27th November 2015
Reading time: 9.30 minutes

Eating: Healthy snacks
Exercising: Planning exercise habits
Thinking: Why I journal?

Christmas and a New Year aren't far away, so let's hit 2016 running.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
— Victor E. Frankl

Eating - Healthy snacks

Healthy habits need a little forward thinking. I need to plan in order to stay on top of my health. There are far too many distractions and temptations lurking in the shadows. They sit there just waiting to derail my attempts at being healthy.

Next week is December and in the build up to Christmas the world will be out to get me. There is nothing wrong with a little indulgence. But I find it all too easy to overindulge during Christmas. Then as a result I end up loathing myself for eating so much crap!  If I fall off the wagon I want it to be as brief as possible.

One trick I’ve found to be helpful is to keep hunger at bay. I try my best to eat protein rich meals that are high in fibre. This helps me stay satiated after meals. Then I try to have unlimited emergency rations at hand. I would rather eat a healthy snack before going to a party than turn up hungry. If I turn up hungry I know I won't be able to stop myself from indulging in all the foods I don’t like to eat.

I also do my best to plan my indulgences. Doing this stops December becoming a free for all. I plan exercise around my indulgences and I make sure I have regular healthy days between. I know that if I have two or three unhealthy eating days it often snowballs into a week or two of unhealthy eating.

Our will power is not reliable, so give your brain some extra energy to help you resist all the mince pies and cakes!

Here are some healthy snacks I've used over the years to stay on track:

  • Celery/ carrots and nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew)
  • Celery/ carrots and tahini paste
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Avocado
  • Canned sardines/ mackerel/ wild salmon
  • Whole food or raw food protein bars
  • Meat jerky (if you like eating leather!)
  • Tinned beans with olive oil, lemon, garlic and salt
  • Protein powder and berry smoothies
  • Cut-up carrots, cucumbers, peppers and celery to dip in hummus (home made is best)
  • A piece of fruit with a handful of nuts
  • Celery with goats cheese
  • Sliced meat rolled up with spinach or other green leaves
  • Halloumi cheese and olives
  • Artichoke hearts or roasted red pepper
  • Berries and cheese
  • Nuts and seeds (raw and unsalted)
  • Coconut butter

Often we're asked to bring something in for the office party. So why not try these unprocessed delights:

Dark chocolate (70% or above) and brazil nuts

  • Avocado and chocolate mousse
  • Dried figs walnuts
  • Dates stuffed with nut butter



  • With all the snacks mentioned above quality is key. If you can’t afford to buy organic then don’t worry, eating real food takes priority. But if you can buy the best quality you can afford.
  • This list is not bulletproof. Feel free to pick holes in some of these snacks. I'm working towards damage limitation not perfection!
  • Ideal snacks will have a balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. This will control blood sugar and satiety. Avoid 'so called' healthy snacks like cereal bars. They're usually sugar bombs in disguise and will make you more hungry. Fats and protein often come together and are fine eating them on their own.
  • Take care that these snacks stay as snacks and not as meal replacements.
  • If you know you are about to face temptation get prepared. Eat a healthy snack or meal before hand. The worst thing you can do is to go into a tempting scenario ravenously hungry.
  • Nuts and nut butters are tasty and easy to over eat. Take care, work with a handful or two of nuts not more. In nature these nuts come with a shell!
  • Alcohol is full of sugar that spikes our insulin, the fat storing hormone. Try to have a handful of nuts at hand to eat with your drinks. The nuts balance our blood sugar. The fat and protein in the nuts slow down the release of all the sugar, hidden in alcoholic beverages. I know it doesn’t seem to make sense to eat more calories, but it works.


Exercising - What are we training for? 

Without purpose life is a struggle. A lot of us struggle to discover healthy exercise habits because we have nothing to work towards. Exercise is pointless when it lacks purpose. Having something big to work towards is key to staying motivated.

The right exercise pushes our body to uncomfortable places. But we've evolved to seek comfort and preserve energy just in case. Exercising for the sake of it makes no sense to our primal brain. Why would we just waste energy? What if something goes wrong?

When we have a reason to push through discomfort we are capable of great things. With a big enough goal we can discover how adaptable the body is.

Victor Frankl, survived for three years in Auschwitz concentration camp. He survived because he had a reason to. His book Man’s Search for Meaning offers an excellent insight into the human condition.

Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
— Victor E Frankl

When I don’t exercise I get slow and sluggish and I just want to eat rubbish. When I eat poor quality food, I get out of shape and then feel terrible about myself. I work hard to stay in shape and undoing this hard work hurts!

So I work out because I like feeling good about myself. I also exercise because it’s helping me to live a long and healthy life. I dream of being around in 2085 when I turn 100. I want to get there and still be healthy. I want to see what we’ve created in the world. I want to see my family grow up and I don’t want to bow out early. But to bolster this I always have something else I’m training for. I don’t always achieve my goals but they keep me motivated and give me something to work towards.

If I want to stay engaged with an activity I have to be improving. My self esteem and confidence is boosted when I see myself progress. On the flip side, as soon as I become stagnant I get bored and fall out of good habits. The answer is always having a plan.

I plan on three levels:

  1. Short term
  2. Medium term
  3. Long term

1. Short term planning is my week by week plan. How many times a week am I going to train? What time am I going train? What will my individual training sessions look like?

2. Medium term planning is about training cycles. How will I long I train a cycle for? For me I usually train for 6-8 weeks then change my focus.

3. Long term planning is all about the long game. What long term goals and aspirations do I have? What do I want to achieve in a year or two from now? Am I training for a big event or challenge? Am I training to change my body shape? Am I aiming for success in a specific competition?

Mixing up my training helps me fight boredom. It also helps me to develop in ways I hadn't planned for. I've been practising tai chi since last Easter and my flexibility has come on leaps and bounds. I've also been do a lot of body weight training. That's improved my grip strength which is helping me deadlift more weight.

If I was preparing for a marathon then I might mix up my training to avoid over training. Six weeks interval training, one week low intensity runs. Then six weeks hill sprints, one week rest and then six weeks high volume distance running.

When weight training there are many ways to vary what we do. We can train for strength, size or power. We can try more technical Olympic lifting.

Or why not try switching it up altogether. If you normally train with weights, spend six weeks doing pilates or yoga. This might address some flexibility or alignment issues which will make you stronger. If you go swimming, why not try lifting weights for six weeks. If you train on your own or with a partner try a group fitness class.

Purpose, planning and variation is key to achieving our health and exercise goals. Commitment and big goals will help get us through the tough moments. But remember it doesn't matter how many times our plans fail. What counts is getting back on track. Keep pushing on!

Thinking - Why do I journal? 

I journal for the following reasons:

  • It helps me manage/ organise my thoughts.
  • It helps me sleep.
  • It’s a great way to plan what I want to achieve.
  • If I write it down, it gets done.

If I don’t manage my thoughts, then my thoughts manage me. And I don’t know about you but I don't like being out of control! When my life took a big turn, I struggled getting to sleep. My thoughts were all over the place and I found it hard to shut off the noise. A friend had always said that whenever she found it hard to sleep she would write all her thoughts down on paper. So I dug out an old notebook and started bullet pointing my thoughts.

It was pretty basic at first and it was uncomfortable for me to see all my thoughts on paper. But in time I grew comfortable with it and my writing changed. I went from a few bullet points to pouring out pages and pages of writing. I then went off to Malawi and Mozambique and continued to journal my experience. I thought it would be a good way to remember a once in a life time experience. Afterwards I grew fond of journalling. So I continued and whilst I was travelling, all alone in the world, writing down my thoughts soothed my soul. I think I've filled seven or eight journals so far. Not bad for a PE teacher!

Managing my thoughts

Writing down my thoughts gave me a chance to see what was going on in my mind. It helped put everything in order. At the time I was struggling with a big break up and trying to work out what I was going to do with my life. I’d also handed in my notice and was planning to go and live in a different country for a few years. A big step into the unknown. When all my thoughts were stuck in my head it was impossible to get any order. Writing them down showed me the big picture. It allowed me to plan my next move.


Before we can sleep the brain must be calm. If we have unresolved problems the brain will stay awake trying to solve them. Writing down my thoughts gave my brain a chance to close each case and relax enough to sleep. Our brain likes having a sense of control over a problem. Just knowing that writing down our problems helps, helps! It’s like the placebo effect.

Getting things done

I've also found great power in writing things down.  I've found it helps me to decide what to do and how to do it. It's also the start of visualising my dreams.  It’s like taking the first step towards completing something.  

Once I've made a decision to do something there’s not much that will get in my way. And once I've written it down it just makes sense to go out and do it. If I decide to do something, it's just a matter of time until it's done.

Decision making

When I plan and make big decisions I try to think of two things:

What is the worst case scenario and can I deal with it? Can I recover from it?
What is the best case scenario?

Most of the time I can deal with the worse case scenario and the best case scenario is always worth taking a risk for.


I've always found that it doesn't matter how many times I fail to achieve the things I write down. What’s important is working towards my goals. The process of getting there or not getting there is where the magic is.

A goal is just a goal. I try not to attach my happiness to achieving goals. Instead, I recognise that I am happy now and I will be happy in the future regardless.


Journalling is a great way to reflect and see long term growth. As soon as we achieve something we often go straight onto the next. Reading old journals is a great way to reflect and see that you've succeeded. Success breeds more success. It's also funny to look back at things that once bothered you.

My tips

Start and finish your day in the best way you can. Before I go to bed I try to write down the following things on my notepad:

  1. Three things I succeeded at
  2. three things I’m grateful for and
  3. two things I want to achieve tomorrow.

I also try to start my mornings by planning what I want to do in the day. I used a pen and paper for this. I plan to do one or two important tasks only. I always cross out or tick off items on my to do list. This helps keep me motivated. I also remind myself that I write a to do list so I don’t forget to do things. It is not a list that needs conquering. If I fall into the trap of trying to always complete my list I know I fallen into insanity. There will always be something else to do!

There's a great app to help you get started if paper isn't your thing. It's called the five minute journal.

Never give up, fall off the wagon and get back on. It’s not important how many times you get knocked off the horse it’s about how many times you get back on.

I hope these tips are useful, if there is anything else you would like me to talk about don't hesitate to get in touch at

I always reserve the right to use a series of grammar bad&terrible structure sentence and refuse I do to apologise for it'!{>

If you are still after some more health education then below are a few of my recent blogs. If you want to know how to climb up Everest in your shorts or fight disease with your mind then The Wim Hof article is fascinating.