Monday, 15 October 2018

A Little Weight Loss Update

I've not really posted much about how I'm getting on with my weight loss journey and I thought it was time for a little update.

Disclaimer: I'm not one of those people that gets really into diets and fitness and loves to eat a big bowl of salad for lunch. I've tried and it's just not me, and probably never will be. And I'm ok with that! I have no shame in being a regular human who eats regular food and doesn't have all of the best tips and top diet advice.

But I can share my experience...

How I'm Doing

I oficially began monitoring and actively trying to lose weight on the 25th June, and during this time I've had ups and downs, but I've lost a total of 32.4 pounds. From my heaviest weight, which was in January 2018, I've lost around 45.3 pounds.

How I Look

I've been losing weight actively since June and I've not really noticed any changes in myself until this week. I knew I was losing weight because the scales were telling me so and my clothes were fitting better (or even getting big) but I just didn't see it in myself. The first time I noticed was on our recent trip to Hong Kong (probably because I took 3473938474589 photos) and when I looked back at the photos, I could really see the weight I have lost. And I needed to see that, because there's nothing like noticing the change to keep you motivated.

I think I can particularly notice it on my face, it's much less bloated that it was and I no longer have 100 chins, I now only have about 3! I can also see a different in my stomach and my thighs. It would be great if I could notice a difference on my arms, although I think I may have to workout for that to happen. Nobody needs to see their bingo wings in all of their glory!

Mostly though, I am absolutely loving having clothes to wear. I can't even explain how happy this makes me; I feel like a normal human being again. For years I've lived in leggings because they were the only thing that I had that fitted me. Paul summed leggings up perfectly the other day when I put jeans on, leggings aren't flattering on anybody, even the skinniest of people. And it's true, you have to have the right outfit and body shape to pull of leggings. I didn't wear them because I wanted to, I wore them because it's all I had. I got into that mindset of not buying new clothes because I was always going to get back into the clothes I had, but I never quite got there. Now I'm finally getting there, and even though they're not new clothes (well some are, because we're all guilty of buying clothes that are too small for us because we're definitely going to stick at this diet and they'll fit in no time) it's like getting a whole new wardrobe.

I bought some coral trousers last summer, because coral is my absolute favourite colour and although they don't fit still, they're so close. They are my next target!

How I Feel

Motivated! The best way to describe how I feel is motivated. Seeing the results is making me more determined to stay on track and do this.

Again, I really noticed a change when in Hong Kong. Life used to be hard for me. A mix of bad eating and being overweight made me feel tired and unmotivated and the simplest things would feel hard sometimes. It's so true that eating bad food really does a lot more damage than making you gain weight, it genuinely messed with my head and made me feel unhappy and weak. I felt mentally weak. This holiday was the first one in a long time where I have been up and ready for the day, wanted to walk places and not dreaded all of the activities we would do for the day. We walked, we explore and I wanted to do even more (despite my incredibly borken body, because being a tourist is hard) I felt energetic and it was a good feeling.

I'm less lazy. Paul regularly tells me I'm lazy, and although I wouldn't admit it, he was right.I was lazy, because everything felt hard, from simply getting up to walk to the bin or get something from upstairs. Not only am I more energetic but I feel like my mindset has changed. I am much more productive now.

Lastly, and most importantly, I feel happier. I think part of this is down to finally having a plan of action and working towards it but despite that I feel happier. I don't hate myself so much anymore and I feel stronger and more on top of life than I have for a really long time.

What I'm Doing

This is the part where I should share all of my tips on how to lose weight but to be honest, I don't really have any. I don't eat all of the fruit and veg I should, I regularly drink frizzy drinks and I live for chocolaty snacks. But despite these things, what I'm doing is working and as long as it is working I will keep going as I am.

So what am I doing right?

Being realistic - Sometimes I have bad meals, or order a McFlurry from McDonalds (because you can do that in China) or have an extra snack or get a bread bun with my lunch, and that's ok. I'm in this for the long haul; losing weight is not a quick fix and trying to make it a quick fix is the reason I have failed so many times before. I know not every day will be perfect and I don't beat myself up about my slip ups. But what I do do is get straight back on it. I don't let one bad meal or day ruin an entire week, which was very much a big mistake I used to make.

Variation - When I came back to China I brought a whole load of Colamn's packet mixtures back with me and they have absolutely saved my life. I can't believe I didn't know they existed until this past summer. Every month I pick out 8 different meals, prepare the ingredients for them and freezer them. This, mixed with a few other favourite healthy meals (which I will share in upcoming blog posts) gives me a month's worth of food for me and Paul, with a different meal every night on a 2 week rotation. This works so well for us as there is plenty of variation, but the meals are prepped so it's easy to make them after work. We're having a lot of hearty meals like casseroles and cottage pie which I love and are filling, but we're also eating more vegetables with them as a side too which is a bonus.

Portion Control - This has always been one of my biggest problems when it comes to weight loss. I just like food and I like a lot of it. I'm also the girl who won't stop eating until all of the food is gone. Put that together and it's a bad combination - huge portions and devouring it all. The Colman's packet mixes are great because it has the weighed ingredients on the back of the packet, which are the recommended portion size. I've been sticking to the recommended portion sizes and I have been full after all of the meals so it goes to show I never really needed that much food in the first place. Also, I'm actively considering what I eat, even when I make 'bad' choices, instead of getting a whole sandwich, I will get a small bread bun. Instead of getting 2 McFlurry's, I will only order one. Each time I do this I find myself actively arguing with myself to make the better choice becaus emy natural instinct still goes to order more than I need or want, but I'm doing pretty well at controlling this at the moment.

I think this will always be a thing for me and something I have to control to ensure I keep losing weight, and maintain when I reach my goal.

Eat what I like - Like I said, I love food, but I especially love all of the anti-diet foods like carbs and chocolate. I'm not cutting them out of my diet, I'm just controlling how much I have of them. Some of the Colman's meals are pasta-based and I often have potato as a side with some of them, but because they are normal portion sizes I can get away with it and the numbers on the scales still go down. I think that eventually my weight will begin to stall and I may need to cut some of these things out but until that happens I will keep on doing what I'm doing.

When I came back to Beijing I brought a whole suitcase filled with food (which cost me about £380 because bloody Emirates stupid extra luggage charges!!!) but it was so worth it because it really has kept me on track. I brought so many different snacks - Breakaways, Club biscuits, Mini Cheddars, Rice Krispie Squares, Graze snacks and so much more. I keep them in a bag at school and each day I choose one thing to bring home and have as my after dinner snack. They are all around 100 calories and knowing I have that snack to look forward to is sometimes the only thing that keep me on the right track.

I still have a long way to go and I'm nowhere near my goal yet but I'm feeling so much better. It's a good start...

Are you on your own weight loss journey? Let me know and we can support each other. It's the hardest thing in the world to do so we need all of the support we can get.

How are you getting on in your journey? What is your biggest challenge? What is working?

Friday, 12 October 2018

Photo Diary: Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of those places that is really hard to capture in a photograph. It is the perfect mix of modern and new, Hong Kong-esque and Western. You can find a brand new Starbucks next to an old family-run business. You can find pure luxury in the Peninsula or slum it at Chungking Mansions.

It's hard to capture the city in photos, but here is our photo diary of our recent trip to Hong Kong.
A typical street in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a huge mix of Chinese buildings mixed with Western shops and hotels. While I love Hong Kong's likeness to NYC, I love the Chinese buildings and signage too. The contrast really makes Hong Kong something special.
And in stark contrast to the previous picture, a snap of Hong Kong's concrete jungle. Everywhere you look you are surrounded by skyscrapers in every direction. It is one of the things that makes Hong Kong so special and it really awe inspiring as you stand on the ground and look up at the concrete jungle around you.
 Victoria Park was hit hard by Typhoon Mangkhut and there were trees and debris all around the park. These two beauties sparkles amongst the fallen trees.
In such a busy city, filled with people and surrounded by a concrete jungle you'd think it would be difficult to find a moment of solitude, but the parks in Hong Kong provide a quiet space amongst the chaos of the city. I really love how they utilise their parks to get outside and explore. They are always so full with so many different people of all ages and activities going on.
The problem with travelling together is that the only way to get a photo together is by taking a selfie. Selfies are never flattering! 
This was the one area of Victoria Park that had been cleared of all of the fallen trees and debris. There's something special about sitting in a park surrounded by tall buildings, it makes me feel so small and the city seem so very big and incredible. 
There are many temples in Beijing but the Man Mo Temple is definitely one of the most beautiful.
The Man Mo Temple was another place that was hit hard by the typhoon.. There was construction and danger tape all around the temple as they were reparing it, but it was still incredibly beautiful. 
We stumbled upon Hollywood Road Park by accident when visiting the Man Mo Temple. We drove past it and I noticed it out of the window and so we walked back along the road to visit it when we got off the bus and I'm so glad we did. It was one of my favourite parks in Hong Kong.
 The park was all decorated for the Moon Festival, with lanterns all around the park. I love how colourful all of the decorations are - just stunning!
Yet again, this park is in the middle of the city, surrounded by huge buildings but is so peaceful and serene when you are inside. It was the most stunning place, with temple style buildings and Chinese decor all around it. I highly recommend taking some time visit when in Hong Kong.
The tram to the top of Victoria Peak was an experience ijn itself. It was really cool and the views were incredible as we were going up. At some points we were almost verticle and I was genuinely wondering how the tram was going to make it to the top, but we made it.
And the views were incredible. The AQI was around 100 when we were there so there was a slight mist across the buildings, but we picked a pretty good day to go really.
On one side you could see mountains and the other was filled with the water and skyscrapers of Hong Kong. We walked all the way around to get a view of both.
Simply the most incredible view. I would have loved to have seen sunset here but I got my timings wrong and we ended up there way too early. By the time we got back down though, the queues of people heading up for sunset made me glad we didn't stay.
On the tram heading back down the mountain. It is seriously worth this trip just for the tram, never mind the views. 
We visited Hong Kong's seaside town, which was a part of Hong Kong we have never visited before and absolutely loved it. It's so different to the city and Stanely had such a cool vibe. You would never have known you were in Asia in Stanley, you could have been at any Western seaside village. 
But the shops, temples and markets still kept that touch of Chinese culture and architecture. All the way along the boardwalk were lots of shops and restaurants, ranging from Chinese-style markets to typical Irish pubs.
And the views were absolutely stunning. It had everything - mountains, seaside, skyscrapers and pure beauty.
I absolutely fell in love with Stanley and could quite easily have spent the full day here if we'd had the time to spare. If you have time, I would definitely plan to spend at least half a day exploring Stanley.
Repulse Bay was very different to Stanley but equally as cool. The vibe was brilliant, chilled out music was playing along the boardwalk and there was a huge range of restaurants. We got a wrap from Nood and it was amazing! It had a very Western vibe. 
The views around Repulse Bay were stunning. The sand was very pebbly so not the best to lie on, but the views were just stunning. The beach was surrounded by mountains and high rise hotels.
Aberdeen is Hong Kong's fishing village which is worth checking out. It's quite run down in some places, and very different to the other seaside areas but it's cool to view the life of a fisherman in Hong Kong.
We took a Sampan ride around the harbour and to the famous Jumbo Floating Restaurant. The Sampan ride probably wasn't worth it in all honest, but it was good to see the harbour in more depth. 
The Sampan was really old and cobbled together. I loved the authenticness of the boat, with the Chinese carpets and lanterns hung around it.
The Star Ferry is a must do when in Hong Kong. It offers the best views of the Hong Kong Skyscrapers, probably the best in the city. The ride from Central Ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui takes around 10 minutes.
We wandered along the promenade at Tsim Sha Tsui for a while. It's a beautifully developed area that has lots of little touches that make it special, such as entertainers, beautiful buildings, etc. There was a little old man singing and dancing, and he was terrible, but it was the cutest thing! We didn't explore Kowloon too much as we have stayed in this area the past 2 times we have visited Hong Kong so we wanted to see the other places.
The Clock Tower.
Nan Lian Garden is a little out of the centre and so worth the trip. It's simple beautiful.
It is a place of absolute peace and tranquility in one of the busiest and craziest cities in the world.

There are beautiful stones, waterfalls, trees, flowers and temples all over the garden. They havemini museums to showcase each of these things, including Chinese architecture, showing how they were all built. 
The Temple is definitely the central focus of the garden, but there are so many other beautiful things to see and explore. You could easily spend a whole day relaxing here.
I was so excited to visit Hong Kong Disneyland. I've been before, but when can you not be excited for a trip to Disney? I have to be honest, out of all of the Disney parks I've visited, Hong Kong is my least favourite. It is great for shows and parades, but not so great for rides. It is definitely much more geared to younger kids.
The Flights of Fantasy Parade.
Disneyland was all decorated for Autumn and Halloween which I LOVED! I mean, a Mickey pumpkin?!
Is this not the most Autumnal decoration you've seen in one photo? I absolutely loved the Autumn vibe!
When your selfies completely fail because you're standing right in the middle of the incredible Mickey flower display. Boo!

If you're interested in viewing more of our Hong Kong photos, click through this slideshow.

We absolutely loved Hong Kong. We did so much in the 4 days we were there and we were exhausted and broken by the end of the trip but we had the best time. I wish we'd had a little longer as there were still some things we wanted to see and didn't get a chance to, such as the Big Buddha and Dragon's Back but we loved all of the things we did and experienced. 

Look out for more detailed posts about Hong Kong coming soon. 

Have you been to Hong Kong? What did you like? What did you hate? What surprised you? Let me know!

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

13 Things to Watch to Fill You with the Spirit of Autumn

Autumn is my favourite for so mnay reasons, but one of my most favourite is getting all cosy on the sofa with duvets and candles and watching TV without a single ounce of guilt, because how could I possibly do anything more productive? It's way too cold! 

Some TV shows and movies are perfect for Autumn and I watch them over and over again at this time of year. Some of them have no link to Autumn whatsoever but they still give me that Autumn feeling. I can't explain it, but you definitely want to watch these things this season. 

FRIENDS - I'm the biggest Friends fan and will quite happily watch it at any time of year, but I always start watching the series from the beginning during Autumn. I don't know why because it has absolutely no link to Autumn, but it gets me right into the spirit of the season. The whole 10 seasons lead nicely into Christmas when it's time to start pulling out the festive movies too.

Gossip Girl - Again, this has no link to Autumn, but it's set in NYC and for some reason I always think of Autumn when I think of the city (well, and Christmas of course) Anything that involves bitchy girls from the Upper East Side and NYC is always going to be a hit for me.

One Tree Hill - And then to flip the city vibes, the other things that makes me think of Autumn are little villages and towns where everybody knows your name. One Tree Hill is a brilliant TV show with so much drama and I love most of the main cast too. It's definitely a great one to watch during the colder evenings while snuggled up on the sofa.

Mean Girls - Because October 3rd! Who doesn't love Mean Girls? It encompasses the school experience of every girl out there in some way or another, whether you were a geek, a jock, a prom queen or whatever the hell you were. Such an easy movie to watch.

Casper - I'm a complete wimp when it comes to scary movies so my Halloween movies are usually pretty tame. Casper is my perfect replacement for all of the horror movies that everybody else will be watching at this time of year. It's funny, but absolutely tears your heart in two at parts also. I don't feel like it always gets the recognition it deserves.

Sex and the City - My ultimate fave! I just love SATC - I love the girls, the drama, the boys, the friendship and the city. I already mentioned that the city reminds me of Autumn, but really, is there ever not a perfect time to settle down with a few episodes of SATC? Nah, I didn't think so!

Sabrina the Teenage Witch - A bit of a blast from the past here but I used to love this series when I was a kid. I remember getting up early on a Saturday morning and waiting for it to come on TV. Festive with the theme of witches, but mostly it's comical and easy to watch.

The Nightmare Before Christmas - How to define this? Is it a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie? I'd go with in-between so you get to watch it for an even longer time! It's just a classic in so many ways and has a great soundtrack too.

Forrest Gump - Forrest Gump is a great one to watch in Autumn. I don't even know why this movie gives me Autumnal vibes, but it definitely does. Easy to watch, yet thought-provoking and moving at the same time. Life really is like a box of chocolates...

Harry Potter - Well, they're just classics aren't they. An absolutely incredible series that are perfect to watch anytime of year, but I always find myself pulling them out in Autumn. Naturally they are full of seasonal appropriateness.

The Blind Side - All about football, it's the perfect movie to give you the Autumn vibe. It' an emotional and feel good film that will warm you up and make you smile. I'm usually a fan of anything with Sanda Bullock in too (I know, unpopular opinion!)

The Hills - Lauren Conrad is basically my girl crush so I'm always happy to tune into The Hills, but I love it for so many more reasons than just LC. I love California and I love the drama. I love seeing how they celebrate the festivities and special moments in style.

When Harry Met Sally - The ultimate tale of how love can blossom in the most unexpected places. Plus, you know, the city and the Autumnal scenes of Central Park can't help but get you into that Autumn vibe.

These are some of my ultimate Autumn favourites that really get me into the spirit of the season. What are your favourite things to watch at this time of year?

Monday, 8 October 2018

Photo Diary: A Day Trip to Macao

Macao is unlike any other place I have ever visited and was definitely a very different and unique experience. When we began planning our trip to Hong Kong I wasn’t too keen on taking a trip to Macao as I’d heard it was basically a sorry replica of Las Vegas, but Paul wanted to go, and so we did.

I’m so glad we took the trip to Macao and experienced it. While I didn’t fall in love with the place, it was a great experience and a very fun day. It was a hard day, with lots of walking in very hot and humid conditions, but worth every step (and calorie burned!)

Here are some photos to tell the story of our day…
We took the Turbojet ferry from Hong Kong to Macao. The ferry in itself was a pretty cool experience and not what I was expecting at all. Coming from South Shields, I was expecting an old, open-topped ferry but the Turbojet ferries were clean and comfy and the service was spot on. The views were pretty great too, especially on arrives to Macao and back to Hong Kong.
A typical street in Macao. The buildings were mostly quite run down and looked very old and unkept. This added to the charm as we explored, but I was shocked at how old and battered some of the buildings looked. 
The A-Ma Temple. We visited the temple on China's National Day and is was so busy and the incense was so strong. Call me uncultured, but I often think that most temples are so similar that once you've seen one, you've seen most but the A-Ma temple was quite unique. It was set on many different levels, with Chinese characters carved into the walls and so much to see. 
Wishes hung by visitors, filled with their hopes for the year.
Chinese characters were carved into stones all around the A-Ma Temple.
 We explored Mandarin House, home of the late Zheng Guanying who was an author and Chinese reformist in the Qing Dynasty (thanks Google!)
Built in 1869, the age of the building really showed. It was filled with history and mini museum rooms were set up around the building. 
As we walked around Macao, we stumbled across so many old and beautiful Portuguese style buildings. The contrast between the Portuguese and Chinese buildings and the huge hotels was so bizarre! I loved the touches of Portuguese, from a moment you would think we were strolling through a little European village, until you reached the next corner and the views completely changed again.
And some incredibly old, run-down buildings, but they still had that unique spark of interest. They reminded me a little of Notting Hill, only much much older.
St Lawrence's Church was one of the highlights for me. The building was just absolutely stunning, the architecture was incredible and the grounds were stunning. It was one of my favourite buildings.
The only way to describe Senado Square is manic but beautiful. It was so busy, but everything about it was so beautifully designed, from the floor to the buildings surrounding it.
Shops and restaurants inside of the most beautiful building in Senado Square.
The Igreja da Se Cathedral, standing tall and beautiful by Senado Square.
Turn a corner from the Portuguese inspired Senado Square and you find yourself on a very Chinese street filled with snack shops.
The Ruins of St Paul's. It was tough to get a good photo as it was just so busy, but it was pretty cool to see.
We walked up about 1,000 (exaggeration, but it was so hot and sweaty it felt like it) steps to Mount Fortress to get a view of the city from above. Plus, Paul really wanted to visit a castle, because boys!
The views were bizarre, with a mix of very very old and brand new and shiny. By the time we reached the top we were exhausted and very sweaty so we chilled for a while at the top to check out the views.
After exploring old Macao, we headed to the casinos, starting with the Galaxy. It's crazy to think that you are in the same place when you compare Macao's old town with the casinos.
The entrance to the Galaxy was stunning and had the most beautiful, shiny water fountain. I have to be honest though, while the entrance was grand, the casino scene has nothing on Las Vegas. The stories I had heard were right about that! It was cool to see, but it's not worth taking the trip to Macao just for the casinos. They missed a trick by not linking them up, adding a walk way and putting on some free shows. The minimum bet is around HK$1000 (around £100) too.
The Venetian Grande Canal Shopping Mall. The Venetian was beautiful and it was really cool to walk through and take in the decor. I mean, it was tacky, but who doesnt love tacky?

Interested in seeing more of our trip to Macao? Here are more photos of our day, just click through the slides.

So what were my thoughts?
I'm so glad we took the trip to Macao! It's a great place with loads to see and do and you could easily fill a couple of days there. It was a rush to get through as much as we did in a day. It's a unique place that I will probably never experience anywhere else in the world. While I didn't fall head over heels in love with Macao, it's well worth doing! Will I go back again? probably not and I probably wouldn't go out of my way to visit, but if you're nearby and have a bit of time it's worth adding a day trip for sure.

Look out for a more detailed and informative walking guide of Macao with lots of tips and tricks which I will be publishing soon.

Have you been to Macao? What did you think of it? Anything you love? Or hated?
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