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Inspiration Over Lunch: Skinny Doll’s Turbulent Journey

It’s not every week I include an interview on my blog. I need to feel inspired and know that the piece I share will instil some confidence and inspiration in you guys otherwise – what’s the point?

I attended an O’Briens event in 2016 where Rachel Allen did a cookery demonstration (read more here). I had the pleasure of meeting Olivia Kinsella, a lady who I had come to know all too well via the blogging world. She’s as inspiring in person and certainly walks her talk as she has transformed her body, her mindset and in turn, her life with her attitude to food and her own self care.

She was kind enough to answer a bunch of questions and provided some intriguing insight into her life and mind.

Tell me all about yourself! Is there something you’d like to share that not many people know?

Oooh what secrets to tell!? I have an irrational fear of spiders having grown up in Australia! They can kill you ya know! I hate coriander. I want to retire to Tasmania and paint by the ocean. I’m a freelance graphic designer living in Dundrum, I’m lucky enough to work for myself which means I can fit blogging into my schedule during the week! I’m an only child and it’s only as I get older I wish I had some siblings. I am bulimic, I have been since I was about 17 but I really believe my issues with food started when I was much younger. My family came to Ireland for a holiday when I was about 6 or 7 and I only ate baked bean sandwiches for two months, so the signs were there. I was bullied when I was younger, but found my feet in university in London. I loved every second of it! It has made me a perpetual student. I’m currently trying to get my degree in counselling (module by module sigh…) so I can give back all the care I received to other people who need it. I’m a people pleaser and it’s hard trying to break that habit. Irish sign language is my second language!

Why did you start your blog?

I had just lost my job and was morbidly obese. I was alone, suffering from depression, and felt like I had no one to turn to. I put on such a happy face to the world that no one really knew how I was feeling and that’s mostly my fault. I hit rock bottom and went to my GP who set me on the healing path. With counselling and medication I was making small steps to feeling ‘normal’ again. One day I just thought to myself, there must be someone else out there, just like me who is struggling and isn’t coping. I needed to find these people and build a community where we could support each other. I know some people say you can’t be a positive happy bunny all the time in life but I sure as hell want to try it. There’s enough negativity in the big bad world that there really is no harm in creating a happy space where you can just put it all out there. I found a weight loss plan that works for me and I decided to document my journey et voila The Skinny Doll was born! I don’t ever plan on being ‘skinny’ it was just the name I picked in the heat of the moment and I went with it, sometimes I regret the name but mostly people get that it’s about me wanting to be happy in my own skin not skinny! I had no idea it would grow into the wonderful community that it has. I still have a lot of weight to lose but I haven’t given up and I think that’s why the blog is such a positive place for people. It’s honest and when I fall into a bag of chips at the weekend I tell the world, people feel normal when you tell them you did it too, no one life is picture perfect and social media can lead us to believe that people live in these perfect houses with perfect skin and perfect lives and the reality is far from that, so I’m all about keeping it real. I like my readers to know they’re not alone. But did we all at least enjoy the chips we fell into?! You’ll just get support and motivation. We’re all human. We fail but we keep going. We don’t give up on ourselves. I love that.

What does success look like for you?

Being happy in my own skin. I really admire all body positivity advocates out there. I would love to feel comfortable just throwing on something and feeling ok about myself but my path through life has instilled a feeling that I’ll never be good enough and I’m constantly working on improving that. My weight loss to date has certainly helped me. It’s not a number on the scales, it’s a feeling… happiness is not reserved for special people. Everyone has regret, people we’ve hurt, people who have hurt us but I’m a firm believer in you get what you deserve and we all deserve happiness as much as the next person. My ultimate goal is to look half decent in a pair of jeans one day! Numbers on social media mean very little to me, but the engagement I have with people online is priceless to me.

What has been your greatest milestone and how did that feel?

Hitting big losses at the scales have been amazing, when I hit my 10 stone loss, I was so happy. I’ve gained a little bit back since then but it’s in my sights so I’m aiming  for that right now! But it’s the NSV (Non Scale Victories) that have made me most proud.  The first time I didn’t have to ask for a belt extension on the plane I sobbed all the way to Gatwick, the poor air hostess thought I was having a meltdown! It wasn’t the fact that the belt actually fit me but thought process behind it. Whenever I went for a flight, the mind games would start as soon as I left the house. Would the air hostess be discreet? Would I get someone loud? It’s incredible how unkind some people can be. Would the person beside me cringe when I had to put the belt on? Would someone stare at me hoping they wouldn’t be stuck beside the fat woman for the whole flight? None of this ever materialised by the way.  I did have a few air hostesses shouting out ‘WHO NEEDS THE BELT EXTENSION?!?’ but to my ears it sounded like ‘WHERE IS THE FATTY?!!? COME ON PUT UP YOUR PAWS!’ but the embarrassment was unreal. Now I don’t have to worry about that. Those two hours aren’t full of anguish and worry now. It’s amazing how our mind works and that’s been a huge learning curve for me.

Winning the Best Health and Wellbeing awards was amazing last year, it’s nice to think that your peers rate you highly enough. I’ve been a finalist for the last 7 years and a judge every year too so it’s nice for the hard work to get recognised. I love the Irish Blog awards, it’s opened my eyes to so many amazing people documenting their lives online. It’s a fab little community to be a part of.

What has been your greatest milestone and how did that feel?

Hitting big losses at the scales have been amazing, when I hit my 10 stone loss I was so happy. I’ve gained a little bit back since then but it’s in my sights so I’m aiming for that right now! But it’s the NSV (Non Scale Victories) that have made me most proud… the first time I didn’t have to ask for a belt extension on the plane I sobbed all the way to Gatwick, the poor air hostess thought I was having a meltdown! It wasn’t the fact that the belt actually fit me but thought process behind it. Whenever I went for a flight, the mind games would start as soon as I left the house. Would the air hostess be discreet? Would I get someone shouty? It’s incredible how unkind some people can be. Would the person beside me cringe when I had to put the belt on? Would someone stare at me hoping they wouldn’t be stuck beside the fat woman for the whole flight? None of this ever materialised by the way, I did have a few air hostesses shouting out ‘WHO NEEDS THE BELT EXTENSION?!?’ but to my ears it sounded like ‘WHERE IS THE FATTY?!!? COME ON PUT UP YOUR PAWS!’ but the embarrassment was unreal. Now I don’t have to worry about that. Those two hours aren’t full of anguish and worry now. It’s amazing how our mind works and that’s been a huge learning curve for me.

Winning the Best Health and Wellbeing awards was amazing last year, it’s nice to think that your peers rate you highly enough. I’ve been a finalist for the last 7 years and a judge every year too so it’s nice for the hard work to get recognised. I love the Irish Blog awards, it’s opened my eyes to so many amazing people documenting their lives online. It’s a fab little community to be a part of.

Do you ever feel under motivated? If so, how do you find your motivation?

All the time! Staying motivated is the key for me. When I’m feeling positive and my mental health is good, I feel like I’m getting there. When I lose my mojo, I lose belief in myself and that’s why the blog helps so much. I can just say I’m having a bad week and people rally around and make you feel like you CAN do it! Because we all can!  I love all the positivity on Instagram too. Seeing people document their journey makes you realise just how far you’ve come and how much you can really achieve. I do a monthly photo challenge and the tips and support from followers from all over the world is incredible. Whilst some are having breakfast in Australia, other’s are having dinner in NYC and chatting about the pros and cons of cauliflower rice! It’s just brilliant! Better than any celebrity tv show!

Where do you see your blog going?

I don’t have any final destination for it, I honestly never expected it to become as successful as it has! I love just watching it grow organically, I spend so much time interacting with my readers and that’s what makes it for me. I shall continue to blog whilst I’m on this journey and it’s got its bumps in the road but it’s truly a labour of love to be honest. Losing a lot of weight can be daunting and it’s a lonely process, finding people on line who are on the same journey is such a relief, I have so many wonderful messages from people who tell me they have a lot of weight to lose and a blog post has inspired them to take the first step to join a class… or to try out a recipe… when you know that there’s someone going through the same process that you are, it’s a good feeling to just feel like you can support them because you’ve been there. I just want to keep spreading the MOJO and get happy with who I am and hopefully bring a lot of people along with me for the ride! Obviously I’d love to be able to blog full time, and once the euromillions comes through I’ll be doing just that on my own island with a pool boy for company!

To learn more about Olivia aka The Skinny Doll, visit the her website here.

Inspiration Over Lunch: Exercise And Mental Health According To James Hanley

I’m not exactly what you’d call a gym bunny. I’m not one to check in on Facebook while I’m running and I certainly don’t take selfies while I’m lifting dumbbells. As far as I can tell, the joke of “if you didn’t check in on Facebook, it did’t happen” is still a joke that I’ll choose to laugh at. This is the laughing that gets to happen as I use exercise as a method to take care of my mental health.

Fitness expert, weight lifter and gym owner James Hanley is all too familiar with the online and offline world of fitness. When we chatted about the recent mental health awareness month, he offered some valuable insights into the impact the trending world of exercise is having and where it’s heading.

Considering the world of fitness on the emerald Isle, there’s clearly been a surge in terms of the amount of gyms popping up. Meanwhile, the country’s love of healthy food is getting stronger with artisan butchers and health food stores becoming more than a passing trend. As highlighted by James, people are investing more in their health and have a better perspective of what healthy really is.

When it comes to exercise, the phrase “He’s not the sort of guy who gets ulcers, he’s the guy that gives them” rings true for James. When speaking of how people deal with stress, he says “it basically stems towards three points – you can release stress by shouting at someone/something, hitting someone/something or exercising it out”. Looking at these, it’s pretty clear which is going to have the greatest benefits.

As touched on in my recent posts on mental health, James also hit on the point of not being idle:  “Having an outlet, somewhere that’s not allowing you to stew at home and instead, being able to meet and interact with other people is one of the biggest benefits of being in a group exercise program”. Exercise not only keeps the mind and body occupied, it creates endorphins which means less stress.

Being time-poor is one of the obstacles to effective self-care in today’s day and age. So if you’re in need of a stress-reliever in the form of exercise but your schedule seems too jam-packed, how do you fit it in? Well, getting a notepad is where to start. James’ method of figuring it out involves the following ” From the moment you wake up, write everything down that you did every fifteen minutes for the previous fifteen. It will take some time at first but do it for 7-14 days and it will do one of two things: It’ll validate the fact that you are busy and make you find more time to train. OR it’ll make you realise that you aren’t as busy as you initially thought you were and show you where you’re wasting time, dossing or being otherwise inefficient. From there, all you have to do is make a decision whether what you’re doing is making you happy. If it is, keep doing it. If it isn’t, change something.”

So say you figure out the time, how do you then decide which exercise works best for you? There could be a trend of people lifting weights amongst your friend group, does that mean it’s for you? Definitely not. Likewise if running bores you then keep away. On this note, James’ advice is find something you love and give it 100% – “The best exercise is the one you enjoy the most and can stick to”.

From James’ endless experience of the positive impact of exercise on any given human, the only negative that he considered was what’s happening in the online world of instagram, check-ins and the dishing out of ‘healthy living’ advice by those that consider themselves experts. According to James, “The fitness industry in failing us right now. Influencers are creating a highlight reel on social media and misleading everyone into believing they have everything they want, love their body and have the perfect life.” Married with insecurity and unhappiness, James explained that at times the same people who are dishing out advice (mostly young girls and guys) will delete posts if they don’t get enough likes upfront and censor comment streams for fear that the writings there will destroy their planned narrative. This translates to poor mental health in such influencers real-lives.

In a world where there is a range of mental health challenges, insecurities and unfortunately, still a stigma behind talking about mental health, James offered his advice: “You don’t have to pretend to be 100% all the time. Vulnerability is cool. Not being OK is OK. Talking about how you feel with friends or trusted sources isn’t a show of weakness, it’s a show of strength. ESPECIALLY for guys”.

While mental health awareness month has passed, we still need to keep the conversation going. Got something to share? Hit me up via social media or in the comments’ field below.

If strength training, strong mindset and/or health living is for you then I’d strongly suggest checking out James’ site, social media and if in the area, his gyms. To learn more, you can visit him here.

Inspiration Over Lunch: Pauline’s Journey To Her Back And Beyond

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“Writing is my therapy” were the words uttered by Pauline Harley as she excitedly told me of being accepted as a writer on Arianna Huffington’s new site ‘Thrive Global‘. Having overcome some pretty big obstacles in her life, it wasn’t a surprise to learn that a world-renowned entrepreneur found Pauline to be an inspiration. I have found throughout my time of knowing her – it was hard not to feel inspired by her.

And so, it began. Forty-eight minutes of Pauline’s passionate telling of stories of how trials and tribulations became triumphs that strengthened her beautiful soul. Starting with an illness called Crohn’s disease, which causes inflammation to the bowels and gives the feeling of food poisoning and endless discomfort, Pauline has had lots to contend with. Working in a highly stressful job during her twenties meant that her lifestyle was far from healthy. Long hours in meetings led to tiredness that felt remedied by alcohol, smoking and over-consumption in general. Such a lifestyle meant being overweight became an issue.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago when she was in the bank one day and her legs went from under her. Two weeks before the fall, she had had a massage which had evidently uncovered a weakness in her spine. It was six months later when Pauline found herself having a serious spine fusion surgery that she described as a time that she wanted to be taken away from the pain, for good. Having lost her mother previous to the surgery, it was the strength of such a bond that got her through the painful experience.

The list went on. I’ve never met a strong human being with an easy past and Pauline is no exception. Numerous miscarriages, removal of half her womb along with a vicious attack on her husband on what was supposed to be a celebratory night out, all followed what had already built a stronger Pauline – inside and out.

She has taken part in three body-building competitions in her life, the most recent being in September of this year. Her resilience and strength saw her totally transforming her body, losing over five stone and building a new mindset. As she puts it herself, “It’s all about mindset”. When getting to where you want, achieving goals and reaching your potential, Pauline vouches for this throughout. During the interview, it was also what seemed to have become the common denominator to her success to date.fb_img_1477349825415

The only thing as strong as Pauline’s resilience is the love for her family. Speaking of date nights with her partner and the pride she has for her son, it was obvious that she surrounds herself with those who lift her up. When speaking of the people one spends the most time with and how they influence us, Pauline and I agreed that we become like those we spend the most time with. This was based on a reflection of her past and a time when spending time with people who would share similar challenges was the norm for her. Those in tricky situations being around her impacted her own pain, adding to it rather than building the strong mindset she so prides herself on, today. Now, instead of feeling needy, Pauline knows her own intuition and self awareness and highlights how this drives her forward.

Before finishing the interview, Pauline highlighted once again how her mother had been the drive in her life. Although she has passed on, she looks to her for guidance along with the other strong forces in her life.

Having just completed the diploma in Life and Executive Coaching, Pauline is now working as a coach and offers a range of services through her website. She’s also available for speaking events, interviews and sharing her journey with others.

When asked how she would suggest that people going through challenging times feels stronger at a given time, her advice is to “face your own truth”. In doing so, it’s expected that you’ll deal with what’s happening head on and work towards the best outcome.