Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Kefir - Everything You Want To Know

   Kefir is a very inexpensive healthy habit. You buy the grains once, and then all it will cost you is milk - 100ml of milk will become 100ml of kefir. It will be about as expensive, and much more nutritious, than an Actimel a day, and with absolutely nothing artificial or with any added sugar. You can also do more with it than an Actimel, and its calories will be the same. Mix it into smoothie bowls, shakes, cereal, salads
   It's not even very high-maintenance. The idea of making their own kefir does put some people on edge, but it's very simple, and totally fool-proof. The only issue is that kefir grains are hard to come by - you can't get them in supermarkets. Generally the best place to get them is from someone who is already brewing kefir (see below), because kefir grows as you feed it, giving you a little more with each batch of milk, and in time, they will end up with too many and will want to get rid of it.
   It's really just a simply daily ritual of setting kefir grains in a jar with 250ml of milk for every 5g of grains, leave it on the countertop for 24 hours (the bacteria stops the milk from spoiling) and then straining it into another jar the next day, and then repeating the process. It keeps the grains alive and, as long as you have milk, a constant supply of kefir milk. And if you wanted to pause the process due to holiday or an abundance of kefir milk, you can put half the milk into the jar with the grains and set them in the fridge, which slows their metabolism. You'll need to change the milk every 5 days, but they will remain quite alive and well-fed without leaving you inundated with kefir. If you're going on holiday, a friend or family member can change the milk when they feed your cat or water your plants. It may be a strange request, but if they're interested in kefir, you can always repay them in the excess grains you're sure to end up with in time.


What is kefir?
   Pronounced 'keh-FEER', kefir milk is a probiotic-rich drink that has been consumed for nearly 2,000 years, and is made from the fermentation of kefir grains in milk.
   Kefir grains are not grains at all. They are only called 'grains' due to their appearance, so if you have Coeliac's or a gluten intolerance, they're totally safe to use. Kefir grains are in fact a microbiological culture of bacteria and yeast which co-exist with one another and the milk cultures they feed on. Here's a list of the most common bacteria strains and yeast strains found in milk kefir grains. But, because grains are born and bred from the milk they're stored in, changes in the milk can also change the strain composition, so there's no real way to guarantee just what exactly is thriving in your grains and subsequently what the probiotic make up of your kefir milk will be. But, there's no need to worry about such microscopic details, because, whatever strains are in your grains, they and the probiotics they provide are absolutely wonderful.

Why drink kefir?
   First, and most importantly of all, because of probiotics! Probiotics are microorganisms that help to keep the balance of good bacteria in your gut, which you need for healthy digestion. In the West, the best source of probiotics is yoghurt, but that's only because kefir isn't as easy to manufacture or distribute due to the nature of kefir grains. In the East - where kefir originated - kefir comes top, and is actually much more potent than yoghurt, due in part to the ease of creating the milk and to the direct nature of the grains.
   Secondly, there are the added antibacterial benefits - the kefir-exclusive probiotic Lactobacillus kefiri itself has been proven to inhibit the growth of salmonella and E. coli bacterias.
   Kefir milk is also much lower in lactose than other dairy products, making it great for people who are lactose intolerant. This is because the kefir's bacteria turns the lactose into lactic acid, greatly reducing the lactose content of milk.
   All this for the one-off purchase or acquisition of grains, and the cost of a weekly 2-pints of milk.

Where did kefir come from?
   About 2,000 years ago the grains were 'discovered' in the Caucasus Mountains, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia, and its name comes from the Turkish keyif, which means 'good life', as in 'health'. The local people regarded kefir grains as a gift from the gods and every household held them in great value due to their abilities to preserve and enhance milk. Their kefir grains were kept a secret from the West until the early 20th Century when it was shared with Russia. Kefir has been made for 2,000 years now, and today is a staple food in Russia.

What do kefir grains do to the milk?
   Kefir grains are living organisms, and so they need to feed in order to grow. We add the kefir grains to milk to ferment it for our own use, but as far as the grains are concerned, we're looking after them and feeding them like we would a dog. Or, rather, water a plant, I suppose. The kefir feed on the milk and expel their waste into it - but from our perspective, that 'waste' is what we want. They're the probiotics.
   Kefir grains don't feed on milk as a whole, only one part of it: the lactose. Lactose is dairy sugar, and because sugar - glucose - is a source of energy, that's what the grains want. And so, during the fermentation process, the kefir grains will eat the sugar and replace it with probiotics instead.
   This lowers the lactose and sugar levels of the milk immensely, which in turn reduces the calories of the finished kefir milk, too, as sugar contains 4 calories per gram. The rest of the nutritional profile of the milk you used to make your kefir remains in tact - the fat content, protein levels are all unchanged. The sugar has simply been replaced by probiotics.

Why make your own kefir?
   It's true that you can buy bottled kefir milk in some supermarkets, but they're usually riddled with all kinds of extra ingredients, the mechanical processes generally mean that metal has come into contact with the grains at some point, or the mass produced nature of it and poor storage means a lot of the goodness is lost. But that doesn't mean it isn't an option, as not all brands are like that.
   But homemade is always best - and this goes for most things - because you keep every ounce of goodness, you know the grains are well-looked after, and you have full control over the source and quality of milk, be it straight from the farm, organic, or run-of-the-mill 50p a pint supermarket milk. Either way, it will be better quality than bottled kefir milk, and much cheaper - once you have the grains, it will only cost you whatever the milk does. Homemade kefir milk is also much cheaper than an Actimel a day, and far more nutritious.
   Making kefir yourself also isn't the daunting prospect it seems. It's so straight-forward, and after you've done it once, you're practically already a pro!

So, interested?

Obtaining fresh kefir grains
   Kefir grains can only be obtained from someone already brewing kefir. This is because they cannot be grown any other way, as the polysaccharides, bacteria, and yeasts that make up kefir grains are handed down from generation to generation - ie, as they feed on milk cultures and multiply. It doesn't take much effort to get them to multiply, however, just the active creation of kefir milk - if you take it up yourself, you'll very likely find yourself in a position of having more grains than you need, in time.
   So, to obtain fresh kefir grains, ask a friend, relative, neighbour, or see if you can find someone on gum tree or the like who wants to get rid of them. Alternatively, some people do sell their excess kefir grains online, such as Symbiome, shipped in a food-safe ziplock bag with enough milk to keep them alive in transit. This obviously means they can only be shipped nationally, but it also means that you can obtain them easily enough if there's no one nearby who you can obtain them from otherwise.
   Fresh kefir grains are always the best choice because they can produce a near-immediate, drinkable product compared to dehydrated grains, and they are healthy (as living organisms) because they've not been subjected to drying or other rough handling.


Dehydrated & rehydrated kefir grains
   Obtaining is another option, and is easier because, without the need for milk to keep them alive, it's easier to ship them without concern of milk leaking (though if it's double-bagged it's probably fine). It also means you don't have to use them the day they arrive on your doormat, instead you can keep them for the weekend, when you may have more time.
   The trouble with dehydrated kefir grains is bringing them back to life.
   To rehydrate dehydrated kefir grains you have to empty them into 1 cup of cold milk, cover with a cloth or an unscrewed lid as you would when making kefir milk, and leave it at room temperature. After about 8 or so hours, you have to start checking the milk regularly, looking for a change in consistency. Once you notice the milk has started to thicken, you must remove the grains, strain them and transfer them into a cup and a half of fresh milk, then cover and set aside as before. If, however, no change has occurred in 24 hours, strain them into one cup of fresh milk and repeat until a change occurs. This goes on for 3-7 days, increasing the amount of milk by 1/2 a cup every time up to a total of 4 cups, until the dehydrated kefir grains have activated, and only then will they start producing true kefir milk and can be treated as fresh grains are. Here's a longer description, with process pictures.
   Deyhdrated grains will yield a poorer quality of kefir milk for a while because they'll still be sluggish, but they will pick up in time. All of this means that dehydrated grains can be quite inconvenient - the balance of shipping convenience to the inconvenience of activating them makes dehydrated grains, overall, a poorer choice.

Powdered kefir starter cultures
   Kefir milk can be made without grains, but it will not provide the same properties as that made with grains. However, the finished product will have a very similar thickness and taste to true milk kefir, so it's good if you just want to try it.
   This is made with a powdered kefir starter culture, a proprietary blend of bacteria that mimics those in kefir grains, but, unlike kefir grains, the kefir starter culture is not re-usable. It's one time only. You will have to buy the culture each time you wish to make kefir milk, but that does make it a better option if you only want to make kefir every now and then.

How do you make kefir milk?
   It's not difficult; once you have the basic necessities - a plastic seive, a glass jar, a wooden or plastic spoon, some full-fat milk from cow or goat, and, of course, the grains - you will have a never-ending supply. It's a one-time purchase, except for the milk itself.
   The reason you need non-metallic utensils for making kefir is because kefir grains are naturally acidic and readily react to metals. If the grains come into frequent contact with metal - such as a metal sieve or spoon each time you make a batch - the grains will become contaminated and so will the milk they go on to feed off and you will subsequently drink. Over a long period of time, these toxins can become lethal. Stainless steel is the only exception, but in the end, it's best not to chance it, if simply for the health of the grains themselves. Plastic sieves, glass jars and wooden spoons are not hard to come by.
   The reason you want to use full-fat milk for making kefir is because the grains thrive on the fat. You can use 2% and reduced fat milk, but it may take longer to ferment. Animal milk is also best - other 'milks' such as almond, soy or coconut yield inconsistent results, and the grains will still need to be bathed and revitalised in animal milk for 24 hours every few days. This is because the milk is what the grains feed on, and if you give them something other than their natural diet, they won't be able to gain the nutrients they need to survive. Unlike humans, kefir grains can't take supplements.
   Read here for more info on choosing milk for your kefir.

   These are the easy and traditional steps to making kefir with fresh grains:
1. Put the kefir grains into the plastic seive and rinse with fresh milk.
2. Empty the grains from the seive into a jar and pour more milk on top of the grains - 250ml for every 5g of kefir grains. If need be, hold the seive upside down over the jar and pour milk through the upturned seive to loosen any grains still there.
3. Stir it gently, then set the lid on top loosely so the gas created during fermentation can escape - if it's a metal lid, it's fine, because it shouldn't come into contact with the grains even if you're not all that careful.
4. Set it out of the way at room temperature and out of direct sunlight for 24-48 hours. The bacteria in the grains stops the milk from spoiling, and you'll know when it's done because there will be a clearer liquid at the bottom of the jar - this is the whey, which has separated from the curds on top.
5. When it's done, stir it so it's all nicely combined, set the plastic seive over a second, empty jar (I used a 1 litre jar with the intention of building up a supply) and strain the kefir through it, catching the grains and letting the milk pass through. The milk is then fully fermented and drinkable right away, or you can screw on the lid and store it in the fridge, where it will keep for 2-3 weeks.

   After your first batch, you have two options: make more kefir to add it to the jar in the fridge to top up your supply, or take a break.
   To make more kefir, go back to step one, putting the grains back into the first jar and adding another 250ml of milk, stir, set the top on loose and set it out of the way for 24-48 hours. Strain this directly into the refridgerated kefir milk you already have and give it a stir to combine it all.
   If you choose to take a break from making kefir, go through those steps but with only 120ml of milk, set the fermenting jar in the fridge, which will slow the fermentation drastically, and will just keep the kefir alive. Make sure to change their milk every 5 days. This means you can go on holiday without losing your grains - just give your jar to someone to look after. Instead of watering your plants or feeding your cat, they'll be feeding your kefir.


What does milk kefir taste like?
   It's both sweet and sour at the same time, but not in an unpleasant or pungent way, and also slightly fizzy! I was a bit hesitant when I first tried it - at the very least, if it hadn't worked, I would have been drinking milk that had been sat out on the counter for 24 hours. So my first sip was tentative. But I was pleasantly surprised, if also a little startled, because I never knew that 'fizzy' could describe texture and taste.
   Try it plain - and remember, it will grow on you. I drink matcha every day and I hated it when I first had it. I absolutely adore it now and love matcha-flavoured foods. However, if you just can't stomach the taste, you can certainly add a little fruit juice to ease the palate, or...

What can you do with kefir?
   ...Use it as an alternative to milk in shakes and smoothies (the fizziness will be lost), or pour it over cereal and fruit! Really, it can be used in any way you would use milk or yoghurt - you can even make a salad dressing by adding some herbs and spices to it, or make frozen yogurt or yogurt popsicles with fruit and granola.
   You can also cook with kefir, using it in place of milk in cooking and baking, but probiotics are bacteria, and the probiotics will be killed when heated, just like any other bacteria.



Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Gustatory Demons + Exercise Addiction

 
This post is a long one, I'll tell you that now, and I'm not going to apologise for it. It's something I need to write, and I also feel I need to share. Because it's the dark side of trying to live a healthy life that anyone can succumb to if they let themselves start to obsess.


   I post a lot about exercise, but I don't talk much about food - or, more to the point, eating. Sure, I'll share product reviews of healthy snacks, I'll post recipes, and if you look in my crafting archive you'll find lots of not-so-healthy sweet treats. But, if I'm honest, I make them and I never eat them. I haven't for a very long time. Why? Because I'm terrified of carbs. And not just refined carbs. All carbs. I've demonised them, and it's ruining me.

   I've not seen a change in my body in over a year, regardless of what I put it through - PIIT28, Kettlercise, Jillian Michaels; the clean eating, the calorie counting. I read that we shouldn't consume less than 1250 calories a day, so for a long time I've used that as a bar. 100 calories more than that was fine. 200 was an indulgence.

   I'm sure all of this sounds really stupid, overly dramatic and so on, but it is something that consumes my every waking moment. I feel hungry sooner than I will allow myself to eat, like I had lunch 1 hour ago, regardless of how big or small it was, and because of the clock, I won't let myself eat for another hour, hour and a half. Because the clock says so. Never mind what my body's saying, because I don't want to eat too much, too often, or anything that might set me back. Because I put too much work and dedication into my exercise to let myself undo that work. Which is, to a degree, the problem. I put too much work and dedication into movement rather than sustaining myself. I want to lose lose lose, and keep it all off. Well, I am losing, but not in the way I want to.
   I'm writing this post as a confession, an admission to the world, and to myself, because I need to break this habit. I need to eat more.

   I work out very often. It's my preferred method of weight loss because lean muscle looks good, and because lean muscle increases metabolism, it means what fat you lose, you can keep off. But you need fuel for these workouts, and body fat alone won't do it. HIIT workouts combine intervals, resistance training and cardio, making them one of the most effective fat burning workouts you can do. So it's natural that you would think pairing a HIIT workout with a low-calorie, low-carb diet would be the most effective means of losing weight. And perhaps, for a few weeks, it would be. But when you're pounding through 4 30 minute HIIT workouts a week, with added cardio, nevermind what, and try to maintain such a diet for months on end, you're going to burn out. In fact, you'll just stop seeing results. Why? Because your body has adjusted to the low levels of fuel you're giving it and has found a backwards way of balancing the scarce fuel with the demanding activities. It thinks something bad has happened. That famine has hit - why would you eat so little otherwise? And that you have to fight to survive - why else would you be working so hard while eating so little? All this leads to the body reconfiguring how it uses what fuel you give it and what fuel it already has (body fat), so that it can use as little as possible to complete the workout. This means it also clings onto body fat for future fuel, in case the 'starvation' gets worse. Because your body is trying to keep you alive.

   So I've said all that. Surely, I understand it. Does that mean I live by it?
   No.
   I continue to eat little, especially carbohydrates, which are your body's preferred source of fuel because of how quickly they can be broken down and used. Even slow-release carbs, which are generally low-GI (glycemic index) due to high fibre content slowing absorption down, are put to immediate use when they're absorbed, they don't need to be chemically converted in the body first.
   I get more than enough protein, more than enough fibre, adequate amounts of healthy fats. But I always choose low-carb fruits and vegetables, and I never eat any kind of bread or pasta. I don't dare. Refined carbs or not, I just won't. That's my day to day. And when I do have a treat, all it takes is one chocolate, one single chocolate, to send me into a shame spiral. So I do extra exercise the next day, or, worse still, I will do Tabata immediately, and not eat again for hours. Because of one chocolate.

   I've also been suffering exercise addiction, too terrified to skip a day in case whatever I worked off that week comes back, or whatever I ate the day before, clean or not, will be stored as excessive fat. If I don't see results, all I can think is that I must work harder - exercise more. Fortunately, at least through this mindset I never felt I was eating too much so 'eat less' wasn't something I succumbed to. But I also wouldn't dare eat more, so I would continue to starve myself of fuel to power through those tougher workouts. The idea of exercising fills me with dread, I've come to loathe it. I still do it because I feel trapped, knowing if I don't do it I'm going to be dogged by that fact all day and feel worse. I'm fine when I'm actually doing it, if a little drained of energy - I've maintained the 'go hard or go home' attitude so I always give every workout my all. Or more than I actually have, and then pay for it all day.

   In contrast, I eat much more freely while I'm on holiday - away, or at home - and more or less lose control. May's break this past year was the one time that didn't happen, purely because I barely allowed myself any holiday freedoms. On a normal holiday, when I do, it leads to excessive over-exercising (if it's a staycation, and excessive over-excercising once I get home if I'm away) and the most intense guilt, even if what I ate wasn't actually unhealthy at all, it was just different from my normal menu and simply tasted good. Most of it I usually make from scratch with fresh ingredients and sub things where I can, like whole meal flour instead of refined white. And usually the only 'unhealthy' ingredient is a serving of rice or noodles, which, even then, I buy the healthiest version of. But those are carbs, so I always hold a single serving of noodles, even if it's small, to the equivalent of a giant piece of triple chocolate cake. Which I know is wrong, but I still do it.

   To make all of this over-exercising and guilt worse, there is the troublesome fact that my magnesium levels fluctuate like crazy. I need to take supplements, regardless of what magnesium-rich foods I eat. It takes magnesium to rest and recover muscles, and at 'that time of the month', magnesium levels plummet for most women. This drop in magnesium is linked to migraines, which is why more women suffer them than men, and usually in the second half of their cycle. So if I over-exercise at the wrong time - the time you're more likely to crave sweets - I am guaranteed a migraine. Which make me more miserable. The only 'upside' is that, whenever I get a migraine, I always treat myself to something yummy and it's the one time I never feel guilty about it.

https://www.redbubble.com/people/daeaye/works/24651102-fitness-earned-not-given?asc=u
   So, disregarding the migraines and magnesium, guess how I end up feeling in my day to day life? This is the general situation: come 7pm I can't find the energy to move. My legs feel like lead. I have trouble sleeping, I'm grumpy all day, miserable at night, and my concentration slacks. I used to write my book on evenings and nights, when my concentration was at its best (I'd had dinner, I had few distractions, and I was chilled out). Now I have to do it in the morning or afternoon before fatigue can catch up with me. I'm aching because my body isn't recovering properly from workouts I used to find easy and painless, but I still won't let myself miss one. Even when I sprained my ankle in April from a workout, I didn't sit anything out. I took about 10 days off of the specific workout I had lined up for that month, but otherwise continued to exercise - anything that didn't require too much weight or movement on that foot. But I should have sat out. It took a long time to get over it, and I did end up aggravating it and setting myself back, three times, which I was too ashamed to admit here.
   I made a new year's resolution this year to learn when I need to back off. I broke it in April. And I have broken it many more times since then.

   I hate the idea of working out, I hate food, and I hate myself. All because I'm not giving myself the fuel I need to function.

   I counted calories meticulously, cutting corners where I could to make sure I hung around the 1350 mark. I was so proud of myself when I did, and I felt so guilty when I hit 1400, or, God forbid, 1500, regardless of what it was that pushed me over. This was when I started feeling weak, but I put it down to the workout at the time and just kept going. I put more value on calories than nutrition.
   I eventually managed to increase my minimum, and it was such a challenge at the time, to 1350. That made 1400 not so bad any more. But, in truth, nothing changed. Because all I did was say "I'll allow 1400", I didn't change what or how I ate; I made a verbal declaration and made no motion to enforce it. Instead I saw it as a victory when I remained under it.
   It was a little after this that carbs in particular started to dominate my concerns, and suddenly I wasn't just choosing low calorie options, but low calorie and low carb. This more or less eradicated fruit from my diet.
   I have tried to bring fruit back in, and mix it with protein-based meals - like my unicorn pancake breakfast pizza. But that was for breakfast, and that's more or less the only time I see carbs, and because the fruit was added on top of the usual oat flour, I felt so guilty after eating it, especially because it tasted so good. I've not made it again since.
   My lunch consists of eggs and salmon in one format or another, with some carrots, one of the lowest carb vegetables out there, and it rarely deviates. If I fancy a change I'll opt for seafood - prawns or mussels, accompanied with seaweed and perhaps some eggs. Otherwise, more than 10g of carbs for lunch and I start getting paranoid.
   My dinner is more or less the same: protein, be it meat, fish, eggs or beans, with low-calorie veg. But I've developed another neurosis in regards to that, too: it's the biggest meal of my day - which means around 400 calories - and sometimes I feel guilty for having eaten my dinner. Not because it was bad - it's usually stupidly 'healthy' - but simply because I'm full. And that doesn't mean 'ready to pop', it means comfortable and satisfied. This is, admittedly, a rarety, but not so much so that I don't remember the last time it happened (three days ago following a 350 calorie meal of haddock and veg).

http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/2015/06/moringa-salmon-omelette-organic-pure.html http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/2017/06/wakame-shrimp-summer-seaweed-salad.html

   I'm sure all this seems out of the blue, and in truth I owe this confession to Steph182x. I found her through a fitness Instagrammer compilation post on Buzzfeed recently, and when I read some of her recent posts, I broke down into tears. It's true that her case is extreme, and she's in a position eight thousand times worse than me, and yet everything she said about her relationship towards food and exercise, I was feeling, I just hadn't realised it. But she was making efforts to move past it, while I was wallowing, too afraid of gaining any weight or losing control of myself if I loosened the reins a little to actually start eating more, even though I knew that would fix it - fix everything.
    But I can't be afraid - I can't be defeated. Not by myself. I will not be my own worst enemy anymore.
   So I'm forcing myself to take a long-overdue stand. I'm going to stop looking at labels. I know enough about food now to know what's healthy and what's not, what's high in good fats and in fibre and what's not. I don't need to know how many grams of carbs are in there, and that goes doubly for the fact that that is the macro that I'm lacking.
   When I make afternoon snacking decisions, I fret for 10 minutes or so between my choices - not taste, texture, or what I fancy. It's based purely on the amount of carbs. And it's generally between 12g and 24g. Sometimes less, even, than that. And it's always from natural sources, or reliable brands like Graze. But I will always choose the lowest number, even though I have few to none at lunch or dinner.
   This obsession needs to stop. I want food out of my head. There's nothing wrong with being aware of what you're eating, in fact that mindfulness is a good thing. But it can go too far, and I'm living that. It's too easy for things to get out of control, to go too far one way because you're afraid of it heading the other. But being as far from one side as you can isn't 'balance'. And that's what we all want, isn't it?

   While I know the simple solution is 'eat more carbs', breaking the barriers I've put in my own way makes it infinitely more difficult, because I will always be there to judge myself. But it's also the only solution. I have already begun to address exercise, by taking an extra day off here and there when I need it, but food is my weakness, and something so constant in life can't be the source of ruin. I need to draw up a plan that won't be too much too soon, and learn to ignore the voice in my head in favour of the voice of my body.
   I hope I'll blog about this again, to keep it in focus and correct myself more mindfully. Writing about it has already helped me to understand the matter a little more, to pick it apart.

Follow my progress battle with the post label: Gustatory Demons



Sunday, 20 August 2017

30 Day Shred - Level 2

   What confidence I had in level 1 was certainly set back in line during level 2. I first used the 30 Day Shred 3 years ago - it was my first 'real' workout - and since then I have bought, used and worn down almost every Jillian Michaels DVD there is. So, I figured that going back to my roots, to where my efforts for fat loss turned into a passion for movement and fitness, would be a piece of cake - forgive the inappropriate pun - if 2014 Kim could do it, 2017 Kim could blow it out of the water.
   And while I used level 1, which I gave only a week's use with the intention of putting a little more time into level 2 and 3, that was certainly the case. Jumping jacks, crunches, chest flyes - no problem for experience, right? And, actually, a pretty damn good place to start for those new to it. In short, it was clear how I was able to stick to it that first time around. Had I started with any other Jillian Michaels workout, I'd have certainly been frightened off.
   That's not to say that I didn't give level 1 my all; I chose the heaviest weights I could manage, I made deeper ranges of motion and moved faster, and that did the job. I made sure level 1 was still a challenge - I even gave the jumping jacks Tabata speed (personally, that's 28 jumping jacks in 20 seconds; my record is 30).

   Level 2, however...not quite the same story. The moves that made up level 1 were easy for beginners, but also easy to modify for advanced. The moves that made up level 2, however - not so easy. That was in part because the movements were those I'm not used to, that aren't hard enought to make it into other DVDs but not easy enough to make it into others, and when workouts are split into levels, the movements are grouped up and many simply just don't quite make the cut, be it for variety or because there's another move that will do the job just that little bit better, or is perhaps a bit more adaptable.
   Anyway, my point is, I struggled, and that continued into the second week despite having been put quite firmly in my place on the first and second day. So I'm sure it wasn't just overconfidence. And that was kind of nice. Yes, I was still pushing through with deeper movements and bigger weights - weights I didn't even own 3 years ago - and not once did I drop down.
   If I'm honest, it was the shoulders that hurt the most. It was brutal. Shoulder presses, V-raises, plank jacks and plank twists - not so bad on their own, but when performed in the same circuit, ouch. It was awful. The only mercy came with the double jump rope between the jacks and twists. But in hindsight, I realised that my shoulders rarely get worked, and they're such small muscles anyway (I had to use my 1.5kgs, while I use 4kg for most else), so it was actually kind of nice. In a very obscure, masochistic sort of way. With every painful raise, I knew I was doing good, improving a part of my body that had lagged behind the rest. My legs are strong because I always favour lower body workouts over upper body (bigger muscle groups = greater calorie burn; equating to greater fat burn while building more shapely legs and bum), and my upper body isn't what it could be. But even then, I realise my shoulders don't get much of a look in even then.

   Anyway, I begin level 3 tomorrow, and after being taken down several pegs in level 2, I'm nervous. But 2014 Kim managed it, so I certainly can now.




Friday, 18 August 2017

Friday Favourites

This week has been pretty good, if I'm honest. I've been writing diligently and loving every moment of it, I'm already very comfortable in the book (though I suppose that's to be expected as it's the second of a duology), and I'm feeling really quite energised by it.
Seeg has also been playing Starbound lately, a new and immense sandbox game, and I've been really enjoying the soundtrack. I've been pulling out a foldable camping chair, lining it in pillows and blankets and just parking myself next to his computer to watch and listen while I work. It's not at all distracting, and I'm actually getting really good work done in the process. Better than when he plays The Last Of Us or something equally as enthralling, for obvious reasons!
So it's only natural that its soundtrack made it into this week's favourites - as well as some fantasy reading button badges from one of my favourite artists, which I need, and a new slouchy hoodie I've been living in since the weather's turned colder! I can't wait for winter ♥


Reading buttons by The Picsees   ♥  Graze's Sweet & Smoky Carrot Crunch
Starbound soundtrack   ♥   Mantaris burnout hoody by ElleSport



Monday, 7 August 2017

I Think I'm Ready For Book Two!

   After 11 weeks rigidly redrafting my last book, the first of two, I called it more or less done on July 10th, which I announced with my very first vlog. Since then I have had my nose glued instead to notebooks and text files putting together the plan for the next. This usually takes a long time, but as this isn't a new story - new world, new characters, new plot - it was much easier because most things were already established. Though the plot does take a sudden 180 at the end of the first book, so there was still a lot to work out and it does feel like a new story, but the technical bits that take the longest were done years ago.

   I admit, I'm daunted, but only because it matters to me. I know I can do it, and do it well enough, and I'm very confident in the direction of the story, the revelations and the ending itself. It's just a big undertaking, and with the first half of the story already done, I worry I might forget something, a small but ultimately significant detail. I'm trying not to get in my head about it because that will just make it harder to begin, and I'm so very excited to start. And as it's only been three and a half months, since April 20th, that I've not really written creatively, it shouldn't take long to find my feet again.


   I am just so excited, and frightened. But I want to get on with it! Especially since the first book has been put away for the time being until I'm at a comfortable place in this one. Only once I'm about half way through here can I submit the first to agents (and then, inevitably, self-publish).
   But I've kept myself on short reins. I've forced myself to take the past two days off (which I almost never, ever do - if I have time to chill, I have time to write), giving myself the chance for my mind to slow down as well as remember details that may have slipped past - while redrafting I made notes of details I encountered as I went to make sure they were addressed, just in case I forgot something (I didn't) - and watched Seeg play Last of Us for the fourth time. Rather conveniently, he finished the game 11pm last night, so I have no distractions this evening and I feel fully refreshed and raring to go.

   Wish me luck! I'm so excited!!



Sunday, 6 August 2017

30 Day Shred - Level 1

   Having used the 30 Day Shred once before in 2014, when I decided to revisit it this month I intended to give level 1 only one week of use, and level 2 and 3 two weeks each. This is generally what I do whenever I revisit a level-based workout because that first level rarely offers a challenge the second time around, aside from heavier weights and deeper squats. Even so, I never let my ego get too inflated which is why I still indulge that first level - but I didn't expect such ease from level 1
   The 30 Day Shred was the first proper workout I'd ever done. As I am now, I thought it would probably be a touch easier than most other Jillian Michaels workouts I've done since, though I will admit that part of the reason I picked it up t begin with, and stuck with it, was that someone I didn't like tried it and gave up quickly and I wanted to out-do her. But it was still a Jillian Michaels workout, so I also thought when I picked it back up this month that it wasn't going to be easy. I was quite looking forward to revisiting my roots.
   Well, I just gave level 1 its one week run, and on day one I couldn't believe how easy it was!
   Though, I suppose 'easy' is the wrong word. 'Tame' would be more appropriate. Because there were only two moves I found difficult: the first was squats with shoulder press, which was my own fault for underestimating and choosing heavier weights (though I didn't exchange them at all throughout level 1), and side lunges with anterior raises because anterior raises, like tuck jumps, are my weakness. Which is why I do them. Otherwise, push ups, chest flyes, jumping jacks, punches, basic crunches - it was easy. Three circuits of 2 strength moves, 2 cardio moves and 2 ab moves, it's no wonder I was able to stick with it. It was scary at the time, because before that all I'd really done was dance cardio, but in terms of building lean muscle and using compound moves with weights, it was the very best place I could have started.

   Don't misunderstand me. I find it tame because I've done a lot crazier and more intense stuff in the three years since I first used the 30 Day Shred, so I've grown a lot, but it's no wonder it didn't scare me off. The 30 Day Shred is a pretty good fitness DVD for beginners who are looking to tone up and get fit beyond just shedding a few pounds - a starting point for people looking to challenge themselves. That wasn't my intention at the time, of course, I just wanted to lose weight, but it grew into so much more because it forced me to push myself, but not too far beyond what I was actually capable of at the time - it just revealed to me what that was.

   I start level 2 tomorrow, and while I anticipate another tame workout, that's only because of the number of moves. The low number per circuit and low number of circuits prevents it from being intimidating while guaranteeing burn. Aside from that, though, I do expect it to get a bit more difficult because I don't remember what's involved, and also because level 1 was a little too easy...

   I'll update again in two weeks, when I've finished with level 2.



Friday, 4 August 2017

Friday Favourites

This hasn't been the best week, if I'm honest. Since Tuesday I've been feeling so very run down, very ill and as though I'm being dogged by a migraine. I've been on edge, and while I love Vikings and Last of Us, which Seeg has just begun replaying, I'm finding that daily doses of the two alongside my mood and pains are putting me even more on edge.
Fortunately, though it doesn't feel like it, there have been a few easy pieces for this week's Friday Favourites - like the 'I ♥ David Attenborough' brooch and handmade energy balls my best friend popped around to give me, taking a moment away from her studies to see me which, in itself, was enough to put a smile on my face.
Then there's the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and I can't believe how good it was, nor that the sequel was just as good.
Also, corset belts are in.
So I've had a few easy things to make me smile ♥

I love David Attenborough brooch   ♥   Delemi handmade energy balls
Corset Top by New Look   ♥   Best Exotic Marigold Hotel