4 lbs lost last week… but I couldn’t stomach a high fat/low carb diet!

I lost 4 lbs last week, starting off on April 1st, following a high-fat, low-carb diet. I published a blog announcing my intentions, and included pics of how I look now, how I used to look, and the scales registering at 10 st 4 lb (144 lbs).


However, I couldn’t hack it… which came as no surprise to me! I am a long-term calorie counter and had decided that I wouldn’t change that – but that I would also count carbs, fat, and protein. By the third day, I was struggling and yearned for more carbs. I was tired, my gums were sensitive (from eating more meat, I think), and I felt a bit flat. I understand that perseverance is required with a high-fat way of eating, but I wasn’t committed enough to put up with the discomfort!

So, back it was to straightforward calorie counting and selected carbs… and, as I say, I lost 4 lbs. I also attended 4 kickboxing classes and did some brisk walking (I have to say though, that by the end of the final class – last Friday evening – I was ready to drop!). I also repetitively used 2 x 1 kg weights whilst sitting on the couch watching TV, in an attempt to strengthen my arms and develop ‘muscle memory’ (as my instructor, who also happens to be my eldest daughter, calls it!). Punching outwards as fast as I can is more tiring than it sounds!

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I decided to lose weight steadily rather than trying to do it in a big rush, aiming at 8 st 12 lb (132 lbs) by mid-June for my 4th kickboxing grading, so have been having 1600 calories a day. I will probably have to reduce this periodically, in order to consistently keep losing. It takes effort but I am determined to give it my best shot!

So, what does an average day’s diet consist of?

Breakfast: cottage cheese or natural yoghurt.

Lunch: A large salad and a baked chicken breast, with low-fat mayo

Or low-fat cream cheese (with salmon or sweet chill) with low-calorie crackers.

Dinner: Fish or chicken or a pork chop, with veg.

Supper: Lemon or chocolate mousse, sometimes with a handful of grapes and berries.

I drink tea with a splash of skimmed milk (no change there, this is just how I take my tea), and green tea. I drink water whilst training, and always have some by the bed for during the night.

AND, I drank a bottle of red wine over the weekend (calorie-counted!).

I am not a nutritionist, and I don’t want to get into anything too complex or demanding; I just want to lose the spare tractor tyre that has taken up residence around my middle, have plenty of energy, and feel reasonably full. I am also not seeing this as a diet but as a permanently revised way of eating. It worked for me in the past, keeping the excess weight off for years until I allowed things to get out of hand. Sadly, I have found that the older you get the weirder fat behaves, choosing to hang around in the least desirable areas… and that metabolism stubbornly drags its heels. So be it. I just have to work harder than I used to… damn it! And yes, I know that most of my 4 lbs lost is probably water (I have been up in the night weeing more than usual), but who cares? It’s better off being flushed away than slopping around my belly and bum!



Don’t Tell Your Father: a short story about a frightened boy, a special little girl… and karma.

DON’T TELL YOUR FATHER – a short story by Leanne Halyburton.

3826 words. Please note: contains strong language.


Ten-year-old Jamie, and his deep, inscrutable little sister Alice, have finally found a sense of peace and security under the roof of their beloved Aunt Lil. However, their father, a man driven by his own inner demons, seems determined to nip any happiness that comes his family’s way sharply in the bud… and when his sister Lil steps in to prevent him from dishing out yet another beating to his weary, resigned son, Frank immediately declares that they are hitting the road again. Devastated, and wishing that she’d kept her mouth shut, Lil comes up with a way of keeping in touch with her brother’s family… whilst praying that he doesn’t find out. Jamie, sworn to secrecy, knows the price he will pay if he discovers just what Lil has put into the paper bag of ‘snacks’ she insists on giving the boy for their journey. But Alice has Jamie’s back – and she proves to be more than a match for the man who’s rage and bitterness has led him to terrorise his own family.

Don’t Tell Your Father.

“Get in the car – NOW!”

    Jamie’s ten-year-old heart sank. Not again. “Dad, please… can’t we just…”

    “Shut your mouth and do as I tell you. Where’s your sister… Alice, Alice, where the hell are you?”

    “Mum…” Jamie implored, but Gill Martin shot her son a look that was half pleading and half warning. “Just get in the car Jamie,” she muttered.

    He clambered listlessly into the back of the old Ford estate, trying to hold back bitterly disappointed tears. Alice silently scrambled in beside him, her face deadpan.

    “Wait!” Aunt Lil came running towards the car. “I can’t stop you leaving, Frank, but at least let me give the kids a few snacks for the journey.” She dropped a brown paper bag onto Jamie’s lap, flicked her eyes towards it then back to his, and surreptitiously raised her finger to her lips. Jamie blinked, but couldn’t speak. He loved Aunt Lil… if he tried to talk, especially to say goodbye, he knew the tears would spill down his cheeks and Frank did not allow crying. It was for babies and weak people, he said.


    Frank Martin ranted and raged non-stop for around an hour, aggressively tearing up the road, gesturing at other drivers, pulling up bumper to bumper at traffic lights, forcefully slamming on the brakes and causing the heads of his wife and children to whip painfully backwards and forwards.

    “That stupid bitch of a sister of mine never learns to keep her mouth shut!” Spittle flew from his twisted mouth, hitting the windscreen and sliding down. “Well, you can all blame her for this one… she’s the reason we’re back on the road again. She just can’t leave things alone. Telling me how I should treat my own family, telling me I need to calm down! She’s always been the same… no wonder she’s single… no man could stand a day with that stupid, mouthy bitch!”

    Jamie bowed his head, hating his father with every ounce of his being. No-one dared speak… they’d all been through this before, a hundred times, and they knew the consequences of answering back or offering an opinion. Aunt Lil was the only one who wasn’t afraid to stand up to Frank, her eldest brother… but Jamie wished that she hadn’t intervened when he’d been about to dish out a good hiding to his son. Jamie could tolerate a beating, and they’d still be there, relatively safe, and with hope. Aunt Lil loved him and his sister, and life with her was… well, normal. She smiled and laughed, she hugged them, listened to what they had to say, took an interest in what they were doing. The last three weeks had been the best of his life… but when he got out of his snug, warm bed that morning, to the smell of toast and coffee, to the sound of the radio and Aunt Lil singing, he had no clue that it was all over. He should have known better than to believe that things were, at last, different – that he could believe in happiness. He should have known that his father would destroy every last bit of it.


    Lil sat at the kitchen table, sobbing into a wadge of toilet paper. “You should have kept your mouth shut,” she berated herself. “But I couldn’t stand by and watch him lay into that poor child!” She shook her head as if to dislodge the memory. If only Gill would leave him, take the kids and start again. She would help her, would do whatever she could, even against her own brother. Frank hadn’t always been so bitter, so violent. He’d always been a bit hot-headed, but he had been a good son to their mother, taking care of her in a way his father, Harry, never did. Harry was a drinker and a gambler, and periodically would react against his wife’s pleading and nagging with his fists. He died of stomach cancer years ago, quickly followed by his wife. Frank never spoke about any of it, but increasingly, as the years passed, his behaviour became more and more reactive, more antagonistic. And holding down a job was impossible for a man who expressed major resentment towards anyone who held any kind of authority over him.

    She hoped that when Jamie looked in the paper bag he wouldn’t give the game away. Apart from a couple of snacks, she had included a little mobile phone, her own number, and some cash. A hastily scrawled note told him to call her when he was safely able to and to keep the phone and the money secret, even from his mother. She told him she loved him and Alice and urged him to keep her updated. “Please God, don’t let Frank find out about the phone,” she prayed.


    The cheap motel was like any other they had used. The mattresses were thin and hard, the carpets stained, and the TV tiny, with poor reception.

    “You lot stay here,” Frank instructed. He was calmer now, but the slightest thing could set him off, and so no-one responded, and everyone did as they were told. “I’ll have to go and talk to someone at the council, tell them we’re homeless… AGAIN.” He spat the last word out as if homelessness was something that had been unfairly inflicted upon him and his family; as always, the victim of an unjust life.

    There was silence for a minute or two after he left, broken by Gill’s falsely cheerful “Well, it isn’t so bad here… at least we have a shower!”

    Alice stared at her mother as if she was a peculiar stranger.

    “It’s horrible,” she stated. “It smells like sweaty socks.”

    Six years old, deeply watchful, painfully direct… when she did actually speak… Alice was somehow ‘different’. Tumbling dark hair, deep indigo eyes that seemed to burn into whatever and whoever caught her attention, and a face that gave very little indication of what was going on in her mind. Alice did not ‘need’ Gill. She wasn’t the kind of child who desired attention and approval, she rarely asked for anything, and was happy to entertain herself, most of the time. There was, however, an unspoken closeness between Alice and Jamie… he knew he could trust her, rely upon her, somehow. Whenever he’d received a beating or a punishment, Alice would come and sit quietly next to him, sometimes placing a hand on his back, or his sob-shaken shoulders. She never spoke, but she was there. Jamie didn’t know what he’d do without Alice. He couldn’t put into words how he felt, but with her around he knew he was not alone.


    Jamie waited until Frank’s car merged with the traffic along the main road at the front of the motel, before casually informing his mother he was going to sit outside for a while.

    “Well… be careful, and don’t wander off,” she warned.  “You’ll need to be here when your father gets back.”

    “I know, I know, I know…” Jamie muttered, closing the door behind him.

    Their room was on the second floor, and Jamie turned right, heading along the balcony towards the wooden steps that led to the ground floor. In front of the reception office was a paved area with a few pot plants that hadn’t been watered for weeks, and a bench. Flaking green paint revealed faded timber, but it was clean and dry, and Jamie sat down, guiltily checking in all directions, before rooting in the bag for the phone and Aunt Lil’s note. He keyed her number in, heart thumping, and waited… within a split second, Lil picked up.

    “Jamie! Thank God! Are you alright? Where are you?”

    “Hi Aunt Lil,” he was so relieved to hear her voice he had to fight back sudden tears. “Erm… I’m not sure. We’re in a motel called Greenleys, opposite a pub called… erm… The Mitre.”

    “Where’s your father? And how is Alice?” Lil was worried… she desperately hoped her actions would not lead to further trouble for the children.

     “He’s gone to speak to the council, to tell them we’re homeless. Alice is in the room, with mum. She seems to be okay. I’m outside, on my own.”

    Homeless! Lil shook her head, angry and frustrated. They weren’t homeless until Frank made them so… again. They had a home with her until they could get back on their feet – she had told him that, over and over. But Frank had some kind of self-destruct mechanism in his head that would lead him to push and push until he had another reason to blame the world, another reason to fight, to become a victim. The problem was, he was taking three other people down with him.

    “Jamie, do you know how to text? I have added plenty of calling credit to the phone, but it will be safer for you to text me, rather than calling. Unless something happens, of course. I will always respond, I promise. But it is important for you to be safe. We’ll figure something out, I promise. Oh… and make sure the phone is set to silent!”


    Frank returned several hours later with fish and chips and a half bottle of whiskey. He didn’t say much, barely ate, and settled himself down on the double bed, swigging from the bottle. By 9pm he was snoring loudly. Gill gingerly squeezed under the quilt, next to him, and indicated to the children to keep the noise down. As if they needed to be told. The TV was barely audible, and Jamie lay on his back, staring at a moth high on the wall above his bed. It hadn’t moved an inch since they arrived… maybe it too knew better than to aggravate Frank.

    Alice, propped up in her hard, narrow single bed, was reading a book, using her finger to underline each word, her lips silently mouthing the story. Every now and then she’d stare intently at the colourful illustrations, as if willing herself to disappear into them, before turning the page. When she reached the end she’d start again… over and over, until she fell asleep, dark hair spread across the pillow, her face relaxed and peaceful, lips parted to reveal a gap where a new, adult tooth was barely poking through the gum. The book lay open, face down on her chest. Jamie gently lifted it and placed it on the chipped, melamine bedside cabinet. He envied her… wished he could respond to life the way she did.

    He had been hiding the brown paper bag containing the phone, battery charger, cash, and Aunt Lil’s note, under his blankets. He wriggled down, covering himself completely, and retrieved the phone, moving as slowly as possible. He typed in a goodnight message, receiving a response less than a minute later. Reading the message, he felt so much better… less sad and less afraid. He switched the phone off, slid it back into the bag, and lay awake, thinking and thinking, before drifting into an uncomfortable sleep. The moth still hadn’t moved, not even a leg or a wing… but it had a ringside seat to an unfolding human drama.


    Frank awoke, stiff in his body, chaotic in his mind, at 7am, and disturbed his family by banging around and turning the TV volume way up. Jamie’s heart sank when he opened his eyes and remembered where he was. Panicking, he rooted for the brown paper bag, sighing with relief when he found it under his left leg.

    Alice slid out of bed and clambered over Jamie, heading for the tiny bathroom.

    “Don’t wee on the seat,” Frank shouted, sniggering, but Alice just rolled her eyes. She didn’t appear to be afraid of Frank, and Jamie wished he felt the same way. Having said that, their father rarely felt the need to punish Alice; maybe it was a male thing, a father-son thing. Or maybe Frank just hates me, Jamie concluded.

    “So… what’s the plan for today?” Gill ventured.

    “The plan? The plan? I’ll tell you what the plan is, my darling wife. I am going back to the wonderful, helpful council yet again, forced to beg on bended knee. I have an appointment at nine o’clock… and they had better come up with something or I will tear the place to pieces with my bare hands.”

    Gill didn’t doubt it. She sighed quietly and rubbed her aching head.

    “Are you okay mum?” Jamie could see that Gill didn’t look right. She was pale and seemed a little unsteady as she went to fill the electric kettle from the bathroom tap.

    “I’m fine son,” she reassured. “Just a headache. It started yesterday, thought it would have cleared up by now.”

    “You want to have my head,” Frank sneered. “Try banging your head on the same old brick wall, year in year out, always having to deal with the same kind of idiots, and then tell me about your headache!”

    Gill ignored him, but Jamie noticed the look that flitted across her face, and his heart went out to her. Okay, she didn’t stand up to Frank, she let him get away with everything… but what else could she do anyway? He’d only start on her, and then on them, because he’d be wound up and still looking for an outlet. They were stuck… trapped. A dark cloud descended upon the boy. He could hear his sister in the bathroom, running water, and singing, as if she didn’t have a care in the world. What was her secret, Jamie wondered for the millionth time? He wished he knew.


    The atmosphere changed, the moment Frank closed the door behind him. Gill breathed deeply and sank onto the bed.

    “I’m sorry children,” she slurred. “I should take you out somewhere… but I feel dreadful. I just can’t shake this headache. I’m just going to rest for half an hour, and then we’ll do something…”

    “It’s okay mum,” Jamie responded, stroking the top of her head. “We’ll be fine… won’t we, Alice?”

    Alice shrugged, as if she didn’t care either way, and Gill gazed up at her son, gratefully.

    “Thank you, both of you. And Jamie… I’m sorry… ” Her words trailed off, as she lay down, closing her eyes, drawing her knees up to her chest. For a second, Jamie was tempted to tell her about the phone and the lifeline to Aunt Lil… but he quickly decided against it. She’d be nervous about it, and end up giving the game away. No, he’d say nothing… for now at least.


    By 12 o’clock Gill could stand the pain no longer. She had used up the few painkillers she’d found in the bottom of her bag, and she hadn’t wanted to ask Frank to buy more for her. He’d make a huge deal about it, and she just couldn’t face it.

    “Children, I’m going to have to go out and find a doctor’s surgery, or a chemist. This is getting worse, not better.”

    She listlessly pulled her clothes on, then grimaced as she pulled a brush through her hair.

    “I think I have enough change in my purse. Please don’t wander off, and don’t open the door to anyone. I won’t be long… I promise… ”

    Uncharacteristically, Alice put her book down, jumped off the bed and wrapped her arms around Gill’s hips. Gazing up at her mother, she said “It will all be alright Mum. You won’t have to worry.”

    Gill couldn’t hide her surprise, and despite the pain, a delighted smile spread across her weary face.

    “Thank you, Alice… I… I appreciate that!”

    Alice nodded, as if it was a done deal, and went back to her book. For a second, Gill caught Jamie’s gaze, and an understanding passed between them. Somehow, the words of a six-year-old lifted their spirits, though neither of them understood why that should be.


“I know about the phone,” Alice announced, as she made her toy rabbit hop up and down on her lap.

“What? What phone… I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Jamie stammered. How could she know? He’d been really careful.

    Alice shot him a pitying look, before turning back to her toy. “I know. I know lots of things… ”

    Jamie felt guilty. He shouldn’t have kept it from her. He knew he could trust her… but he also had to protect her.

    “Well, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I wasn’t trying to keep a secret from you. I just… ”

    “I know,” she cut in, calmly. “It’s okay. You were afraid he would find out.”

    “Yes. How did you find out… did you hear me using it?”

    “No, you were very good at hiding it. I told you, I just knew.”

    Whilst they were alone, Jamie called Lil, speaking only for a minute or two. He explained about Gill’s headache, and how she’d gone searching for painkillers. Alice took her turn saying hello, but then Lil advised them to ring off in case Frank returned. She was relieved to hear from the children, but also concerned about Gill’s health. The poor woman… she must be at the end of her tether. There was no point in phoning the police, Lil reasoned. There would be little they could do. And the social services would only scare Frank off, dragging the family with him. No, she’d wait until they were settled again and then decide what to do.


    Jamie plugged the phone into the charger, hiding it behind the bedside cabinet. He left it for fifteen minutes and was just unplugging it when Frank roughly pushed the motel door open – they hadn’t heard his footsteps along the balcony… he must have been creeping up on them.

    “WHAT’S THAT?” he yelled, striding towards Jamie.

“Nothing!” Jamie fumbled with the phone, trying to push it under his pillow, but Frank grabbed at the bedding, dragging it onto the floor.

    “Give it to me… now!”

    Something in the boy’s head snapped… no, Frank was not getting hold of this phone… he would die before he’d hand it over. He snatched it up, leaped over the bed, and ran for the door, desperately clawing at the handle. Frank tried to grab him, but he wasn’t quick enough, and Jamie yanked the door open, furiously throwing himself in the direction of the stairs. There were several bags of rubbish on the landing, which caused Jamie to hesitate for a second, before launching himself over the top of them… and Frank, seizing the moment, clambered onto the banister, intending to jump onto the staircase, landing in front of his son.

    It all happened so quickly, but in slow motion… Jamie leaping into the air, clearing the black rubbish sacks, skidding down the worn, wooden steps… Frank dragging his bulk onto the banister, leaning forwards towards the staircase… losing his balance… grabbing at the railing, tumbling over the edge, shouting something Jamie couldn’t make out… and hitting the ground with a dull thud. And Alice… standing on the balcony, arms outstretched, palms forward… smiling.


    The policewoman was intrigued by the beautiful, inscrutable little girl, sitting alongside her brother, holding tightly onto his hand. Maybe she was too young to understand what had just happened… her impassive expression and manner certainly gave credence to that theory. The boy himself was shocked, face the colour of chalk, eyes wide and unblinking. He was clutching a small mobile phone in his free hand as if he would never let it go.


    Gill Martin returned to the motel, holding a polythene bag containing a packet of extra strong painkillers, to see three police cars and an ambulance, parked at different angles, blue lights blinking and flashing. Looking up at the building, she saw that the door to the room that housed her family was open and a policeman was standing outside.

    “Jamie! Alice!” She screamed, running for the stairs. Immediately, an officer blocked her way.

    “Mrs. Martin?”

“What…? Wh…? Yes… what’s happened… my children!” She wailed, tears pouring down her cheeks. “Please tell me they’re alright… I was only gone for a little while… had to get… ” Her knees buckled, and the officer grabbed her arm, helping to steady her.

    “It’s okay… it’s okay Mrs. Martin… the children are fine. But we need to talk to you. Here, I’ll help you up the stairs.”

    The first thing she saw as she staggered through the door was the children, sitting side by side on one of the single beds, holding hands. She fell upon them, hugging them, struggling to breathe.

    “Oh my God… I thought something had happened to you… thank God… ”

    “Mrs. Martin, we need to talk to you… ” The policewoman gently but firmly led Gill away from the children, pushing her down onto a wooden chair. “There’s been an accident, I am afraid.”


    The years go by so quickly, Lil sighed. Who would have thought it… Jamie, already 24 years old, and getting married – today!

    She sat, alongside her husband of eight years, Joe, a gentle, reflective man, and gazed at the back of her nephew’s head, as he nervously awaited the arrival of his bride-to-be. Claudia… a lovely, funny girl, just right for the sensitive, smart young man Lil loved so much. She squeezed Gill’s hand, and they exchanged smiles. The dark days were long gone, thank goodness. Frank’s death had been deemed to be accidental, his neck broken by the two-storey fall. The coroner talked about Frank’s disturbed state of mind and wished Gill and the children well. They were happy now… but a bruised spirit never completely heals. Lil still wept for her brother, privately… his mind and his behaviour had become incredibly twisted, but still, she had loved him… loved the Frank he used to be. But today was for smiles, for good times, for gratitude… for celebration.


    Jamie turned to see Claudia almost floating down the aisle, smiling, a vision in cream satin, and his heart skipped a beat. Briefly, he caught Alice’s eye, and she pulled her tongue out at him; he quickly flicked his eyes away, before she managed to make him laugh. Alice… he knew she had saved his life that day. He knew, and she knew… but no-one else on the planet would ever know. They never spoke about it, and he would take it to his grave.

    “I know you cared about us – in your own weird way… ” Jamie addressed Frank, in his mind. “And you taught me the most important lesson of my life. That there is a right way and a wrong way to love your family.”

    And, as he took Claudia’s hand, feeling like the luckiest man on the planet, Jamie made a silent vow: that his wife and their future children would never know one second of fear in his company.

The end.



Pounds of belly fat to lose: I am counting calories, carbs, protein and fat!

I am notably fatter than I was, and here is the proof.

This is how I look now:




And this is how I used to look, not too many years back:


And this is me today, 1st April, on my aged bathroom scales… 10st 4 lb. I was 10st for the longest time, no matter what I ate, becoming unhappily complacent… until I recently gained another 4 lb. It really is time to get to grips with this, and right now!



I am 5ft 2” (I used to be 5ft 3”, so have shrunk a little!), am 61, and more than 28 lbs heavier than at my happiest weight.

I do NOT buy into something that I have heard too many times from middle-aged folk: “well, at our age we need a bit more padding”. Why? Have we suddenly started falling over every five minutes? The truth is, NO, we don’t need extra padding! What I do agree with though is that for various biological reasons, our fat settles itself on different parts of our body than it did when we were younger. 75% of my fat has taken up residence around my waist, the rest on my face, upper thighs and bottom. I look as if I am wearing an overstuffed bumbag around my middle. And although I am definitely fitter and stronger than I was, thanks to 3-4 kickboxing classes per week, I am still eating too much of the wrong kind of foods… and indulging in too much alcohol. And again, to those who say, “if you exercise regularly you can eat as much as you like without gaining weight” – NO, you can’t!

So, I have been a long-term calorie counter, and in the past it worked very well for me. I have lost a reasonable amount of weight twice in my life, keeping it off for years, courtesy of calorie counting – but I feel that it is no longer the magic wand it used to be, probably because my body has changed. However, I am struggling to completely let go of it, and having done a fair amount of research, I have decided to pay more attention to the balance between carbs, fat and protein, whilst counting calories. I am not a nutritionist and am not pretending to be any kind of expert – and I don’t want to get into anything too intense or complicated. I have looked into the Keto diet, but I don’t relish going into ketosis (plus, years ago, I tried the Atkins diet more than once and absolutely couldn’t hack it!).

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But I do recognise that I have been eating and drinking far too many carbs than can possibly be good for anyone, and that it isn’t just about the number of calories I consume… it is about the quality of those calories! I know that I HAVE to change… not next week or next month, but NOW!

Unfortunately, I have turned into a wimp, when once I was hardcore. Around 15 years ago I lost 4 stone (56 lb) within a couple of months, by eating only 600 calories a day and going to bed hungry every night. I would absolutely not recommend this to anyone as a good or healthy way to lose weight, because obviously it isn’t (though it didn’t appear to have any detrimental effect). Nowadays I struggle to be hungry for even an hour, which is pathetic given that there are so many genuinely starving people on the planet. I believe that my body has become programmed to react like a growing baby seagull, constantly and persistently demanding to be fed… because it knows for sure that I will comply. Well, now it is up to me to reprogramme my own body for its own good, and also for the sake of my personal pride. I don’t want to look like a 21 year old, but the fact is that I have been heading in a direction that is beginning to frighten me, never mind dishearten me. I have had enough.

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According to a website I looked at this morning, for my height, weight and activity levels, and in order to lose weight steadily, I need to be consuming no more than 1600 calories a day. That may well be almost half of what I have been eating on some days, I am ashamed to admit, but I am giving it a go… whilst being aware of the kinds of foods that are making up those calories. I am aiming for 8 st 12 lb, which will require me to lose 20 lbs, and then I will decide where I go from there!  

Anyway, I have a kickboxing class within the next hour, so I had better sign off. Now that I have made all of this public I am duty bound to put my money where my mouth is (luckily there are no calories in money!), and I will make periodic updates on my progression!     download

They say that money can’t buy happiness… well, I am sorry, but it CAN!

I have, as they say in Liverpool, been on the bones of my arse…  more than once.

In the past, I have been so skint that I owned just one pair of second-hand shoes (which were falling to pieces), and could only afford to feed my young children on fish fingers and baked beans from the cheapest supermarket. I had debtors calling on the phone at all hours, and drove cars that others would have scrapped in an instant (one in particular, which cost me £50, had the driver’s seat wedged in place with a tree stump). And yes, this was in what is considered to be a wealthy country, so you can see how much I had messed up in order to reach that point!

I grew up with a really negative emotional association with money, going from bad to worse as the years went by… being bailed out again and again by incredibly generous souls to whom I will remain eternally grateful. Increasingly, I came to understand that I had to change not just my financial situation, but my damaged and dysfunctional beliefs about my financial situation if I was ever going to get out of the crippling cycle – and stay out.

“Money is usually attracted, not pursued.” —Jim Rohn

And right now, at this point in my life, I can say that I have been completely broke, and I have been better off – and I know, without a single shadow of a doubt, which one I prefer!

And I believe this to be true: if you are a fearful soul with a restrictive mindset without money, you will probably be the same with money; if you are consistently unhappy without money, you will probably continue to be unhappy with it, once the initial euphoria has worn off. So, from that point of view, I suppose it is true that money can’t buy happiness, but it can certainly increase it!

Wealth appears to be the most emotive subject on the planet, and possibly the most misunderstood; and definitely the one that is most likely to elicit a defensive response from millions of people (and I know, because I used to be one of them!).

“You must gain control over your money or the lack of it will forever control you.” —Dave Ramsey

So, what changed? Well, I did. I gradually reprogrammed myself to think differently, though it was no mean feat – the roots of old, destructive beliefs run incredibly deep. I am not loaded, by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a million times better off than I used to be, and I am completely grateful for that. You see, I couldn’t attract more money until I believed that I was worthy of it and that I wasn’t a bad person for wanting enough to cover my living expenses (the odd luxury would come later). And I now find myself irritated by those smug, self-satisfied people who dismiss anyone who aspires to be financially well-off as greedy, and in possession of questionable priorities – they remind me too much of myself, in my poorer days!

I am still aspiring to bigger things and to greater financial freedom, and I have invested a little bit of money in my future plans, something I wouldn’t have dreamed of in the past. I no longer give my skills, time and energy away for peanuts, and I do my best to avoid customers who continue to want something from me after they have had their money’s worth!

“Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant.” —P.T. Barnum

I am, however, also weary of hearing the same old ‘get-rich-quick’ message every time I watch a Youtube video (you know, the ads that automatically pop up, the desperate sales pitches in which we are being loudly and rapidly yelled at to learn how to sit on the beach all day whilst making millions online, before we press the ‘skip’ button!). I am still not where I want to be, and I am weary of wasting time and hope on the vast amount of online bull-poop that is misleading, not to mention downright untruthful. However, it is the same for everyone else out there, trying to make their own unique mark on the world… and I am further down the road than I was even a year ago – and I bet you are, too! We’re definitely getting there (but let’s see if we can do it a bit quicker!).


7 nuggets of wisdom to help you keep your dating s**t together!

Originally published on: https://leannehalyburton.com/category/dating-and-relationships/

Fancying the pants off someone should be fun! Dating, and becoming a little – or a lot – infatuated, should be an exciting part of a process that eventually leads us to join forces with someone we can imagine ourselves waking up next to every day (and, vice versa, of course) – not the beginning of an intense and insecure drama!

So, how can we make the experience of dating work in our favour? How can we ensure that we don’t fall head first into confusing or increasingly complicated situations that have no chance of developing into anything worthwhile? Well, to start with, here are 7 nuggets of dating-world wisdom that can help you to keep your s**t together!

1 – Keep it light

– and don’t allow yourself to become prematurely involved in a love interest’s issues and struggles; when, and if, there is real evidence to suggest that the situation is developing into something more meaningful, you could be more willing to listen, and to share – until then, don’t believe that immediate ‘opening up’ is a good sign! Too much dumping, too soon, is neither romantic nor emotionally intimate, and it reveals something very important: that your love interest has a bit of a ‘victim’ mentality!

2 – Keep your dignity.

Don’t allow yourself to be lured into overtly sexual banter before you have experienced actual time with your love interest, on more than one occasion… and after you have genuinely recognised a mutual, emotional attraction. A little bit of lighthearted flirting is harmless, but set your own boundaries… and if your love interest consistently pushes against them, close him or her down! They are revealing something very important about themselves: that they are immature; that they are disrespectful; that they are only looking for a bit of gratification; that they are severely lacking in social graces and awareness!

3 – Keep it interesting.

Ask your love interest the kind of questions that lead to expanded conversation, rather than yes or no answers. If you come to recognise that talking with them is akin to getting blood from a stone, days or weeks in, the odds are that they are not just shy; more likely, they are boring, hiding something, or just plain disinterested! And if they find it easy to talk about themselves, whilst consistently forgetting to discover more about you, they are revealing something very important: that they are largely self-interested and self-centred!

4 – Keep it cool

– at least until you feel that things have genuinely reached a consistently comfortable level between the two of you. If your love interest immediately wants to see or communicate with you every five minutes of every day, or talks of big plans for the ‘future’… or worse, claims to be in love with you… they are revealing something very important: that they are lonely, insecure… and probably a tad desperate!

5 – Keep it ‘real’.

If there is a lot of ongoing chat, and a lot of promises that are quickly followed by excuses, your love interest is revealing something very important: that, more likely than not, they are blaggers… all hot air and BS!

6 – Keep it friendly.

If squabbles, or even arguments, suddenly occur when communicating with a love interest, something very important is being revealed: that either you are not compatible with one another, or that your love interest is an awkward, moody individual who has not learned how to communicate maturely, or is someone who easily switches to defensive mode… and maybe even all three!

7 – Keep it fun!

As I said at the start, dating is supposed to be enjoyable… it is, after all, an exploration, a journey – the ultimate goal being a loving, mutually supportive relationship (loving being the key word!). For some, the journey is short, for others there are a few twists and turns in the road; either way, the process will be far more pleasant if we remember that, as we are looking for love, then we need to be loving, to ourselves, and to the process itself!

So, all you have to do is to keep your dignity, keep it light, interesting, cool, real, friendly and fun (I know, I know – ALL!)… but I reckon that none of it is actually too hard to do, and it provides a strategy that could save you a huge amount of time and emotional energy. Think of it as a relaxed but conscious filtering process… a bit of weeding in the garden of love!

And if you need a bigger helping of dating-food-for-thought, check out my free booklet (now available as a blog, on my blog site), Attraction and Dating: How To Successfully Navigate The Honeytrap (132 minutes reading time).


11 causes of anxiety – an unavoidable part of life on planet Earth!

How is it possible to be alive on planet Earth and not experience anxiety? This is a question I have pondered over and again because it seems that the most common human condition of the modern age is… anxiety.

I have considered all of the people I associate with, many of whom are technically doing fairly well in life, and without obvious emotional issues – and they all experience anxiety to one degree or another. I experience anxiety on a daily basis, though someone recently expressed great surprise when I said as much: “what… you? I didn’t have you pegged as a person who suffers from anxiety!”. Their choice of the word ‘suffers’ interested me, but also irritated me! Is there an assumption that people who appear to be generally strong and resilient are immune to anxiety… that it is the exclusive domain of those who are openly struggling, and for obvious reasons? That the strong and resilient somehow have it easier; that they don’t have the right to experience anxiety?

Putting aside those people who have a clinical condition, I believe that for the rest of us anxiety is relative. A teenager will worry about different issues than those faced by an elderly person. A young mother will have certain pressures to face that will differ from those experienced by a middle-aged business woman. We are all affected, influenced and programmed by our childhood. Like many others, my early to teen years were pretty dysfunctional, and although I don’t drag it around with me like a ball and chain, it can’t have failed to have left its mark. On top of this (and maybe at least partially because of my past) I put myself through some ridiculous crap over the years, leaving myself with memories I’d prefer to forget, and a residue of underlying unease. And I don’t believe that I am any different to the billions of other human beings in the world who are living, loving and functioning… whilst being completely resigned to the inevitable anxiety that is a part of everyday life on planet Earth!

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So, let’s take a look at some of the causes of anxiety in the western world:

(as opposed to war-torn zones and/or repressive regimes in which people are surviving under obviously stressful conditions)

1) Inherited anxiety:

We were born into a family that habitually struggles, or focuses more on lack and hardship than on hope for the future. Happiness isn’t an automatic process; some poor young souls are never allowed, or taught, to be happy… and a habitually unhappy mind is an anxious mind.

2) Natural Sensitivity:

We are exceptionally sensitive to the world around us. I remember, as a child, crying over so many things, including the other kids digging ants out of the cracks in the paving stones with lollipop sticks, and then stamping on them; Disney films (especially the animals in the forest crying when they thought that Snow White had died, and when Bambi’s mother was killed!); any film in which an animal suffered, was lost or died (including the 10 Commandments, in which horses were drowned when Moses held his staff aloft, and God parted the Red Sea!); public disasters in which people died (I was devastated at the age of 10 when Robert Kennedy was shot, even though I didn’t really know who he was. The images of him with his family and the public outpouring of grief hit me like a punch to the heart… I just knew that something really bad had happened. My 10-year-old friends didn’t care a jot and thought I was crazy!); racial prejudice and vivisection (this was when I was a teenager). I didn’t associate with anyone who appeared to be affected in the same way that I was, and so I learned to keep it to myself, grieving in private.

3) Low self-worth:

We have a strong sense of low self-worth that probably has its roots in our childhood. We don’t believe that we are good enough, smart enough, attractive enough or interesting enough. This leads us into experiences that only serve to confirm our unworthiness… which in turn attracts criticism from onlookers who can’t understand why we are doing what we are doing… which in turn leads us to shut down and defend ourselves, believing that the rest of the world has it all sorted out.

4) Inertia:

We don’t have the will to work hard for a dream, immobilised by inertia; the people around us are scraping by, always complaining about life’s injustices and restrictions, always willing to rain on someone else’s parade. We either don’t know how to get out from underneath the deadweight or we are afraid to… scared of being ‘different’. We tell ourselves that we are depressed – and we are, but not in the accepted sense; we are DEEP-pressed, pushed down into the swamp of hopelessness, and what we probably need is inspiration, hope, and something to aspire too – not necessarily anti-depressants.

5) Social awkwardness:

We feel awkward and inept, socially speaking, and so avoid too much contact with the outside world, living within the same old bubble, following the same old routine.

6) Hypersensitivity:

We are hypersensitive to criticism and confrontation, taking everything personally. I used to know a lovely lady who was consistently having ‘issues’ with other people, and I would listen to her tales, responding with indignation and sympathy… until I saw her in action! There was a local public event that we both attended, and at one point she was engaged in conversation with a woman she often complained about, but whom I had never met. Some time later the woman was chatting with me, with my friend hovering in the background doing her best to listen in – and when I moved on, she grabbed my arm, hissing, “do you see what I mean about her? She’s a real piece of work, isn’t she?”. I had to say that no, I hadn’t picked up that vibe at all, and I began to wonder about all of the other ‘unreasonable’ individuals my friend seemed to encounter… and whether or not she was maybe taking some things a little too much to heart.

7) Awareness:

If we keep even half an eye on world events we are aware that every second of every day, somewhere on the planet, someone is inflicting something horrendous upon another human being or animal… and that we ourselves are largely helpless to do anything about it. We are also aware that random bad luck appears to suddenly and unexpectedly descend upon completely innocent individuals, and we cannot help but identify with them. I defy anyone to be able to live an anxiety-free life whilst in possession of a conscience and empathy and not living in an airtight bubble!

8) Survival mentality:

We have become programmed to survive life, rather than embrace and develop it. There could be many reasons for this, some of which will be thriving within the depths of our unconscious mind. We view everything as a potential threat to ourselves or our loved ones, and we are on constant guard-duty, batoning down the same hatches, again and again.

9) Fear of loss:

If we allow ourselves to love someone, they could leave us or die. We might crave being part of a loving relationship, but the moment that we are the anxiety kicks in. They might cheat on us or leave us; we aren’t good enough to keep them; we need more reassurance than they are able or willing to supply, and this leaves us feeling raw, insecure and stuck in a loop.

10) Fear of change:

No matter how uncomfortable the known and familiar is, it can feel a million times better than the ‘unknown’. However, this leaves us stuck between two stools, metaphorically speaking. The known is hurting us and holding us prisoner, whilst the unknown looms like a deep, dark ocean we really don’t want to have to navigate… and so we remain trapped, with a misery-inducing cell-mate called anxiety breathing down our neck.

11) Death (our own and other people’s):

We are all anxious about death, even those who claim to have no fear of it. It is the one thing we cannot possibly avoid, an unknown quantity we know for sure we will have to face up to one day, and probably several times throughout a lifetime. If it isn’t a fear of the act of dying itself, it is a fear of loss and abandonment, of wasted time, of too little time… of having lived an unfulfilled life. Can you imagine how different the world would be if we had no fear of death? Terrorism and intimidation would lose its power, as would illness and disease. We’d be braver, more adventurous… and so much happier. Of course, we are never actually going to lose our fear of death, but I am just saying – imagine how life would change if we did! I actively encourage others, wherever appropriate, to explore what they believe to be true about death, how it ties in with life, and what, if anything, they believe they are likely to experience beyond this physical world. Floating around in the sky, looking down on my still-living relatives, doesn’t cut any ice with me… I’d rather have oblivion!

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Anxiety home-truths!

There is something else I’d like to add, on the subject of anxiety… something that may very well make me unpopular! Anxiety is sometimes hijacked by the lazy, inept and self-entitled, as a ‘reason’ for their unwillingness to accept personal responsibility and get off their backside. It is also sometimes presented, in a conspiratorial tone, as a condition that is unique to the ‘sufferer’… and upon their confession, we are all supposed to throw up our hands in shock and pour pity upon them… as if no-one we know has ever been crushed by the weight of anxiety! I understand that some celebs feel that, by revealing the fact that they are as human as the rest of us, they are helping their followers to recognise that anxiety is not restricted to mere mortals. And in many cases they are helping.

However, anxiety now appears to have gained celebrity status all in its own right, which cannot possibly be a good thing – and the hijackers are only serving to turn people off to the subject, tired of hearing about it at every turn. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all brand of anxiety, and at different times we will be affected by different things… which need to be explored and understood.

I myself am anxious about some things that are always the same, and other things that come and go. I experience anxiety through my work and dealings with certain customers; I experience anxiety about my family, relationship and pets; I experience anxiety about my hopes and dreams, my finances, health and fitness, and how other people respond to me. I definitely regularly experience a great deal of anxiety where the world is concerned, and not even just anxiety; grief, fear, and rage are familiar companions! I don’t really want to switch off from the world, living in a bubble, pretending that everything is hunky-dory, but I do have to make a conscious effort to prevent it from taking over, every now and then.

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Oh… and I really worry about Formula 1: after every Grand Prix I am drained and exhausted, as if I have driven the race myself! I am anxious not just about the results and the points, but the drivers and the teams, the highs and the lows, the failures and the victories. I worry for Claire Williams and hope to God that the team’s drivers aren’t throwing their careers away. I worry that Carlos Sainz may be in a precarious position if McLaren don’t have a consistently better car this year; I worry that Esteban Ocon won’t be offered a seat with a team worthy of his skills next year, if Valtteri Bottas proves to be someone Mercedes really want to keep for 2020 (and I also worry that he won’t be, because what would happen to him then… where could he possibly go, that wouldn’t be a major step backward? Sigh).

The fact is, life on Earth is an amazing, wonderful and breathtaking experience, not to mention miraculous; it is also consistently anxiety-inducing for every last one of us, at different times, for different reasons, and to one degree or another.

Some people have stronger pain-barriers than others and can appear to be functioning in a ‘normal’ way, even when they have their own internal and external struggles going on. I believe that it is absolutely non-productive, destructive even, to fail to recognise that anxiety is a natural human condition, with many different components… and that it is actually okay to be anxious: life isn’t wrong or bad if we don’t feel continuously emotionally safe and reassured. Modern society has forcefully been selling us all (especially the younger generation) a myth: that everyone around us is doing great in life, coping beautifully, and with nothing much at all to be anxious about – apart from us and our tribe. Which both you and I know is absolutely not true!












Develop intuitive thinking and align yourself with success!

Originally published on:

Intuitive thinking will help you to gain more control over your life, and align yourself with success… not least because it will allow you to develop the habit of responding rather than reacting!

The term ‘intuitive thinking’ should not be viewed as just another name for common sense, or confused with being ‘psychic’ (as it is commonly understood). If we are to develop our intuitive intelligence, so that we can use it as efficiently as we do our rational/logical intelligence, we have to begin with intuitive thinking. And it is important to step away from the idea that only certain individuals are ‘gifted’ with a sixth sense because it is likely to lead to one of two conclusions: 1) those who aren’t gifted with a sixth sense have been denied access to it by some selective higher power who has favoured those who have; 2) it is all a load of rubbish, and no-one has any intuitive capacity at all!

Intuitive thinking is about feeling our way around and through a situation, rather than taking it at face value or coming to a knee-jerk conclusion. It is also about recognising things that are trying to explain themselves to us, rather than ignoring them or fighting against them.

For example, if we find ourselves attracted to someone, and they appear to be reciprocating, our imagination and our desire can lead us to believe all kinds of exciting and wonderful things are possible – we might even begin to create a fantasy that very cleverly and quickly convinces us that it is real! But where does our intuitive thinking take us? Putting aside our desires, whilst being willing to take a little time, what are we actually feeling and seeing? What do we feel about this person, and this situation, deep down inside (as you can gather, intuitive and ‘feeling’ go very much hand in hand!)?

Or our partner is being moody and difficult for no apparent reason, and they have really hurt our feelings… and have made us feel as mad as hell, too! We fantasize about packing a bag and freeing ourselves of them once and for all, or of them waking up and recognising the error of their ways, sincerely expressing a heartfelt apology… neither of which happens. We can, as days pass, come to terms with the situation as it appears to us, and grudgingly accept it; in many cases that may well be the best we can hope to do. But what if our intuitive thinking leads us to understand that something deeper is at play here? This exact situation occurred in my own life recently, and because I was ill with a nasty flu bug, I didn’t have any mental/emotional energy to spare, and I reacted. He was being unreasonable, and I brooded inwardly, feeling frustrated and resentful.

But, gradually, I began to feel a little better… and I also ‘felt’ something else: that my partner was struggling in his own way, with something he wasn’t expressing. I opened my mind to it and recognised that he was probably feeling stuck in life, trapped in the same routine. I waited until I felt that he might be open to talking, and quietly asked if he was feeling that way; he agreed that yes, he was, and not only that, he felt unhappy with his weight, and that he had few clothes that fit him… and that he wasn’t sure what to do about his motorbike (it requires a small number of repairs, which can be done); due to the foot injury he sustained some time ago, he wasn’t even sure he would still be able to ride it. I don’t believe that he himself had been aware that all of this was piling up on him, and even if he did, he wouldn’t have believed he could do anything about it.

I suggested that we charge up the bike battery, put some fuel in, and that he give it a little test ride; that way he will get an idea of whether or not he is likely to be able to handle it. I also put him, and me, on an immediate diet, as we both need to lose at least a stone! I know that he is technically capable of counting his own calories, but this is definitely my territory, and I know that he will cut corners or under-estimate how much he can and can’t eat if left to his own devices! And when the stone has been lost, he can buy some new trousers and shirts. I understand how the bike and his weight are linked, because he used to be able to fit into his leathers before he injured his foot, and now it all seems light years away. And of course, to a biker, actually being able to ride represents freedom!

Anyone who works with other human beings in an emotional capacity needs to be able to think intuitively; anyone who wants to be able to manoeuvre their way successfully through life needs to sharpen up their capacity for intuitive thinking; anyone who wants to cut through the endless tide of information that pours out of our screens, every second of every day, will need to be able to read between the lines. It isn’t about trusting or distrusting; it is about a knowingness that comes through feeling.

And it is absolutely possible to develop intuitive thinking, and to learn how to distinguish it from feelings of fear or desire… especially as we become older! I say that, because the younger we are, the easier it is for our emotions to run the show. However, regardless of adult age, every one of us has access to intuitive capacity, and the ability to ‘read’ other human beings to one degree or another. Imagine how much better life would be if we were all more intuitively aligned? Unfortunately, intuition has an undeservedly bad reputation in the modern world, often presented as something spooky, mystical and ridiculous, or dismissed by those who consider themselves too ‘scientifically minded’ to believe in such rubbish!

I am going to write more on the subject of intuitive thinking over the next couple of weeks, leading into ways in which we can further develop our general intuitive capacity (we all use this without actually giving it much consideration: on Monday of this week, around 10 am, I texted the girl who does my hair, asking for an appointment; at 8.30 pm that evening, as I was putting something into the boot of the car, I suddenly remembered that she hadn’t replied. I hadn’t even finished the thought when my phone pinged to announce that a text had arrived… and I knew, without looking at it, that it was from Helen… which it was!).  So, if you are interested in hearing more, don’t forget to check in!