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


q&a with Grainne McGarvey

It is a great pleasure to welcome Grainne McGarvey to q&a.  Grainne is a PR specialist and the owner of Belfast and Derry based company Pulse PR, a magazine writer, TV presenter and a complete bundle of fun and energy.  I first met Grainne when she gave a talk at the Waterfront on the importance of PR for business. You can follow Grainne on Twitter and Facebook.


 1. Who are you, what’s it like being you ...

I’m Grainne McGarvey and I’m happy being me. I have a supportive family, brilliant friends and a job I love.

 2. Where are you from, where are you based ...

I work in the NI Science Park in the Titanic Quarter and have just taken space in the Derry Science Park too. I’m from Belfast, but I’m very close to my mum’s side of the family who are from Enniskillen, so I call myself a half ‘n’ half

 3. Talk about your work ...

I’ve been working in PR for ten years and set up Pulse PR four years ago. I wanted to spread my wings and working in an agency was very limiting. I do a mix of business and consumer PR, media training, communication strategies and in my spare time I write a few magazine columns, including one called G Spots! for online magazine

4. What are your future plans ...

I have been doing more presenting lately and I plan to explore this further. I’ve always been interested in camera work and did a lot of experimenting with programmes when I was doing my Masters in Media Studies. I got more experience when I went out on my own and reported on social and cultural events that were promoted online. Like many new starts I worked for free to get the experience, thankfully it finally starting to pay off, literally!

 5.How do you find inspiration, who you are inspired by ...  

I surround myself with positive people and they inspire me all the time. One of my good friends Melita (pictured) runs Bespoke Northern Ireland and we inspire each other in business. I’ve had the same best friend, Una (pictured) for 12 years and she is inspires me by having a great job as well as being a great mum. I am also out and about trying new food, visiting new cities etc....which keeps my mind active.

 6.Describe your space ... 

I’m a tenant in the NI Science Park and get by with my laptop, phone and jotter. I did have a bigger office but found I wasn’t getting the use out of it. I am also out and about during the week and usually meet people in coffee shops – bit awkward as I don’t drink tea or coffee!

7. How are you feeling today ... 

I’m always pretty upbeat and happy. I find that having positive thoughts attracts positive people

8. A non-negotiable in your life is ...

Hmm, where do I start? I’m very loyal and supportive and expect other people to be the same. I would do anything for anyone and try my best not to let anyone down. When I first set up the business I found it difficult to separate my personal feelings from what is needed to be successful in business. I used to take everything personally, but now I can separate the two.

9.Most encouraging words you have ever heard ...

When I am nervous doing something new, my mum always says to me ‘you’ve been through worse’. I’m not sure if that counts as encouraging, but it does make me feel better

10. Your work life philosophy is ...

Be true to your word and don’t let down the good people in your life.

11. What is your favourite smell ...  

Dior Addict for evening & Jo Malone Vanilla Anise for day wear

12. Who do you like to listen to, what’s playing just now ...

A lot of female artists – they have to be happy and upbeat

13. Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ...

I have really got into cooking and try like trying new things. I had a lovely meal in the Boathouse in Bangor recently – my first experience of eatable flowers...who knew!

14. Three things that have changed your life ...

Water – I hated drinking water, but I am a convert for the last few years and it has kept my skin looking fresh

Parkmobile Parking App – I never have change and am always rushing around to my next appointment

Phone Charger – My new car has a phone charger plug and I am so happy. My phone always dies and this very simple device means I can talk on the go

15. How do you relax ...

I find it difficult to relax. A bath and lavender candles help

16.What makes you happy, where’s your happy place ...

Holidays make me happiest. I go on a cruise every year with my mum and visit some really beautiful locations. Sunbathing on the deck when the ship is sailing away from a fab location is what I remember when I’m in the dentist and need to go to my happy place!

I am also an auntie to a two year old, Aodán – well Auntie G to give me my official title. A hug from him makes everything ok!

17. What is your favourite journey, where in the world would you like to visit ...  

New York is my favourite city in the world. I have family that live there and I have been about ten times. I love the buzz of the Manhattan when guys in suits are practically shouting ‘sell sell sell’ into their mobiles, and everywhere I look could be a movie set.

18.What do you most value in your friends ...  

I have the best friends a girl can have – supportive, great listeners and good fun

19. What are your favourite words, what are you reading, just now ...

I love reading books, but don’t usually get the time to read them until I go on holiday. I like fiction, books that allow you get lost in them. Oh and I love Dan Brown. I went to see hear him speak in Dublin last year at a literary festival. I was properly star struck.

20. Share some words of wisdom ...

People are very quick to judge and comment from the comfort of their living rooms. Get out and live your life! If I worried about what people think/say about me, then I’d probably never leave the house.

Grainne it was such a joy to interview you for q&a and have you at our place.  Looking forward to hanging out with you again soon.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable



Roald Dahl on looking lovely

This is day 20 in my 31 Day series from Fat to Freedom, as part of write 31 days.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable



It is worth saying again ... you are beautiful

So Folks, I say to you because it is worth saying, and you need to hear this –

you are beautiful, no matter how you feel, no matter what you see in the mirror, you are beautiful exactly as you are. 

You are amazing, you are stunning, your are a wonderful creation. 

You are absolutely fabulous. 

Even if you don’t quite believe it, you will someday, but you have to make the choice to begin believing, and to continue believing.

That choice starts with saying outloud – I AM BEAUTIFUL EXACTLY AS I AM RIGHT NOW.  I am loved, I am accepted, I am me.  I accept who I am, how I look, and I make the choice to love me, because in choosing to love me right now, I know I will love me, as my body changes and I lose weight.

You are beautiful, say it with me, go on Be Brave.


That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Resting in Love

What follows is an extract from Richard Rohr's Daily mediatation I read words from Richard most days, and have done for several years, his words go deep, and allow me to revel in the process of thinking and acceptance of God's love.  I hope you will enjoy this extract.

How do we come to know love so that we can live from its depths? Love cannot be understood by the mind. And if God is love, God will never be subject to the mind as we know it. God and love can only be experienced. This simple practice is an invitation to encounter love in its very physical, connective reality.

Place the palm of one of your hands on your heart. Feel your heart beating, letting its rhythm bring you into the present moment and into the awareness of God’s blessing on your life, beat after beat after beat.

Bring to your conscious mind a loved one, a favorite place or animal, or anything that makes you smile with undeniable, spontaneous, unconditional love and joy.

Bring that particular beloved being or thing down from your mind and place it right under your palm into your heart space. Relax your mind and let your heart relax at the same time, feeling the sensation of blood vessels, muscles, and chest cavity opening in warmth and love for that particular loved thing. Smile.

Now humbly place a challenging person, issue, or problem directly under your palm, within your heart space that is wide open. Silently continue to smile and hold this challenging thing in the warmth of your heart.

With closed eyes, look at the thing that causes you pain, visualizing the detail that bothers you the most, all the while smiling. Consider that there may be reasons why this thing brings hurt. Smile at the fragility, suffering, or misunderstanding that makes it this way.

Finally, give the person or problem to your heart and ask that your heart’s wisdom and love take over. Rest in the Love that loves you and the other and wants to transform all into its loving image.

Adapted from The Heart Math Solution: The Institute of Heart Math’s Revolutionary Program for Engaging the Power of the Heart Intelligence
by Doc Childress and Howard Martin

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Choose love ... quotations of the day 18 October 2014

'If you want others to be more loving, choose to love first. If you want a reconciled outer world, reconcile your own inner world.'

Richard Rohr

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable