Thoughts on my answers ...

You are about to read day 25 in my 31 Day series from Fat to Freedom, as part of write 31 days.

I knew that I was going to have to take more exercise from the answers to my questions, so I wrote down –

Exercise – then I wrote down the things I liked and the things I disliked about exercise, the types of exercise I wanted to try, the types of exercise I had enjoyed in the past.  I made an exercise to do list – this allowed me to make my goals into daily actions, things I could do each day to reach my dream.

I wrote down -

What - Exercise at least 30 minutes a day with one day’s rest.

How DAILY Action – walking to and from where I park my car to get to work

The thing we need to remember about our daily actions, is that they aren’t static, we need to revisit them once a week or once a month, to review if they are working for us, or if we need to make any changes to them.  In time as I began to notice a difference in my fitness, I felt that I wanted to take more exercise so I revisited and changed my daily action to –

What – exercise for an hour a day

How – walk to and from my car (parked 20 mins walk away) before and after work, and swim for 20 minutes everyday.

It is so tempting when we read over our answers to these questions to do nothing.  Let me tell you its natural to be overwhelmed, but do not let these feelings take you captive, write down how you feel, and then move on to breaking up your goals into small steps, that you can take to achieve them.  Remember you are not in a race, this is not a quick fix, you are creating a lifestyle where you will be free from fat, and be healthier, slimmer, and possibly happier than you have ever been in your life before.


They allowed me to move from the big picture to the daily actions. 

 This is day 25 in my 31 Day series from Fat to Freedom, as part of write 31 days.

From my answers it is clear that I had a lot going on.  Many things had happened to me, and numerous choices I had made, had brought me to this point.   

There’s a lot to deal with here. You maybe have a lot to deal with too.  Remember don't go it alone.

But the most important thing about having a lot to deal with, is that you only have to deal with it one bit at a time, there is no rule that says you must do everything at once. Instead, break it down, make it manageable, make it practical, make it do able. 

Deal only with what you can at that specific moment, don’t worry about the rest, your time will come to deal with it.   Get support as you start to deal with what comes up for you, don't let those overwhelming feelings suggest you can't change, you can't make a difference, you can and you will.

I know that when I first wrote everything down, I felt overwhelmed.  I didn’t know where to begun or where to start.  That is why I encourage you to write it down because when the thoughts come out of your head, and onto a piece of paper, it becomes easier to find a starting point, and work out what you need to do to take that first step.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Five Minute Friday - Dare

From where she sits she sees a tree filled with ruby leaves, behind it others turn shades of brown.  Soon they will all fall, leaving bare branches as skeletons across the sky. Even though the South Carolina fall was warm, she felt a chill in her bones.

The bubbles rose to the lemon in the glass of sparkling water he had brought her, fizzing up to the top then popping.  Lifting the glass, and holding it close to her cheek, the bubbles burst onto her skin.  Like tiny pricks of pain.  She was surprised she could feel them, feel anything.  Since she had left Ireland, all had been numb.

He walked onto the deck, looked down at her and smiled.  'I've made reservations for us at Magnolia.'   He took the glass out of her hand and helped her up.  

For the first time she looked at him, his face was filled with love, there was kindness in his brown eyes, but it wasn't the face or love she wanted.  Yet, his was safe love, familar.  One that would work if she wanted it to.

Letting him hug her, her body turned to him, as her thoughts turned away.  Across the sea to the other love, the one the letter suggested was possible.  She held her breath, and wondered could risk it.

In a quiet voice he said, 'Your holding your breath, don't do that.' 

Nestling into his arms, she thought, either way I dare.  There were no definites, no truth.


I have linked up with the global Five Minute Friday Community, where people from here, there and everywhere join together to write freely on one prompt for Five Minutes.  I hope you will join us.

Today I have shared a little of my fiction, its a continutation of what I wrote a few weeks ago. 

That's it for now ...



Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Eating in Belfast - James St South - delicious, dedicated and delightful

Money talks, but class whispers, and there is class to be found at James St South.  The restaurants redesign is confident and elegant.  Much like its food.

The clean lines, cool tones of blue, pale wood, and crisp lines are offset with pops of teal in the smooth leather banquettes, and darker wooden chairs.  And, it works brilliantly.  Creating a room that is at once cool, refined and warm.  The new look James St South restaurant brings a joyful freshness to the Belfast restaurant scene. 

 Opening up the bar and service area makes James St South's dining room feel spacious and adds to the formal but relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant.

The blending of colours, the use of pale blond wood, against dark ebony wood, the splash of blue and teal, creates an overall the atmosphere in the restaurant that is smooth and mellow, Scandinavian in feel.  The teal and rust tones are accented in small details, waiters ties, the writing on the menu, place cards, to effortless effect.  The lighting is low, and the music chilled, there is an enchanting vibe in the room, which enhances the tastebuds.

The breads are as appetising to look at as they taste with their puffed tops, and soft succulent crumb.  There is nod to history as the breads look like they were baked in tincans, a method of baking bread popular during the World Wars.  The Treacle Bread has a deep rich sweetness, the Champ bread, is a fantastic take on potato bread, but is light and fluffy, all are served with Abernethy Butter.

Owner Niall McKenna and his head chef David Gillmore are to be applauded for their creation of a menu, which is stands out because it is not full of the ever so common usual suspects.  This is a menu with boldness and flavour, daring and creativity, and it is very welcome.

Coffee Roasted Comber carrots, creme fraiche, and tarragon vinegar caramel, brings together a strong vegetable with a strong taste, and it works.  The coffees slight bitterness adds a depth of flavour to the carrots sweetness, which is enhanced by the creamy texture of the creme fraiche.  The blue plate adds a depth to the dish, which would not be achieved in the same manner on a white plate.

We chose the wine pairing menu, something I highly recommend to all diners.   It shows off both James St South's extensive wine list, wine knowledge and ability to perfectly pair wine with the dishes on their menu. The combinations allow the flavours of both the wine and the food to really come alive.  

The smooth and creamy Pinot de Alsace which we had with the ever so slightly bitter carrots brought a balance to the flavour the dish and the wine, that would not have been so easy if I had just chosen a bottle of wine that I wanted to drink.

The Chargrilled radicchio, scallops and orange hollandaise married sweet cream with bitter lettuce, and meaty scallops.

James St South service is sublime - smooth, subdued, spacious. Perfectly polished into effortlessness without a hint of pretence.  Staff strike the balance between friendliness and professionalism, and impressively each who served us truly understood the menu, and where excited about it.  They took time to understand our desires as diners, what we liked and disliked, and recommended dishes with authority.  

Paul, Geoff and their team are to be commended on making the diner feel like royalty while in the restaurant.  

Ancient North Down tomatoes with crunchy prosciutto and baby gem puree, was light refreshing and full of flavour.  A burst of fresh flavour on an dark evening.  The wine pairing was perfect and the tomatoes, lifted the wine, giving it a warm sunshine feeling.  

The flavours of this dish were delicate and not overpowering.  It was well thought out, and served with a precision, the white plate here lifted the dish, making it seem more colourful. The nuts adding depth and texture to the soft tomato flavour, and light lettuce puree.  Crisp prosciutto added a hint of smoke and another layer of flavour, to this very success, and highly attract dish.

Carrickbrack Organic Farm Lamb, fennell, apricot and spices had a fresh flavour, to which the spices added depth, and the apricot a sweetness.  The lamb had a melt in the mouth tenderness and had been cooked to perfect with respect.  

Respect for and an understanding of ingredients is a recurrent theme at James St South.  McKenna and Gilmore know what they are doing, and they have an innate understanding of taking produce to the plate, in a manner that is digified, interesting and delicious.  It is this respect that makes all the food and drinks served in the restaurant rise to another level.

Compressed potatoes with delicate lamb jus, and shaved fennel with the odd caper brought more textures to the plate and on the palate created a perfect balance of sweet, crisp, soft, making this a very enjoyable dish to eat.


Baked gnocchi, summer vegetables and tarragon, came in an attractive blue grey bowl, which lifted the colours of the ingredients, and tantalised the eyes and the palate with what was to come.  A nod to Asian cuisine saw the gnoochi served in a light broth which was a pleasant surprise.  

 This vegetarian dish rises above others with its thoughtful combination of textures, firm beetroot, crunchy leeks, soft slightly chewy gnocchi, and gently crunching beans and peas, set in a light liquid.  This is a stunning dish, offering vegetarians the care and attention they deserve.

James St South serve the best champ in Belfast.  Smooth, silky, soft and oh so buttery.  Spiked with scallions and served with a pool of butter in the middle, just like its supposed to be.  It would be possible to eat plates of this on its own. Champ is a notriously difficult dish to get right, and Chef Gilmore does it perfectly.

Cassoulet of bean, charred feta and artichokes was an unusual dish, and in a very good way.  The sharp crumbly cheese sat against the firm meaty artichoke, with the soft beans smoothing the flavour.  Due to its firmness feta grills well, without melting or loosing the texture of the cheese.  

This is another divine vegetarian dish, and McKenna and Gilmore are to be praised for understanding their ingredients enough to create vegetarian dishes which sit right beside meat ones.  Not to mention head and shoulders above any other fine dining vegetarian dishes I have ever tried.  Dishes like this cassoulet are intriguing and full of flavour.  Worthy of all the gold stars that can be awarded.

A selection of petit fours are served in a tin box, much like what might be imagined to have been shared by Roald Dahl and his chums at boring school.  This box of delights is just right for those who don't want a heavy desert at the end of dinner, but are in the mind for just that little something sweet.

Iced Nougat looks spectactular as it is served with its spun sugar hat, and caramalised peach and delicate raspberries.  The combination of soft cool ice, crunchy firm fruit, and a sweet sharp raspberry is almost breathtaking.  

James St South's Dessert menu is innovative, it combines popular flavours, and childhood favouritess with expertise, and panache.  The ability to order a dessert, Irish cheeses, a freshly baked Madeleine or a box of petit fours, gives great joy to the diner as they try to chose.  This is no normal dessert menu, but one elevated and classy.

The boxes contain, crunchy butter shortbread, soft melt in the mouth macaroons, divinely scented rose marshmallows, a home made jaffa cake and a jammy joey.  McKenna and Gilmore could sell these individually, they are that good. 


Desert wines are available, but then so are brilliantly blended cocktails, which as the waitress said, 'contain plenty of fruit, definitely one of your five a day.'  The Mixed Berry Martini presented in a champagne saucer is a balance of alcohol, and sharp sweet fruit.  There is a crispness to its taste which revitalises the palate.  I would suggest ordering one of the choice of four cocktails after dinner, but before dessert.

James St South, a restaurant I recommend on nearly a daily basis to the barrage of messages I receive asking for my recommendation on where to eat out in Belfast.  It is consistently good.  The care taken in the development and preparation of the dishes, results in sublime food, that you will remember.

Their desire to get feedback, something Niall McKenna and I talk about regularly, is now a part of the dining experience, with the opportunity to sit once a week at the critics table, where guests are served an unknown banquet, and asked for their notes and comments.  It is not often that chefs, open themselves to such comment and McKenna must be congratulated in his daring desire to serve the best food possible, that he is willing to listen to his customers and critics.

Salt and Sparkle recommend you book a table at James St South today.

That's it for now ...



Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable



You are about to read day 24 in my 31 Day series from Fat to Freedom, as part of write 31 days.

When I decided to go on this journey, I asked myself some pretty simple questions. It is really important to write your answers down on paper, either in a notebook, or into a word document on your computer, because when you see your answers in black and white in front of you, it helps you to confront whatever you need to, to move from fat to freedom.


  • How did I get to the weight I am?
  • When did I become fat?
  • Did anything specific happen during this time that I think lead me to become fat?
  • Is there a trigger for me that makes me eat?
  • Why do I eat?
  • What do I eat?
  • How do I eat?
  • Who do I eat?
  • When do I eat?
  • Where do I eat?
  • How am I lying to myself in relation to food and exercise?
  • How do I defeat myself?
  • What lies am I believing about myself?
  • What are the lies you believe that keep you from making lasting changes in your life?
  • Do I make excuses for my behaviour or eating (note excuses are different from reasons)?
  • Are there certain foods I crave, when do I crave food?
  • Why I’m I loosing the fat?  Why do I want Freedom?
  • What am I going to do? 
  • How will I do it?
  • How do I begin?
  • What does exercise mean to me?
  • What can I do to start exercising
  • Goals and Dreams?
  • Why do I want to be healthy?
  • What does healthy mean to me?
  • What self-destructive behavior in my life am I  pretending isn’t there? 
  • What activity do you know is unhealthy?


The answers to my questions allowed me to see what I would have to do to make my dream a reality, the allowed me to think of the steps I would need to take, and they gave me suggestions on how to start. I was able to break things down into steps, and draw up a list of steps that would allow me to reach one goal.

Why don't you just now, writer your own answers to these questions?  Maybe you have your own questions you would add, I'd love to hear from you, please get in touch.  Don't worry if you can't answer all these questions at once, take them one at a time, maybe over a few days, revisit your answers in a few months, think about how they have changed.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Get help, support, prayer, don't do this alone

This is day 23 in my 31 Day series from Fat to Freedom, as part of write 31 days.

The journey from fat to freedom cannot be done alone.  We need people to help us, support us, walk along side us, and most of all just be there.

Often counselling, talking about one’s problems, sharing what’s going on with you, especially to a counsellor is seen as a sign of weakness, a sign that you can’t get your life together on your own.  Let me let you in on a big secret – we are not supposed to do life alone.  We are supposed to share it with others – in relationships - to support one-another, to be there for each other, to help one and other.  Normal life is hard. 

On a day-to-day basis we face tough challenges and upsets at every corner.  Even good days can be difficult.  When you are facing all the challenges that go with over-eating, there is a lot going on.  I truly believe that finding the right person to talk to, and getting professional help, are the best decisions that we can make.

There are people out there who can help you, who will listen to your concerns and worries, who won’t judge you.  They can help you find the answers to questions that have been lingering over your life, but until now, you maybe haven’t had the courage to consider, let alone answer. 

They will support you, and they will understand, where a plethora of friends, relatives, and family – will just tell you stupid things like – ‘Stop eating so much’, ‘If you really wanted to lose weight you would’, ‘Try this diet, it worked for such and such a celebrity’, ‘I’ve watched X tv show, and I know what your problem is, you need to stop emotional eating’, ‘Seriously how can you eat all that’, ‘All you have to do is cut down and exercise’. 

People love to diagnose, and they often feel when they make comments like this that they are being enormously supportive.  They aren’t.   As well meaning as they are trying to be it is exactly, these sort of comments that drive someone who is fat to despair. 

If I had a pound or a dollar for everytime someone said it me, ‘Nicky, its only common sense, what you eat, and how you exercise will reflect what weight you are.  Use your common sense, use your brain, what you put in is what you put out.  Now start cutting down, and you’ll lose weight, stop eating as much.’ I'd be very rich indeed.

Sentences like this went on and on, and often by people who I didn’t know, who thought they had every right to point out the obvious, ‘You are too fat, you have to lose some weight.  You’ll feel better once you lose weight, your only sick because your so heavy.’

Words like these make me want to scream.  All they did was reinforce how I felt – fat.  They made me feel like a failure because I couldn’t do what was seen as common sense by the rest of the normal world.  I would lie in bed and beat myself up, about what I had eaten, or my lack of movement with my body.  I would cry, and wonder what I was doing wrong, and how I could change.  I would extort in my willpower that tomorrow I wouldn’t fail, I’d eat in a commonsense manner, and then see the weight just fall off.  None of these things ever happened, all I did was fall into a bigger cycle of feeling like a failure, like a fraud. 

Whilst these words are true, in the purest form of the word, if we ate less we would lose weight, and calories in = calories out. What words like this fail to see is if it was really as easy as they are suggesting then no one would ever be over weight.  Fast glib words such as these, can easily send those who are carrying too much fat running straight to the biscuit box, to find comfort from the verbal assault that they have just had to withstand. And, anyone who points out what might seem like the obvious or common sense, frequently just reinforces all the negative things going on in our bodies and minds.

That is why; we need to be able to let those words bounce off us.  To accept into our psyches only things that will help us, build us up, and encourage us, and to let everything else that seeks to bring us down, or fill us with negativity go straight to the trash can.   I feel that the best way to learn to do this is with professional and spiritual help. You see when you are fat, there’s a lot of baggage going on, heaps of it, both physical – in the shape of fat, and emotional  - our thoughts, feelings and emotions. 

The only way to lose the fat and to find real freedom is to deal with all of these things.  We not only need to lose weight, but lose the emotional stuff that we have been carrying around like an overweight suitcase.  We need to know why we eat like we do, before we can stop eating like that.  We need to discover that exercise isn’t torture, but actually something that makes us feel amazing.  We need to go on a journey into our mind, body and spirit, to find freedom from fat.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Eating for survival

This is day 22 in my 31 Day series from Fat to Freedom, as part of write 31 days.

The second most popular question people ask me is “How did you get started, why now?”  I was always on the larger size of normal – both in terms of my height – at 16 I was 5”11, and in heels over 6 foot.  I was a big girl, with a great big personality.  I was big both literally and metaphorically.  To detract from my size, I was the life and soul of the party - the last one standing, and the first one to suggest a party, I didn’t want to miss out on anything.  I had been big for a long time, and eating my emotions for even longer than that. 

As I peeled back layers with professional help, I discovered that I had been eating to try to dissolve emotional pain since I was a child.  As a child, I suffered quite a lot of trauma.  I grew up with continual arguing, hateful words being shouted on a daily basis.  And violence, my head being hit so hard for reasons that I was unable to fathom, and today know that they had nothing to do with me.  I grew up in fear.   I didn’t know what was going on, my young mind couldn’t analyse my feelings, or help me find positivity in the middle of such storms.  What I did discover was that sweets tasted good, and for a brief spell allowed me to forget what was going on around me.

I ate for survival.

I think to almost add insult to injury when I was 16 I was diagnosed with endometriosis – a disease that was to consume for a decade, a disease where the body attacks itself. 

A decade of pain.

Everything in my life except food tasted of pain.  Food was the only thing that made me feel a slight lift out of my pain.  It tasted good.  Thinking about it, reading about it, shopping for it, cooking it, and eating it all brought me comfort, and satisfaction.  In a life of darkness food seemed to be a little bit of light.  Being ill, and in constant pain, is a battle of strengths, of willpower, of belief; it is a daily drawing of swords.   Fighting the pain I was in, fighting the fear and anxiety that dwelt within me.

Food was my release from this, but building on the pattern of overeating that I had begun as a young child, I took it too far.  I ate too much. I later discovered because I was in such pain, I didn’t feel or understand the extra physical pain I put onto my body by stuffing it with food.

Living with an all consuming pain, that took over everything, meant that I rarely had energy to deal with anything that was going on around me, lifting my arm was a workout, getting out of bed required incredible concentration and determination.

What I ate, no longer seemed important, all I cared about was that it tasted good. I ate and ate and ate.  I was missing out on my late teens and twenties because I was sick. 

No matter how much I tried to squeeze all the life out of every moment, I was unable to deny that I was ill. 

I have days and weeks of my life wiped out by pain that I only have vague recollections of.  Food was my way of dealing with this pain, it was a comfort blanket, a snugly, something that never seemed to let me down – unlike my body which was broken and bruised.

Food didn’t ask me tough questions or leave me trapped in a philosophically theological discussion of why this was happening to me.   Food didn't pressure me or attack me.  

Instead it tasted good, so good, that for a few moments, by pain, my size didn’t matter. My senses seemed alive –while the rest of me died -  each one jarred into being by an all encompassing taste, that took in smell, and feel, sound, and site, touch and taste.

I ate to surpress any feelings of hopeless, of fear, of failure, of vulnerability to hide and to find comfort.  I ate because I didn’t know how to deal with the pain I was in mentally and emotionally.  I needed help.  I was ashamed to ask for it, and I didn’t see how talking about my feelings, would actually help me.  I was still ill, and I was fat.  

At university help came in the form of student support, there were people to talk to, people to listen, and people who didn’t judge me.  What that service offered was invaluable to me, and I think it kept me sane, during some of the darkest days of my life.

That's it for now ...



Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


We need a lifestyle that sees us choose health not heartache

This is day 21 in my 31 Day series from Fat to Freedom, as part of write 31 days.

I know when I look at a diet book, or a thesis that promises miracle results in a matter of days, I am dubious.  This is because for years, I would try a diet, and it would often work.  But only, while I followed the plan to the letter, exercising the most enormous amount of willpower. 

But as soon as that plan finished, as soon as I stopped following the strict rules the pounds came back. 

Often slowly, often quietly, but back they came, until I was back at square one.  I believe diets don’t work because they have a fixed start and finish point.  It’s all about five weeks, or ten days, three months or even one.  It is a plan for a limited period of time. 

Which means it only works for a limited amount of time.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not condoning diet books to the bin. 

Diet books and especially books on health, weight, nutrition can contain useful, and interesting information. I will be recommending some of my favourite resources at a later stage.

But we must always view diet books as a short-term solution to an issue that needs long time lifestyle, answers. 

We need to know and be aware when to hit the delete button in our brains, when we read books like these. 

We need to work out what works for us, and what doesn’t. 

What works for us!

For me anything that immediately tells me to cut out complete food groupings isn’t very balanced, nor is it healthy, because suddenly a food group is the enemy, and we believe a lie that if we just don't eat, sugar, protein, carbs, grains, diary, gluten, we will be healthy.

What we want is a lifestyle of balance, one that allows us to eat a chocolate chip cookie, and enjoy it without a wave of guilt hitting, us.

We might find that we do actually eat less of certain things because it naturally works for us, but we also know that these things are available to us, should we want to make a choice to eat them. 

I can now read information from books, websites etc, and choose what works for me, immediately works, what might work, and what might be worth considering for our lifestyle. 

For example I work away from home a lot, and I travel, putting in often long and exaggerated hours, without obvious meal breaks – so food choices that lecture me about breakfast, lunch and dinner – might not always work, and in fact they make me feel guilty because we don't stop for breakfast lunch and dinner. 

I need to work out what works for me, how I can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner – but in a timeframe that co-exists with my working schedule, and with the fact that I am often not able to cook for myself.  You need to do the same, we need to be prepared.  To have healthy alternatives on hand, when all that is offered are cups of tea, buns, bags of sweets.

There isn’t a start and a finish as you take the step-by-step journey from Fat to Freedom.  Instead, you are making a choice to choose a certain lifestyle. 

A lifestyle, that will see you choose health not heartache.

That's it for now, 


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable