and looking at how to heal the body’s frailties with the right foods rather than drugs.  In particular Jenny looks at how our hormones can be balanced, thus alleviating the symptoms that women of a certain experience.

I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable about nutrition.  But, Jenny is an encyclopaedia of information about the healing properties of every possible food combination.  The plan itself sounds complicated initially.  Basically, the idea is that Metabolic Balance aims to re-boot your hormones, insulin levels and metabolism to help your body maintain it’s ideal or natural weight.  It is not about getting to a certain BMI  but, more about your bodies comfort zone.

Following an extensive consultation you have a blood test to determine what areas of your body need what nutrient.  My results showed that I had an iron deficiency as well as a sluggish thyroid.  In addition I had various deficiencies in vitamins and nutrients.  All of this as explained by Jenny meant that not only did these issues make further weight loss more difficult it also meant that my perimenopause symptoms were much worse than they needed to be.  Hot flushes and night sweats in particular were a huge issue.  I would regularly wake up in a Melissa shaped wet spot from a night of hormone hell.

The first week is tough, but having Jenny on the other end of the phone was a godsend.  The plan itself is not difficult to follow once you get your head around it.  The first two days involve a strict cleanse phase. The first part involves drinking a preparation of Epsom salts to give you good old colon cleanse.  The first couple of days are tough but, totally doable.  Following the cleanse there is a strict adjustment phase.  This sounds very complicated, but it really wasn’t and again Jenny was there to give me recipe ideas and tips to make it easier.  It is so important to have a knowledgeable guide in this journey and Jenny is top notch.  This plan has the potential to change your life with the right guidance.  It is definitely not something I could have attempted alone nor would I recommend attempting this plan without an expert.  The adjustment phase lasts at least two weeks.

After the first two weeks I had started losing weight.  However, as much as I was loving the weight loss it became secondary to the lack of night sweats.  I was literally in shock at the difference a change in diet made to my hormone hell.  Two weeks in and I was flushless and the night sweats had gone.  There was also a marked difference in energy.  My feeling at this point was if I felt this good at two weeks, how would I feel after a couple of months.  There was certainly incentive to keep going.  Plus Jenny is an awesome cheerleader and is always there to spur me on.

Metabolic Balance involves some strict rules that in order to be successful you must follow.  This is why expert guidance is so important.  But, once it is explained by someone who knows their stuff like Jenny you will sail.  The food is clean and delicious.  The really fabulous thing was getting a list of foods I could eat rather than the obligatory forbidden list which is pretty much a guarantee I will cheat!  The plan is based on hard science and the bottom line is it works.  I lost 15.5 pounds in the initial eight weeks of doing the plan.  If I didn’t need further proof that it worked magic on my hormones I had a week that for various reasons I went off plan, my sweats literally came back instantly.  Needless to say I went straight back on plan and ta da!!  No sweats!!  Bottom line this isn’t gimmicky and it’s about proper food and using it to make your body work more efficiently.  It works and I can’t argue with results!

For more information contact the amazing power house that is Jenny Adams at The Meadow Clinic in Leamington Spa.  Keep in my mind it is about finding the right person.  Location is irrelevant.  Jenny conducted the majority of our sessions over the phone and it was rarely necessary to be in clinic.  Needless to say this not so much a plan as a complete change in lifestyle and definitely a keeper.

The Gift Wrap

love a bit of cakeSo, I was thinking this week that although I have spoken about the various journey’s I have been on to get to this point, first losing weight and then losing skin that I haven’t spoken as much about the surgery that helped me in the first place.  I have had several emails asking me to expound on the specifics.  So, I am doing bit of throw back to remind myself of how far I have come as well as to share with those of you that are struggling what ultimately worked for me.

In 2012 after reaching what I consider my “rock Bottom” I started looking into weight loss surgery.  Up to this point I had done every possible diet, plan, pill, shot, soup, shake both medically recommended and discouraged.  I always say if you want to know anything about dieting ask a fat person.  They will have been there and have the t-shirt in a wide variety of sizes!  I was getting older and the fat suit I had been wearing all my life was taking Its toll on my body, both physically and emotionally.  Most upsetting was that I wasn’t able to be the mother I wanted to be.  I was already an older mum and the weight was just making me older before my time.  I wanted to be active with my twins and also to be a good example to them.  Sadly, I was neither!

2012-01-26_0915I began to research the various surgical options.  Although the Gastric Bypass seemed to be the gold standard I did have concerns about side effects.   This procedure involves the stomach being divided into a small upper pouch and a much larger lower pouch and then the small intestine is rearranged to connect to both. I had so many friends that were bypassers and many struggled with malabsorption of vitamins and nutrients.  There is also the dreaded “dumping” syndrome which is basically a group of symptoms such as sweating, severe intestinal distress, heart palpitation, vomiting and diarrhoea.  These issues can occur after eating certain foods and due to your plumbing being re-routed.  The Gastric Sleeve was also an option on the NHS.  Gastric sleeve surgery works by removing a large portion of the stomach, leaving a banana-shaped “sleeve” that connects the oesophagus to the small intestines.

Unlike the gastric bypass there is no re-plumbing going in therefore the complication rate is lower.  I was open to either procedure, but it was a huge decision and I wanted to make sure I went with something I felt 100% comfortable with.  This is where I think many people who complain about surgery being the “easy way” have completely the wrong idea.  This is serious business and everyone choosing surgery is desperate and the fact is there is nothing easy about it.

Melissa's Graduation PhotoMy next step was to see my GP.  He agreed I needed surgery, but because my BMI was 49.7 and not 50 I was not eligible.  What was his recommendation you may ask?  Go home and eat chocolate!!  Seriously, that was the professional opinion I got.  Well, I was desperate and did try to gain weight.  But, it was as if my body was just going to refuse to cooperate just to spite ,because no matter what I did I couldn’t purposely gain weight.  But, all was not lost as this time gave me an opportunity to do a bit more research.  What I discovered was that there was another procedure.  It was not available on the NHS, in fact not even available in the United Kingdom.  It was called a Gastric Plication also known as a “Wrap”.

Gastric Plication is a purely restrictive operation similar to Vertical Sleeve Gastric Resection, just without the need for division and removal of major stomach part.

It is a bariatric procedure that brings the benefits of food restriction while reducing the potential complications associated with a permanent implant (gastric band) and with staple line (leak and bleeding in Sleeve gastric resection).

The significant reduction of stomach capacity immediately after the operation allows intake of fluids only in small amounts, which is caused by surgical narrowing of lumen together with postoperative swelling of inverted gastric wall. The weight loss is usually quick within the first months. As the inner ridge of plicated stomach wall lose the swelling and further diminishes by involution the capacity of the stomach slightly increases. Currently studies show very promising 3-years results in significant and lasting weight loss similar to Sleeve gastric resection, and significantly greater than the Gastric Band. Also the loss of feelings of hunger is similar to the Sleeve.”

Obviously, as a mum to young children I was worried about the complications involved in any surgery as well as the down time.  As I researched more about it the Wrap seemed like the perfect solution.  The stumbling block was that it would need to be paid for privately.  The cost at the time was £4500 with travel. (The prices since 2012 have decreased significantly)  I had been huge my whole life and my mum had a front row seat though all of my years of depression and humiliation.  She told me later how helpless she felt that she wasn’t able to help me when I was younger.  So, my lovely mum agreed to pay for my surgery.  Although this was the greatest news I could have had, the process was still daunting.  I would have to fly to the Czech Republic on my own to have surgery.  I worried about language barriers and what an Eastern European hospital would be like.  But, I was more desperate than ever.

march 12

Landing in Czech

Mel and Dr Cierney

Me and Dr C

I researched the surgeon who would be performing the operation.  Dr Cierny was a world renowned expert in bariatrics and had performed over a 1000 of these procedures.  The plan was put in place!  I said goodbye to my babies and was off to the airport for my flight.  I couldn’t have been more nervous!  I arrived in Czech and it seemed a world away from England.  I arrived in the hospital and was introduced to the most amazing surgeon in Dr Cierny. One of the first lessons I had in Czech health care was the differences in the way doctors worked within their teams.  To be honest when I saw Dr Cierny I thought he must have been a porter because he was filling the paper towel dispenser in the clinic room and was wearing a white uniform.  The medics is Czech have a completely different air about themselves than the ones I was used to.  It is very much a team where everyone is equal.    He spoke English and was truly sympathetic to my situation.  He explained the operation to me in detail.  But, said before we could proceed I would need an extensive pre-op in order to make sure I was healthy enough to proceed.  What happened next was the most extensive medical examination I have ever had.  Once it was over Dr Cierny came to my hospital room and gave me a big hug with the great news that I would be having my life changing surgery the following morning.  The medical team was amazing!  The hospital was by far the cleanest I had ever been in.  The morning of my surgery the jolliest anaesthetist came to see me and run through what was about to happen.  I suppose I should have been scared, but all I could think about was that my new life was about to start.  There was never a moment that I was lonely or worried.  As part of the package there is someone with you that travels from England for the duration of your stay.  They are there to make sure you have everything you need and can translate should any communication issues arrive.  Currently the sweetest person, Katerina accompanies patients to Czech.  She is originally from the Czech Republic so is the perfect person to follow you through this journey.

As I was put under the last image I was saw was Dr Cierny reassuring me that everything was going to be okay.  Although I had only met him 24 hours before I believed and trusted him completely.  When I woke up Dr Cierny’s smiling face was the first thing I saw. He leaned in and said “you have a tiny tummy now”.  Those words were the magical and exciting thing I had ever heard.

Immediately after surgery some patients may experience vomiting as a result of the stimulation of the vegus nerve during surgery.  It is a common issue that resolves itself in the first couple of days.  However, I did not have a single episode and other then minor pain from the incisions I was walking around the ward within a few hours of the procedure high on a combination of pain relief and pure excitement!

From beginning to end my stay in hospital was four days.  When possible Body Clinique will send patients over in groups. So, I had a handful of amazing surgery buddies to laugh with each night whilst we watched old episodes of Benidorm and chatted about how we ended up here.  Following surgery I was on a liquid diet initially as my body healed.  It takes around 4-6 weeks to start having regular solid foods.  The first meal I had following surgery was a cup of beef stock, I can still remember how full I felt after literally half a glass.  In fact, I think following the procedure this was the first time I felt truly full. The feeling of hunger was a similar sensation.  My whole life I stuffed myself to the point of bursting and as a result I can’t say that I was ever truly hungry the way I was after surgery.  Hunger actually felt good, it felt like control and promise!  On day four it was time for me and “tiny tum” to say goodbye to Breclav Hospital and hello to out new life.  In the months that followed the weight dropped off.  I worked incredibly and for the first time in my life I was enjoying exercise and relishing my new regime.  Over 18 months following surgery I lost 12 stone and everything about my life changed. I felt confident and light.  I know it seems a funny thing to say, but literally the feeling of being light on my feet was indescribable.  But, it isn’t easy, Dr Cierny had told me before surgery he could only fix my stomach.  My head was up to me and it is a battle. But, the weight loss is such a gift and ultimately is a big responsibility.  I still have food demons and I assume always will.  I very much feel like an alcoholic.  I will always be a food junkie on some level.  But, surgery will continue to help me keep it under “wrap”.

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For more information about having weight loss surgery with Dr Cierny contact http://www.bodyclinique.co.uk/

Fract or Fiction

Just when I thought I had tried it all in my ongoing effort to “opt-out” of the ageing process I was invited to visit the clinic of Dr Daniel Sister to try a treatment called Fractora. When I explain it, you may think I have gone a bit bonkers.  Fractora uses Radio Frequency (RF) energy to the skin through the tiny pins producing localized heat and small “micro-lesion dots” in the areas that are treated. The heat and “dots” promotes collagen regrowth, which rejuvenates and re-structures the skin  In other words they use a probe with lots of little needles sticking out of it to poke tiny holes in your skin whilst simultaneously heating it, causing the skins natural healing process to firm and re-vitalise areas that are lined and need toning.  The idea is that by treating areas that need firming the body’s natural healing process will tone sagging lacklustre skin as the body produces more collagen in the treated areas.

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Before

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After (current)

I had the treatment over my face and neck.  My primary area of concern was around my neck.  Where I have lost so much weight my neck has a distinct lack of tone and is something I am quite self-conscious about.  So, the promise of this area being tightened without surgery is quite the incentive to try the treatment.   Fractora can be used all over the body including legs and stomach.  It can treat a range of age and related skin conditions.  Such as; fine lines, deep lines, rough skin texture, irregular pigment, visible blood vesicles and uneven pigmentation. Though it is not necessarily just for the signs of aging as anyone can suffer from rough uneven tone.

Due to the nature of how the treatment is carried out a local anaesthetic cream is applied over the face 30-45 minutes prior to the treatment.  There is an element of mild pain to the treatment.  However, it is completely manageable.  I would describe it as a quick stinging/burning feeling at the point the needles and RF makes contact with the skin.  But, it goes away instantly.  There is no lingering pain following the procedure. The whole treatment took around 20-30 minutes.  My skin looked quite red and sore following the treatment.  But, there was no pain during the healing process.  I was advised to use a heavy barrier cream following the treatment in order to protect the skin where it was open and healing. No make-up could be worn for 48 hours whilst the treated areas closed to prevent infection.

one hour post Fractora

one hour post Fractora

24 hours post treatment

24 hours post treatment

3 days post treatment

3 days post treatment

Although the treatment does not have any specific downtime, my face was visibly sore and raw looking straight after.  It is definitely a treatment worth doing.  However, if you are someone who likes to be discrete about treatments this maybe one to have on a Friday to give your skin a day or two to settle.  The difference in redness is significant even the following day.  I did have what I would describe as stamp marks from the pins.  However, any residual marks were easily covered with make-up once I was able to wear it.

It can take months for the full effect of Fractora to be seen.  I am several months post treatment and can see a definite difference in my neck area. The general tone of my skin has improved as well as a reduction in fine lines. This was obviously after one treatment.  However, depending on the nature of your skin, you may require a series of treatments for the most dramatic effect.  This is definitely a treatment to consider before resorting to surgery.

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After (current)

For more information or to find out who your nearest practitioner contact  http://www.invasix.com/

Serious Jane Plan of Action

IMG_20150601_174108The last couple of months have been a time of perspective. I know there are those much worse off than myself and I of course acknowledge that I have many, many blessings to be grateful for.  However, it has been a really stressful time!  I feel like I have been to hell and back.  Like most times of great stress and pressure my oldest friend, nemesis and major opportunist, food crept in.  I was doing really well at keeping him at bay.  I have found that for me the best way to stay on the wagon is to eliminate all of the crap from my site and surround myself with only the good stuff.  Out of sight out of mind eh?  But, sadly as much as I hate to admit it, I am human.  Once the door was open, that was it! I had a good two months of food debauchery.  Humiliating and deeply depressing, but it happened and I needed to move on. No time to cry into a Big Mac! If I learned anything about being fat it was that I never, ever want to go back there!
Time for drastic measures!  I had met Jane Michell at The Anti-Ageing Show and had chatted about Jane Plan.  Jane spoke to me about her past weight issues and I learned that she once had a weight problem and that experience had spurred her on to train in nutrition and start her company to help others that were struggling with their weight. The plan works as a total meal replacement, including all of your snacks.  The only items you supplement are fresh vegetables and fruit if needed.  It is a fully balanced plan that takes all the guesswork out of dieting.  Jane is your personal chef for the duration of the plan! Tired and stressed out, how could I possibly resist.  This seemed the perfect way to get back on track.
20150622_061740I had chosen the box that had a variety of meals.  However, they cater to your specific dietary needs.  Prior to my meals being sent I had a comprehensive phone consultation that covered any specific preferences or intolerances I may have had.  I received my box of meals the following day.  One of the things that was particularly convenient was the meals do not require refrigeration.  So, it was easy to pop a meal in my bag for lunch.  In fact I ended up keeping my lunches in my desk for extra convenience.

I started Jane Plan on a Monday and although optimistic I did have concerns about pre-packaged food.   My concerns quickly went out the window when I had the most lush toffee cereal for breakfast. I had the majority of cereals with almond milk.  The porridges I prefer to make with plain water.  As someone who normally skips breakfast I had to really push myself into a routine.  But, the breakfasts were so nice it was fairly easy to get used to. Although all of the breakfasts were grain based, the varieties of flavours were such that it never became boring.

IMG_20150610_122147The lunches were a mixture of cold and hot lunches.  There was a variety of soups including Pea and Wiltshire Ham, Potato Leak, Carrot and Coriander, Tomato Basil, and Broccoli Cheese name a few.  The soups were all very thick and perfectly seasoned.  The portions were a good size and very filling, in fact not at all what I was expecting in a “diet” soup.  Food for me is more than just about eating.  It is the whole experience of how it feels and the depths of flavours as they mingle together.  I suppose this is part of my problem, I love it too much.  But, the Jane Plan in taking the guess work away from portion control makes the process of keeping myself in check much easier, as left to my own devices I could easily dive into a pool of the pea and ham soup and eat my way out.

The cold lunch options were equally as nice as the soups.  In addition to being healthy those clever chefs have managed to make them taste freshly made.  The Moroccan Salad with Wild Salmon was absolutely beautiful.  The big chunks of salmon were tender and well-seasoned.   The other options were equally as lush.  The Tuna Pasta and Cous Cous were two of my other favourites.  But, again there was not a single dud in the selection.
So, let’s talk dinner, so many yummy choices!  There were spicy creamy curries, beautiful meaty and veggie lasagne’s, meatballs, casseroles, cassoulet, chilli and ratatouille.  All of the meals were unique and delicious.  There was not a single meal I found boring.  The portions were all a decent size and consisted of a complete meal other than salad or other fresh produce you may want to add as a side.

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The nice thing for me as a genuine food addict is that each meal was portioned perfectly, so there was no possibility of overeating.  You have your three meals done and dusted once gone that is it for the day.  Jane has thought of everything though and there was a lovely selection of snacks to choose from each day.  They ranged from oat cakes which were often my choice if I wanted a snack in the afternoon to sweeter biscuits that I tended to have in the evening.  They were all wrapped separately which like the other meals was a great idea as having a box of loose biscuits is just too tempting.  The care that has been put into the plan is obvious and based on the flavours; it is obvious Jane is someone who enjoys food.

The plan fits perfectly into a busy lifestyle and was not a struggle to stick to.  In particular I could see Jane being my go to girl after a holiday of excess.  It is the perfect way to throw your big booty back on the horse.  There are even nutritionists you can access for the duration of the plan if you are struggling or have any other questions.  So, Jane has all the bases covered.

20150718_175104For me I felt the plan really got my focus back.  I lost a stone over the month, which is amazing!  But, more importantly than the weight loss is the structure she helped me get back.  There is nothing worse than the feeling that I have lost control.  I know there are those who don’t understand the psychology behind all this. But, I am very much an addict!  I don’t say this to take away the responsibility.  I am 100% responsible for my past obesity.  However, I do falter at times and I do not ever want to back to where I was.  I am incredibly lucky to have people like Jane around me to kick my big ass back in line.

For more information and to benefit from a great discount off of Your first box click here http://www.janeplan.com/ and add the voucher code AB618AE when prompted.