By guest blogger, Judy Baum
So as I try to settle down into another (potential) 6 months without hugging my kids and grandchildren, missing out on holidays, theatre, cinema and restaurants, I realise how important it is for us over 65’s to keep using our brains and engaging socially on line to stave off depression and aching bones.
I am very lucky to have my husband of 55 years who is not getting on my nerves (yet!) and still bringing me my G & T every evening at 6 p.m, but I'm very aware that many of our friends are sadly on their own and worrying too about what this will mean for them.
So I thought I would turn to some journaling and tell you my 'Upside to Lockdown' and what we have been doing (and hope will continue to do) to pass the days, which i hope will help and inspire others to do the same.
First of all, let me be clear I do not like exercise.
At the beginning of lock-down I started following Joe Wicks 10-minute home workout for seniors, which needed no equipment, other than a chair, but even then, I wasn’t really motivated.
My daughters kept ringing me to make sure I was exercising and i told them that living in a house with two flights of stairs, was more than enough for me to exert myself.
However they reminded me how lucky i was to live just a few blocks away from Hampstead Heath and with the wonderful Spring and Summer weather, i decided walking was actually far more beneficial than relying on the stairs!
So for the last seven months I have crisscrossed the woodland and streets of Hampstead, discovering the most wonderful walks literally on my doorstep. And when I needed a change of scenery, discovered how beautiful the country is just a short drive away in the Chiltern Hills and Rutland water.
So as long as its not raining or snowing, i will continue with our walks, as long as i can, as it is so good for our mental health and wellbeing.
I used to play bridge once or twice a week at local clubs or with friends. At the beginning of lock-down everything was online and I didn’t really enjoy it as I missed the social interaction.
However, recently I have gone back to it playing with three friends or three robots! and I am playing so much now I think my bridge has improved enormously.
I am so pleased I took this up, dare I say some 20 years ago, but I am not competitive by nature and mainly played for the social get-together. Now I play at any spare moment (and there are quite a lot of these moments). Playing with friends, even online, is a way of keeping in touch as we have our mobiles at hand and can discuss the hands together.
Before lock-down I would never shop online. I loved browsing in the shops, trying on, buying, taking back when I realised, I didn’t like what I bought. Now, the few accessories I need I can buy online spending hours scrolling through the web pages.
I even fell for some cheap shoes which I ordered which took four months to arrive, probably from China, but I love them and despite a bunion they actually fit like a glove! I do worry if the shops on the high streets will ever open again.
But I wonder how much money I must have saved. There is nowhere to go, no need for new clothes and that makes me feel very sad.
The weekly trip to the hair salon, when it re-opened was so appreciated even if it was no longer relaxing. Temperature check, hand sanitiser, no coffee, no gossip, sitting behind a mask, no magazines to read, in and out as quick as possible.
But now with lockdown here, once again that outing will sadly be gone and I’ll have to return to relying on my husband to sort my roots out with some home dye instead. I’m also very glad I had my nails done last week, as looks like that will also be a thing of the past too, so will fill an hour of my week doing my own instead now!.
During the summer months we had some lovely BBQ’s on our own or with friends and family, but now the weather has changed we are thinking of investing in outdoor heaters so that one of our family members, at a time, can visit us during the long Winter months... but then again I’m wondering at my age if I really want to sit outside even with heaters!
The garden pots which I lovingly filled in the late Spring, now look as if they have gone to sleep for the Winter (I know how they feel!).
I have been watching far too much TV and most evenings settle down to something recorded. My favourite at the moment is “A Place to Call Home” and thank goodness there are six series, each with at least 10 episodes, so that will see me through the Winter. There are masses of Netflix series too that my kids and friends keep telling me to watch so i think if nothing else we can just while away the nights with a good box set or two.
I’m sick and tired of cooking, we were so happy when the restaurants and pubs re-opened, even if I spent hours searching for local restaurants where there were tables and heaters out of doors.
But now that luxury will be taken away, I feel we will be living on a few more takeaways and what ever I can face to rustle up each day.
I have to say I am definitely eating too much whilst at home most of the day and despite doing more exercise and walking than before the restrictions, my weight is going up. May be time to join some on line cooking courses perhaps too.
My brain is at bursting point with so many talks/lectures online. In my “normal” life I would go to one or two talks a week, the theatre and a concert quite frequently, but now I am being educated on a daily basis from the comfort of my arm chair; history, art, middle east, politics, lessons in bridge, sometimes up to four zooms in a day, and at the age of 80 I think I have learnt more in the last seven months than in my whole life.
I know these should be our twilight years and we should be making the most of every day we have, but as this is totally out of all of our control we just have to accept where we are, stay well and use this time differently to fill our days. I think if there is one piece of advice i would give it is to try and build some sort of routine into your life even if it means going from one zoom to the next!
If you are feeling low or lonely, please do join in the conversation on my Facebook group ‘Gin & Fizz’, for women over 65, we are all in the same boat and all here to support, encourage and inspire each other too.
The press-up is a savage test of a host of upper-body muscles, especially the chest, shoulders and triceps. Your core will also benefit from the standard press-up, and if you introduce a few basic variations on the move you can recruit even more muscles.
Before you start varying your press-ups, however, it’s important to ensure your form on the classic move is correct. Even if you’ve done a million press-ups in your time, make sure you check your form against the following technique guide.
1) Start on all fours, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart – moving your feet further apart will make it easier, while bringing them closer together makes it harder.
2) Straighten your arms. Keep your hips in line with your shoulders throughout the movement.
3) Lower your chest towards the ground by bending at the elbows, keeping them by your sides. Flaring your elbows works the chest more, while keeping them close to you targets the triceps more. The closer your chest gets to the floor the better, unless you end up just lying down. That’s not going to help anyone.
4) Press back up. Then do it all again.
Diamond press up
This variation shifts the focus of the exercise to your triceps, though you’ll still be working your shoulders and chest as well. Start in a standard press-up position, but place your hands together under your chest with the thumbs and index fingers touching so that they form a diamond shape. Keeping your elbows tucked in to your sides, lower slowly until your chest is just above the ground and then push back up.
While the diamond press-up hits your triceps harder, the decline variation is tougher on your shoulders and upper chest muscles. To perform the exercise, get into a press-up position with your feet on a raised surface, which should be about 30-60cm off the floor. Lower your chest towards the ground, then push back up.
My challenge this month is the press up challenge. This can be done anywhere and although it’s far from easy by the end of it you will be so pleased with your new toned upper body! Let’s come out of lockdown stronger and leaner than ever!
|Day 1||20 press-ups|
|Day 2||25 press-ups|
|Day 3||30 press-ups|
|Day 4||35 press-ups|
|Day 5||2 sets of 20 press-ups|
|Day 6||2 sets of 25 press-ups|
|Day 7||2 sets of 30 press-ups|
|Day 8||2 sets of 35 press-ups|
|Day 9||45 press-ups|
|Day 10||30 press-ups + 10 diamond press -up|
|Day 11||35 press-ups + 15 diamond press-ups|
|Day 12||35 press-ups + 20 diamond press-ups|
|Day 13||40 press-ups + 20 diamond press-ups|
|Day 14||40 press-ups + 25 diamond press-ups|
|Day 15||45 press-ups + 25 diamond press-ups|
|Day 16||50 press-ups + 25 diamond press-ups|
|Day 17||2 sets of 30 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups|
|Day 18||2 sets of 35 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups|
|Day 19||60 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups|
|Day 20||30 decline press-up + 30 press-ups+ 30 diamond press-ups|
|Day 21||35 decline press-ups + 35 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups|
|Day 22||35 decline press-ups + 35 press-ups + 35 diamond press-ups|
|Day 23||40 decline press-ups + 35 press-ups + 35 diamond press-ups|
|Day 24||40 decline press-ups + 40 press-ups + 35 diamond press-ups|
|Day 25||40 decline press-ups + 40 press-ups + 40 diamond press-ups|
|Day 26||45 decline press-ups + 40 press-ups + 40 diamond press-ups|
|Day 27||45 decline press-ups + 45 press-ups + 40 diamond press-ups|
|Day 28||45 decline press-ups + 45 press-ups + 45 diamond press-ups|
|Day 29||50 decline press-ups + 50 press-ups + 45 diamond press-ups|
|Day 30||100 press-ups|
Our founder, Katie Taylor, hosted a full day of inspiring talks and session including a lunchtime interview with Loose Women's Andrea McLean.
The day was also to raise awareness and funds for our charity partner, The Eve Appeal.
The rest of the sessions followed on:
Pilates & Body Conditioning with Fitness instructor, Selena Levy
Nutrition & Cooking Demo with Nutrionist, Chef and Author, Emma Ellice-Flint
Sleep therapy with Sleep consultant, Maryanne Taylor
Katie Taylor in conversation with Founder of This Girl is on Fire, Loose Women's Andrea McLean
Pelvic Health with nurse and author of the Pelvic Floor Bible, Jane Simpson
Work life with Emma May, CEO of Work Avenue
We are exceptionally grateful to our generous sponsors, Sylk Natural UK who made the day possible and provided all attendees with a free bottle of Sylk.
You can watch the full recording on our YouTube Channel here
You know how sometimes it takes a glass of wine or a square (or three) of dark chocolate to blunt the edge of a rough day? Well, going for a walk is a zero-calorie strategy with the same benefits.
Research shows that regular walking actually modifies your nervous system so much that you'll experience a decrease in anger and hostility.
What's more, when you make your walks social—you stride with, say, your partner, a neighbour, or a good friend—that interaction helps you feel connected.
Your creative juices will start flowing
Whether you're feeling stuck at work or you've been searching for a solution to a tricky problem, research shows it's a good idea to get moving: going for a walk can spark creativity.
This one may seem obvious, but it's certainly a happy benefit for those who start walking regularly
As you continue to walk, you may notice your trousers begin to fit more loosely around your midsection, even if the number on the scale isn't moving much.
That's because regular walking can help improve your body's response to insulin, which can help reduce belly fat walking every day is one of the most effective low-impact ways to mobilise fat and positively alter body composition.
Daily walking increases metabolism by burning extra calories and by preventing muscle loss, which is particularly important as we get older.
The best part? You don't have to slog it out on a treadmill at the gym to see these benefits. One of my clients reduced her body fat by 2% in just one month by walking home from work each day, which was just under a mile.
As we age, our risk of unsightly varicose veins increases—it's just not fair. However, walking is a proven way to prevent those unsightly lines from developing.
If you already suffer from varicose veins, daily walking can help ease related swelling and restlessness in your legs by improving the body’s circulatory system.
When you become a regular walker, you will have established a regular routine—and when you have a routine, you are more likely to continue with the activity and take on new healthy behaviours
So now you have no excuse to walk YOUR way back to happiness and good health.
Of course, for many of us, getting back into working out can be a little scary. Am I ready to start exercising again? Am I pushing myself too hard? Am I not pushing myself hard enough?
The truth is whether you have had a large or small operation, a serious or minor operation – every experience is different. To get the best results and post-workout feeling, however, there are some universal rules.
Follow your doctor’s instructions. Your surgeon will be able to give you the best advice and guidelines on when you can start exercising again. They know what they’re talking about and can answer specific questions, so listen!
Plus, it is normal to feel more tired than usual following surgery, so make sure you take plenty of rest, even if that means taking a few extra weeks off than what your doctor suggests. Indeed my surgeon said I could go back to the gym after 4 weeks but for once I was sensible and knew I physically wasn’t up to it until at least week 7/8.
When you’re first post-op, your main focus should be on getting mobility back at a pace that works for your body. Every one is different, and going slow and steady is the best to make sure you don’t injure yourself. Add weight training later and listen to your body now.
It’s not out of the ordinary to not be able to do the same workout post-op as you did pre-op. 6-12 months is a realistic goal for most athletes to return fully to a gym routine. Don’t get discouraged! This is a normal part of the healing process.
Remember to be careful of any stitches and scars.
If something hurts or feels weird, stop.
A new and unwelcome family house guest has joined us. It's been trying to get in with us for ages but, in this past month, heightened her efforts and I'm really hoping that we can banish it.
Our elder daughter, the middle child, our sweet, principled, beautiful, intelligent, hardworking, active, talented (and very modest) runner, artistic and right now very serious and hard on herself (a trait I remember only too well from my teenage years...right through to my late 30s really) second born.
She's been excessively exercising, she just tipped the balance between 3 lots of gym and PE lessons and the odd sports club at lunchtime and rushing home from school desperate to have time to do a tough workout in the den followed by a run of about 2k. That's one side of it.
The other is the increasingly severely restricted diet she has inflicted on herself. As someone who suffered very similarly at the same age, I calculate that on an average day she is consuming approximately 500 calories. She denies herself any treats at all, sticking to fruit, vegetables, chicken, fish, yogurt and breakfast biscuits.
We hear her complain of being full after each tiny meal and then I hear her jumping in her room in an effort to expel the calories she has eaten before they have a chance to allow her tiny, wasting body to grow.
Her once happy-go-lucky character has transformed as she denies herself the energy needed to be happy and relaxed.
The obsessive behaviour shows in many ways; many of which appear positive and unlikely traits to be found in a teenage girl.
She revised so much for her end of year exams, once again denying herself fun, so she could invest a mammoth amount of time making and re-making flashcards, drawing hundreds of annotated diagrams for science and geography. There was no time left to do anything other than sleep.
She has tidied her room to the point where everything, even the smallest pencil, hair grip, sock, souvenir, photo has its place. Her bed is made to hotel standard. I finally realise how irritating my own habits were of cleaning up after everyone without even allowing them the chance to do it for themselves.
If I leave the kitchen, mid-breakfast, to fetch something someone needs, she will dispose of my glass and plate before I return to resume eating. She gets bored easily and will insist on cleaning out a kitchen cupboard, the attic, the garage or make me feel guilty for not keeping the house in perfect condition.
Four weeks on… the new and unwelcome house guest is showing no sign of leaving.
In fact, it has embedded itself in my daughter and is proving extremely difficult to evict.
Shortly after I wrote the first part of this blog, I took matters into my own hands and made an appointment at the GP. I pulled a very cross 13-year-old out of lessons to take her but am so relieved I did.
The doctor weighed and measured her (I don’t keep scales in the house ironically because I think it encourages the guest) and calculated her BMI to be a horribly low 15 rather than an ideal 20-25.
We are fortunate to have private health insurance and we were advised by the mental health team there to see a psychiatrist as a first step towards recovery, as well as of course trying to make her eat more.
When we came out of the Dr’s office after that initial appointment, she collapsed in my arms crying, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise it had got this serious”. I took this in itself as a positive step as I knew it was a kick that she needed.
She began to increase the amounts she was eating but she was still only eating just enough to maintain her tiny frame and even this was a struggle with complaints that she felt too full to sleep which was making her tired.
Unable to see that the tiredness was from a lack of energy being ingested into her body. We managed to get an appointment with the psychiatrist for 10 days after that initial GP appointment (they gave me one for a month later but refused to accept it, saying it would be too late by then). And thank goodness I did.
We had a very positive first session, establishing that she wanted to get better and explaining that she was already increasing her daily intake. I think we both came across as very positive and proactive and the psychiatrist seemed to trust in what we were doing.
Again it was helpful for her to have the physical evidence pointed out to her. The doctor remarked on the copious amount of bruising on her legs. My daughter nervously laughed this off, saying that she’d always been clumsy. No, he corrected, it’s your body showing signs of denial, as was the body hair growth, the body’s attempt to keep in heat.
We left the consulting rooms subdued but hopeful. We resumed life, with instructions for a weekly BMI check which we would do at my mother’s home as we agreed that bringing scales into our home would not be a good idea.
The doctor had told her to decrease exercise but was, I fear, too gentle with her.
Two weeks later there was no improvement despite my child’s insistence that she was consuming more and her schoolfriends watching her eat lunch and report back to her head of year if they were concerned.
I was failing to force feed her and didn’t really know how far I could push her. Knowing she needed another kick in the right direction I told her to try on her bikinis for our upcoming family holiday. Moments later I heart a pained shriek coming from her room. I entered to the sight of my skeletal daughter (she had been hiding her body from all of us with baggy clothes and an insistence that teenage girls were entitled to privacy), bikini top sagging everywhere and bikini bottoms round her ankles as there was nothing to hold them up. And this was a bikini from the previous summer.
It broke my heart. I held her and assured her that she would get better. I honestly didn’t believe it in that moment but knew I had to. I immediately called the mental health services and insisted on another appointment and this time the doctor gave us an eating programme.
This required a daily ingestion of 2500 calories in order to build her up. For my daughter, even looking at the sheet was terrifying. He banned her from all sport too. She was furious but I was stronger. He knew we were meant to be going on holiday two weeks from then. He made us an appointment for two days prior to our departure date saying that he may have to hospitalise her if there was no weight gain which would also mean no holiday.
And so we started in earnest; measuring food and sitting with her as she consumed every mouthful, often crying into her meals. She would watch me like a hawk as I measured out her portions and beg me not to put any more on her plate and then try to convince me she’d eaten most of is.
I had to compromise on occasion. I don’t think I ever managed to get the entire 2500 calories in on any given day. But it was a huge increase on her previous eating and I was terrified she would simply give up. It was a battle. I would have to sit outside the toilet door every time she went, listening for the sound of her making herself vomit. I was her prison warden, not her mother, checking up on her in her room constantly to check she wasn’t exercising.
I was also conscious of my two other children; firstly because I was to a degree neglecting them and secondly because I was scared my younger daughter would pick up on some of these awful traits. There was no relationship between my daughter and her siblings at this point. Food was the only focus and she wouldn’t go near her father either. I was thankful that she had allowed me in to help her at all and didn’t want to push my luck so I let all of this go in my attempts to make her better.
Fortunately, my son (two years her senior and not the most tolerant chap) was away at camp for two weeks. On his return he looked at her with horror and asked me what I had done to her. I think he had been so caught up in his own life (thank goodness) that he hadn’t noticed her fading away. He couldn’t bear to look at her bones sticking out and her much changed face.
The two weeks passed and we had managed to increase her BMI to 16. Not great but an improvement. The doctor agreed that we could go on holiday but that he had been very close to hospitalising her to start a drip feed. I was glad not to have to cancel the holiday but it wasn’t exactly a holiday!
My son wouldn’t look at her and kept telling me I was handling it all wrong; my husband became frustrated and angry with her, resulting in tears at restaurant meals and I lost any joy I had in food. Thankfully our youngest seemed to hardly notice. I had simply explained that her sister wasn’t very well (which was true) and had to eat a special diet to get better and that she needn’t worry. She took that well and just went off and made friends with other kids at the apartment complex and managed to have one of her best ever holidays. Seeing her joy was what got me through that week.
There were a few highs. One meal she actually said she was enjoying her food! But there were lows. People would stare at her bony body around the pool. She loves to swim and we usually spend our holiday mornings swimming multiple lengths together. Yet I had to limit her to ten lengths a day, which was more than I should have been allowing.
Thankfully we were self-catering. She had to eat 7 meals (some were snacks) per day and I had to watch her consume every one of them without making her too angry for fear she would just refuse. One night after dinner I insisted she had an ice-cream as we were still only on about 1500 calories. As my other two kids tucked into theirs with relish, she cried into her tub of yogurt flavoured ice-cream (I lied and told her it was frozen yogurt so she would actually eat it), people staring at the two of us as I tried (unsuccessfully) to hold back my own tears. She told me to stay away from her, that she knew she was ruining everyone’s holiday.
That night I lost it. Not with her but with my husband and son who were angry that their holiday was being consumed by her eating disorder. All I wanted to do was shout that if we didn’t sort this our there would be no family holidays as she simply wouldn’t be there any longer.
We were driving back from town and I insisted that my husband drop me off so I could walk home alone. I got out of the car and just let it all out. There I was, late at night in the foreign supermarket car park, alone and bawling. I called my friend back home in London. She was utterly amazing. She told me what I needed to say to my husband and son and gave me the strength to say it. It was a turning point for us all.
My daughter saw how much it was damaging us all and from that point on made the diet sheet slightly less of a battleground. I’m not saying it was easy, but it was certainly easier. I like to make things look easy. I want to appear strong to the world and I want my kids to think I know what I’m doing so they don’t have to worry. This made me realise that it was ok for them to see I needed some support.
We returned home in a more positive frame of mind. The battle with the diet sheet continued and it gradually became less of a struggle. The weekly weigh-ins were showing positive results; a 2-3 pound weight-gain every week and an increasingly healthy BMI.
By the time school began, she had more energy and looked skinny rather than skeletal. She was still demonstrating very excessive control issues over tidiness and work but I didn’t feel ready to tackle those demons yet as I just needed her to be in decent physical health first.
She began to gain back some of her former joie-de-vivre and slowly but surely was able to go back to the exercise she loved. I no longer had to weigh and measure her portions and her former love of food returned. She began to enjoy cooking once again and her other obsessive behaviours started to decline.
I am delighted to say that my daughter is now at the peak of health and fitness.
Having not had a period for 9 months, she is now back on track and moaning about PMT. She has been on an interesting journey with food ever since last year and is now vegan which gives her the control she desires. She had long been an animal lover and we always assumed she would give up meat at some point.
Of course, we were concerned when she made this latest decision but when I see her creating yet another delicious recipe with chick peas, black beans, coconut milk yogurt, potatoes, rice, pasta, lentils etc and adding vegan chocolate to my shopping list, and leaves a mess in the kitchen, I know that she has conquered her demons.
Health anxiety is an increasingly talked about form of anxiety.
1 in 6 people will have been experiencing a common mental health issue in the past week including health anxiety. The key is to try and limit the amount of worry, gradually easing off the fear and anxiety of ill-health.
Find some healthy perspective and ask the question 'do I want to keep worrying about the possibility of becoming ill, or do I want to get on and live my life?'. Always see your GP or a therapist for help and support.
Anna Williamson is the author of the hugely successful #1 selling book on Amazon ‘Breaking Mad’, and the follow up book ‘Breaking Mum and Dad’ launched in March. She found fame on big hitting children’s television shows on networks including CITV and Disney Channel, but after secretly battling an anxiety disorder, realised there was a huge stigma attached to mental health issues and became an official ambassador of the charity Mind. She is now a qualified counsellor, life coach and Master NLP Practitioner. Anna currently runs her own private coaching practice alongside being the resident agony aunt and psychology expert on TV shows including ITV’s Good Morning Britain and BBC’s Inside Out.