16 January 2017

12 Books for 2017

How are your new year's resolutions going? I have to admit, mine have largely been ignored for the first two weeks of 2017. January always hits me hard, it seems more so each year, but I'm slowly coming out of the fog and reigniting my determination to make some positive changes in my life.

One of my resolutions for 2017 (and for 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013...) is to read more. I feel like I have been making this resolution my whole life, but that's fine – I can never read enough. Twelve books for the year may not sound like much, but when you work a full time job and fit in a social life too (not optional) there isn't much time left for reading.

My bedroom is small, and I've got stacks of books waiting for me. Having recently watched a documentary on minimalism (check it out on Netflix, and thanks to Tania for recommending!) I feel like now is the time to get some things in order. I want to love these books. They will be read.

January

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
I began reading this in December but didn't get to the end, even over the Christmas period when I had heaps of free time. This book is not what I was expecting but I love the style of writing and its slow pace.

February

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig
Another half-read book from 2016, Reasons to Stay Alive is one that resonates with so many, I must finish it. Matt Haig writes in such a way that makes me feel like my depression/anxiety is the most normal thing in the world. It's a great eye-opener for anyone who has or hasn't been affected by mental illness.


March

A History of Britain in 21 Women – Jenni Murray
I spotted this at the Cheltenham Literature Festival back in October, and made a note to order it for my best friend, Bethan's, Christmas present. It turns out my mum had the same idea for me and I was so excited to find this in my stocking on Christmas Day.

April

Swing Time – Zadie Smith 
Another Christmas gift (if you're ever gonna buy me a present, a book is always a winner), this time from my best uni pal Chloe. We both adore Zadie Smith, and it's been a good few years since I read anything of hers so I cannot wait to get stuck into Swing Time.

May

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers
Ahh, Eggers, my old friend. It's been a while. Four years, in fact. I'm a huge fan of Eggers' work, so to think I've had this book on my shelf since my uni days and not finished it is abominable. I will read this work of fiction/non-fiction (who really knows) from start to finish in May – my birthday month!

June

Yes Please – Amy Poehler 
I still don't really know who Amy Poehler is, or what she stands for, but I have seen numerous recommendation for Yes Please pop up all over the internet, and I found this book in Rise for £3(!) so obviously I bought it. I feel like this will probably be quite an easy, holiday read – perfect for June.


July

NW – Zadie Smith
When I saw this had been made into a TV adaptation I knew I had to read NW (anyone else feel like they have to do it in that order?) 

August

Quiet Power – Susan Cain
Fellow introverts, take note. If you're a long-time reader of my blog you'll know I am a huge fan of Susan Cain and her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. It's not just for us quiet ones, either, but a breath of fresh air in this overcrowded world, and I have high hopes for her follow-up, Quiet Power.


September

Thank God it's Monday – Mark Greene
Our viewpoint on work is quite narrow. You're either expected love your job or you hate it, and that's the end of it. Mark Greene explores faith in the workplace in a series of books I have been meaning to read for a good three years (are you beginning to see a pattern here?) and at a time in my life when I'm beginning to wonder exactly what direction I want to take my career in, Thank God it's Monday seems like a good place to start.


October, November & December

The Lord of the Rings trilogy – J R R Tolkien 
A 23rd birthday gift from an old flame, and such a beautiful edition, too, I am saving this trilogy for my favourite time of year. As the days get shorter I'll be more inclined to spend evenings at home, and when it's dark I need escapism – something I am sure LOTR will provide.

As much as being around people is good for my mental wellbeing, so is switching off and fully falling into a book. The effect a good book can have on me is so wonderfully relaxing I don't know why I don't force myself to do it more. I'm all about that instant gratification and it can be so hard to ignore the buzz we get from interactive technology, of always being connected to something. I'm afraid to be alone, but maybe this year I should learn to love what's good for me.

What are your books for 2017? Have you read any of the above titles? My aim is to read all 12 of these before the year is out but if you have any recommendations for extra reading please send them my way!
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31 December 2016

2016













There's a theory that time goes by faster as you get older. It's not just a feeling. When you're four a year is a quarter of your life. When you're ten it's a tenth. Time gets smaller as you get bigger.

In 2016 I was 23 then 24, and in a few months I'll be 25. These numbers pass me by like I'm blinking but not really thinking about it, like one of those unconscious habits we are born with. Do we learn to forget about time or is it in our nature?

Every year we wait for the new year with a strange excitement. What are we celebrating? I wonder what the next 365 days will be like, what they will be and... what was last year? Will I be a different person in 2017? I felt the same last year. It fades fast; the sense of excitement marred with melancholy. Probably something to do with the Christmas comedown.

I first identified with depression when I was 20, but there had been sadness before then. There are clues that are so blindingly obvious to me now that I wonder why it never hit me sooner. But there is always a reason for my sadness, and none for my depression. Having said that, depression is now an underlying reason for all my sadness and I know this is not right.

This Christmas has been my first break without plans – something I've longed for all year. There are always drinks with school friends and family gatherings that have become tradition, I suppose, but there has been more time spent alone doing not very much. I packed to come home for ten days, and each one has stretched out so far that I begin to wonder if I'm four again.

I remember details from last year, like ornaments on windowsills and conversations the other person probably forgot. My list of resolutions; to travel more, to start saving, to read more, to write more – the same every year – only two I can say I ticked off, but I'll make them again anyway. And soon I'll forget this period altogether, until next year – or do I mean next week? – when it begins again.

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13 December 2016

I Survived the Whole 30

Could you give up sugar, dairy, grains, legumes and alcohol for 30 days? It took two years for me to come round to the idea. It sounds easy. It's only a month.
I was sick of doctors appointments, of being told the same thing, of being told I was just suffering from a very normal symptom of IBS. I don't have IBS.

My skin was breaking out. Last year I finished a 5-month course of Roaccutane. I'm not sure I'd recommend it. Smooth, flawless skin was mine for all of 9 months, and then the spots were back, along with Crohns complications. They had warned me.

Sugar was the problem. And dairy, and gluten. That awful thing, gluten. Maybe I will get better if I cut it all out. Maybe my skin will renew itself completely. Maybe my life will change.

I read the book, I read their website, I read the transformation stories. I pored over Instagram before and after photos. True happiness.

The Whole30 had been done by people like me – their symptoms had disappeared, inflammation gone – Crohn's cured. I could see a miracle just 30 days within my reach.

"Cut out all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days."


I was prepared. I planned and prepped and shopped and cooked and documented every detail. From the day I began it consumed me.

Day one was easy. I could do this. What was all the fuss about? Then day two hit me like the hardest hangover, the fuggiest jet lag. Anxiety in my stomach, my head heavy and thick with a tension I couldn't shake. I was assured all of this was normal. I dragged myself into work.

After a week I was feeling okay again, but I didn't feel good. Here is a list of the things I suffered from as the month went on – all things I had never had a problem with previously:

  • Tendonitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Jaw muscle stress
  • Irritability
  • Social isolation

Along with feeling exhausted – which I was promised would disappear with the elimination of all the foods I had given up – I was miserable.

But I wanted to complete the 30 days. I had seen firsthand how it had helped my sister and my dad. Why wasn't it working for me?

"We cannot possibly put enough emphasis on this simple fact—the next 30 days will change your life. It will change the way you think about food, it will change your tastes, it will change your habits and your cravings. This will change your life."


Day 30 arrived, finally, like Christmas eve. I woke up at 6am, so excited to start my final day. I had completed 30 days without slipping up, but what had I achieved? All I could think about was the Nutella I was going to eat in the morning.

Weight loss was never a goal of mine, but I lost half a stone. Of course this made me happy, but not as much as being able to eat and drink whatever I want does. Two weeks post-Whole 30 and I eat chocolate, cheese, bread, milk – the lot. I eat it all and I know that none of it has a negative effect on my body. The key is moderation.

If I learnt anything from the Whole 30 it's that my relationship with food is a selfish one. First and foremost we eat what we want. What we need comes second. It's ingrained in our culture. Our generation has decided we will do whatever we want. Who dares to tell us anything? But the Whole 30 got me thinking. While I was clutching my hot water bottle, crippled with stomach cramps, catching the bus to and from work because it hurt too much to walk, my mind went back to what I've always believed: my body is a temple, and I will treat it like one.

What are your thoughts on the Whole 30 diet? If you're considering giving it a go I recommend getting involved in the community on Instagram. The support I received was incredible and it was so much fun documenting all my favourite Whole 30 meals and snacks. Click here if you want to find out more.

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