Italy part 2 – Reborn (A bit)

 

Day 5 –  After another straight 8 hours sleep & waking up naturally its breakfast time overlooking the mountains. Now I LOVE a breakfast buffet. So many options! Lefay certainly know how to do a breakfast. Breads, cakes (sugar free ones, or full fat – the sugar free olive oil cake is a revelation), fruits, fresh pressed juices on demand, prosecco (i love this idea), coffee to die for and of course – the view. How can I fail to be happy, I could stare at the view of the Lake & the Mountains all day long. I tuck in to my fresh carrot, apple, celery & ginger juice alongside my scrambled eggs & crispy procuttio, and something very strange happens. Im full half way through. Surely not, i haven’t even got to the cake yet??

Then I realise, this is how normal people eat. Is this what A normal healthy relationship with food is? 
I guess it all stemmed from my youth. In my house I was not allowed to leave the table without clearing my plate. The prize was desert, Vienetta (80’s child), magic Ice on ice cream, choc ices, even just a few sweets from the out of reach sweet tin. I was brought up to never waste food as were most of my generation. Problem with that is I over eat. When my tummy is saying stop I’m not listening. That only happened when I moved out of home as I was buying my own food & my weight ballooned. I’ve battled it ever since. 
Even in tough times when most people cant eat, id eat. Lots. It made me feel better. Then I’d feel guilty. I was never ill with it, but its always been a demon – & finally I have accepted that. Within a week of being here its sorted, under control & the weight is falling away slowly. Its not rocket science……
 
So now its the last confession – Alcohol. My job allows me to be extremely social which I love, & I thoroughly enjoy a drink. Nothing better than a cool glass of Rose, or a G& T – Its my way of letting off steam. But yet again i don’t know when to stop-especially over the last few years. I think nothing of once or twice a week getting drunk. Its so easy to leave the office & go to a bar within 100 yards. Sometimes I get so drunk I cant remember getting home. Ive only had 1 bad encounter from that, but I’ve lost phones, purses, various coats – & I still do it. Its even a regular occurrence that I am late for work, or work from home – the guilt then makes me work then longer, even over weekends.  
Im by no means an alcoholic, I can go weeks without touching a drop, but I so don’t want to end up with liver problems like my Dad had. He never had a problem he just drank 2 drinks everyday. Doctors said to him you always need 2 clear days to every 1 day drinking.   Im a classic binge drinker, I don’t drink at home usually, or very rarely at weekends. 
It stops here. 
 
So the week progresses – chats with the Doc, Pilates, training, & massages become my way to let off stresses & steam. 
 
I can feel me becoming me again, but the balance is right – good food, good wine, quality of life. 
Last night comes all too quickly & its the World cup final. The resort is half occupied with Germans so there is a strong support for them.  The rest of the guests are rooting for Argentina (tough decision) but we all know Germany are just too damn good at the moment.  I take my seat in amongst my Dortmund pals, & watch the tension build. They switch to drinking soft drinks – thats a revelation to me. So i join them, & have a thoroughly amazing evening with everyone there. I trot of to bed sober, calm & happy. 
 
So its time to come home. Its time for  a final chat with the Doctor.  Ive really enjoyed my daily chats with him. Sometimes you need a stranger to put you back on track, to speak the truth. One of my favourite quotes from him “Alison, there are 3 billion men in this world, why do you not have one?”  Point taken!! He gives me a 12 page letter to read when I get home.  His parting quote “Alison- I have loved spending time with you, now learn to love spending time with you because you are with you 24/7. 
The power of speech hey. 
 
Although I’m sad to leave, i will be back. This is my happy place. Im looking forward to coming home & seeing all of my wonderful friends. This weekend we have a family wedding, time to celebrate! 
 
On the plane I don’t have an alcoholic drink – I could, I just didn’t want one. Yay. 
 
As the week progresses my diet stays stable, I’m exercising daily, sleeping well & I’m so so happy. I’m back! I’ve missed me. I know some of you have to, and I cant wait to see you all!!! Now, wheres my sun lounger & pot of tea……….
 
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Lefay Resort & Spa, Lake Garda, Italy – Paradise found

Well, where do I begin? 

Lets start at arriving at Verona airport in Italy.  The bags arrived promptly within 20 minute of landing.  As I walk through to the arrivals lounge, my driver from the hotel is there waiting for me & I am driven from the airport to the hotel in complete comfort and luxury – this sets the tone for the whole trip from now until I come back to this airport in a weeks time.
 
As we pull up to the reception my heart leaps.  Wow.  Nothing can prepare you for what awaits you.  What an amazing view, but also what a warm welcome.  I am shown to the terrace for a welcome drink & refreshing cold towel while my luggage is taken to my room & I am personally greeted by the Resort Manager.
I have opted for a full board package, which is part of the resorts fitness program.  This combines light healthy food with a week of fitness combined with relaxation techniques, as well as a full assessment of my posture & my Energy levels.  I do lead a busy and stressful life with a high pressured job, and like a lot of us life has thrown up more than few challenges recently in my private life.  So, its time to recharge and recuperate.
 
After a beautiful light lunch of pasta with mint pesto over looking Lake Garda – which is breathtakingly beautiful, I am shown to my Prestige Junior Suite.  It is a light, immaculate and airy room, with a stunning view over the Lake.  There is a large bathroom with a walk in shower, large bath, separate WC & a huge dressing area which is separate to the rest of the room – very desirable!!  I can not fault the room, comfortable, spotless & relaxing – which sets the tone for the whole resort & week.
 
My first meeting is with the Spa team. It is explained to me what my weeks program will be, including fitness sessions, relaxation techniques & Spa Treatments.  We start with an assessment from the physiotherapist who immediately spots my tensions and stress.  Im then given an wonderfully relaxing massage to ease me into the evening.  I can’t fault anything so far, and I am treated to a wonderful dinner in the beautiful Limonia restaurant – again the view is breathtaking, who needs conversation!
 
Day two starts with an assessment from the Spa team Doctor. This program is based around the principals of Chinese medicine, which concentrate on the feeling of wellbeing through Diet, Exercise & Relaxation.
This meeting determines what I need to do this week, and which treatments I will get.  No surprises I need to relax and let go of all my stress.  That is why I am here, my fuel tank was well and truly empty.  So, we speak at length about why i am at this level, and what I need to do to keep stress at a minimum.  This leads to a consultation on nutrition which is extremely important to me as I am trying (and have been for years) to lose the final 4-5 kilos.  I have lost 7kg already, but Im stuck in a rut.  The Doctor talks me through some interesting points on diet, what will help me with the loss of those pesky final pounds without tripping myself up along the way. I am also given a tea recipe that will help me relax as well as a lot of food for thought.  Its the wake up call I need, & gives me the boost I need to get started.
 
The good thing about this program is it allows time to enjoy the resort at its finest.  The infinity pool is truly spectacular, words can not describe its beauty.  Combined with the stunning view of Lake Garda, & the immaculate grounds makes it a very happy place for me, I can feel the tension leaving my body every second I am here.  If you want a glass of wine – have one, if you want pasta – have it. Its all up to you, this is not bootcamp (thank goodness!)
 
As the days progress, I am taught new techniques – both in fitness & relaxation.  These include personal training sessions that push me, but not too far that I don’t enjoy them.  I also took part in my first Yoga & Pilates classes, which I thoroughly enjoy – why have I not done this before?  Well, I shall certainly keep doing these techniques when i get back to my normal life.  The penny finally drops – I must make time to relax to be more effective in everything I do, as right now my efficiency levels are not great, and now I understand why.
 
As the week goes on I fall into a routine of eating the most amazing healthy food, I do not feel deprived at all.  This is important to me as I love my food.  It is an important part of my life and I need to find a way to continue to enjoy my food whilst staying healthy.  Im 40 next year, and its become obvious that I need to improve my diet but I need to do it in a sustainable way – and this resort has shown me the way this is achievable.  Hallelujah!!
 
I am treated to new massage techniques – including Moxibution which is a practice of gently heating the Energy points in your back – and wow, what a revelation this is.  I came away feeling alive, and refreshed.  Another technique I am enlightened by is reflexology.  I am not one for people touching my feet, and I was more than a little nervous, but it was amazing.  I was tense to begin with but by the end of the session I am calm, and uplifted, and a little emotional at letting go of a lot of my tensions.  That evening is the best nights sleep I have had in years.
 
If you visit Lefay please make sure you take a guided walk through the gardens, truly stunning and inspiring.  It follows the same principles of Chinese Medicine & Theory, following the circle of Energy and Life.  Wether you believe it or not, it makes sense to me.  Im not an easily persuaded person in many things, a sceptic normally, but this makes a lot of things in life clear.
 
The week past in a flash, but I never felt rushed or tired.  Instead I felt re energised, calm and fulfilled.  The staff – and I mean every member of staff made me feel so welcome, but were not intrusive.  A hard balance to provide excellent service with not being over whelming.  I can’t thank the staff enough for making me feel like a VIP all week long, from morning to night.  That shouldn’t be under estimated, especially when travelling alone – never once did I feel uncomfortable.  
 
At the end of the week I am given a letter from the Doctor – who has taken the time to see me 4 times to help me get my brain ready for the outside world.  I really can’t thank him enough.  For the first time in as long as I can remember I feel like I have a plan that is achievable and more importantly makes sense.
 
After a final night meal, a beautiful glass or two of wine, and a perfects night sleep its time to leave and head back to the airport with the same special service from when I arrived.  I am not ashamed to say I shed a tear when leaving such a wonderful oasis.
 
So thank you Lefay.  Thank you for the recharge & giving me my confidence back.  Thank for for the great food, service, revitalising spa program, re energising fitness lessons, but most importantly thank you for sharing your wonderful world with me.  I can’t wait to come back soon……

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Italian Adventures Part 1 – A New me!!

Saturday, 2.14am. Drip. Drip. Drip. Is it raining? Did i leave the window open? No, its raining through the ceiling downstairs. Ffs. So 2 hours later & astonishingly only £80 the leaks fixed. May as well get up as I’m off holiday clothes shopping!

Yes, you heard me right, holiday. One of those things I’ve not been on for 3 and a half years. We all know why.
One of Dads last wishes was that i had an amazing holiday on him. Well, Dad, I think you would be delighted with my choice.
After much internet trawling, agency calling, brochure browsing (old school I know but I do like a picture!) i land on a gem. I didn’t want to travel for hours (i do enough of that for work) & I didn’t want to just lay around all week, so I picked a 7 night, pamper, revitalise, fitness & energise stay at Lefay resort which overlooks Lake Garda in Italy. A Country i had not yet visited. The travel Company were so helpful @healthyholidays thank you, especially Serena!I get the feeling this could be life changing…
Day 1-wow. People talk about scenic views that take their breath away. Well today my breath has my well and truly taken. I honestly cant remember in all my travels a more beautiful sight. Im checked in to the hotel am i am scheduled for 7 days of fitness, relaxation, spa treatments, posture & wellness experts to rebuild this exhausted & worn out body & mind. From the personal driver to the welcome party on arrival I can not be felt more at home, which is important when travelling alone as a girl.
The first step is an assessment with a physiotherapist. Bit of a surprise to be told to strip off (except a plastic thong!) but within minutes I am being poked and prodded to work out what they need to do. No surprises I guess, but after an hour I am told I am be given pure relaxation therapy. Mind, body & soul.  Why is it coming from a complete stranger I listen, & immediately feel the tension leaving my shoulders… a little.
 
Day 2- the science bit. I have my first meeting with the main man Dr  M.  When we say Doctor he is a doctor in Chinese medicine practices-not the dodgy high street herb mixing ones, but the proper stuff. This gentlemen is a professor, & can read me like a book.  Within 2 hours there is a plan. I like a plan. The only problem is the plan starts with me having to take a good hard look at myself mentally & physically.
Mentally first-how do I rate my life & value on a scale of 1-10. Score I gave was a 3. Why? Well, I don’t feel up to scratch. Im always trying to impress, make others happy, look and be the best I can. Looking for approval.  Do I enjoy that? Not really.
Doc then tells me a great quote that I will never forget. “If i gave you a magic wand you would make yourself thin, toned, beautiful. To be NORMAL. If a man told you after sex you were normal you would be devastated! You want to be UNIQUE be amazing. So why not in everything you do?”
After a long sob, a big hug from the Doc, i realise its time to take a deep breath, get a grip & live my life not just exist. Time to raise the score from a 3.
 
We start with a relaxation massage with heat applied to your Energy points – a practice called Moxibution.  I was nervous, as I am a bit scared of heat therapies, no idea why, but I was reassured it could be stopped at anytime. Well an hour later, I am converted. I am calm, relaxed & energised. Bizarre really, Im normally spaced after a massage but not this time. Maybe theres something in this stuff that people have practiced for centuries-you don’t see a stressed Chinese person often.. Well, sometimes!! So its off to the salt water lake and I’m left alone for half an hour with nothing but a sunset & my thoughts.
The Doc touched on a important subject to me-Diet & exercise. You all know I battle with my weight (bloody food gets in the way), & I try to keep fit. But why? To feel healthy? Id say thats 30%. The other 70% is my obsession with being a certain weight, being in proportion.
Then after a talking to by the Doc, the penny drops-it wont bloody well work for that reason. 20 years Ive been trying. the Doc smiles at me & says “Alison, you eat to live, take care of your body & the rest will follow”. He talks me through a diet for life, & it sounds good to me. It involves eating well and lots (yay!), loving what you consume & enjoying everything.  So a menu is drawn up. The results are deliciously astounding.
At dinner I ate the most delicious vegetables, fish, & a beautiful chocolate cake-yes cake. It tasted better than the real thing. Made from Cacao, i honestly couldn’t taste the difference. For once I felt full & happy, not bloated & guilty. I have the books at home for this diet from the wonderful @honestlyhealthy so there are no excuses.
So to the football. Germany v Brazil. Ive never seen anything like it, not only the football itself, but i am observing a room full of Germans remain extremely calm and soberish watching their team destroy the hopes and dreams of a footballing giant.  Not a cheer past a clap, no excessive boasting or celebrating).  Maybe theres something in that calmness stuff!
After a hilarious lesson on German swear words and me telling the Dortmund fans off for stealing Liverpool FCs football anthem, I get a lecture on what England need to do to improve (yes, really). Guess it was inevitable really!!
But then the good bit – I slept for 9 hours straight.
 
Day 3- time to exercise. I have a personal trainer today, who works me hard. But not to the extremes where I am sick. Thats what my old trainer did & it put me off. I know he meant well, but it was too much.  I felt like a failure every time i trained. Then I would just go and eat loads. A lot of money was spent for zero results.
Post the cardio and toning we then spend an hour stretching and breathing which is amazing. Ive never been one for the yoga world, but I love it! This is a Chinese version but really pushes my body into places it has not been before!! Amazeballs. After a relaxing massage & a swim, time for another fabulous feast & a cheeky glass of the best rose I have ever tasted. And I’ve tried a lot…
 
Day 4- today wasn’t meant to be tricky. It was meant to be a energetic  walk round the stunning gardens, a little massage & some reflexology with lots of pool time. All that happened, but with emotional penny dropping hard with bells on.
It started well enough with a walk round the gardens, all modelled on the principals of Chinese
Medicine elements-wood, fire, metal & water. A circle, as in life. Each one representing the stages of life. Which led to a long chat on life and death with my excellent guide. We talked about watching people die & actually how peaceful the final moments are. How calm the person passing is. Once you have watched someone take their final breaths it changes you forever-not in a bad way, it just gives you a different view on death. We are all terrified of dying of course we are, its something we can not control. Maybe its time to stop running away from it & accept it. I know I certainly have.
 
After my Post lunch swim its time for  reflexology. Now i am not a lover of foot treatments but blimey. Its not pleasant to start with, but thats only due to my tension & stress.  After a stern talking to from my therapist i knew he was right. Once i relaxed, it became a lovely experience. But it did then smack me in the stomach that most of my hang ups and stress levels are down to me & me alone. Yes, I have a busy life, pressured job, & Ive been to hell and back recently.   But only I can manage those pressures, stop being a victim & enjoy life.  Il need help from all my amazeballs friends & I am proud to say a few experts, but the rest is UP TO ME. My life, no one else’s.
So i apologise in advance if I say no to things. Or disagree with you. Or do things for ME. I don’t mean to offend, Im just being honest & straight.  I promise I will always try to do it with a smile!
 
So with my head spinning with thoughts and plans, it’s time to close several chapters & move on to the next new & exciting chapter – after a very very large Aperol Spritz & dinner…..

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Week 2-Hens, healthy, honesty & health.

Wow what a feeling. I woke up to natural sunlight, not the alarm… What a calming thing that is instead of being jolted awake by Tinie Tempahs song Frisky (although ‘would you risk it for a chocolate biscuit’ is the best lyric of all time).  Its amazing how quickly the hours go just pottering around, going for a run, having a leisurely breakfast & its 1pm already. Aaarrrgghhh I have a appointment at 1.30-& now I’m back to running around… I guess i need to balance this relaxing stuff with normal life!!

After a fab Friday night catching up with a great bunch of friends over a huge G&T, its time to pack and sleep before the event of the week- HEN WEEKEND TIME!! With the car loaded with tunes & two of my amazing friends its off to Bristol we go!

After a leisurely drive down its cocktail making time. The Hen was the star of the show, it seems she is a natural! Shaking away, pulling off party tricks for a shot train (yes you heard me correctly), the girl did us all proud-its great to have a man free giggle every now and then.  As the evening progressed the games continued-Mr & Mrs, guess the object (for adults only) & a game called never ever have I which was certainly an eye opener……

The evening progressed with more fun & games, with some fabulous dancing & strong drinking capabilities from the gang-my kind of night away!

After a nights sleep in concrete heaven lying next to Lenny Henry (a picture not the real one), its time for a large leisurely breakfast then the drive home. Thanks for the invite Hen, and thanks to all your friends for making it such fun!!

So its the start of my first week at home. Nothing in the diary. Zilch. Nada. No alarm clock, no timetable, no meetings or anything. My brain is beginning to relax very slowly, & its learning to love me again.

Despite that there are a few goals this week-watch a lot of tennis & world cup games, detox for 3 days on a juice only cleanse, join the local gym, change the broken lightbulbs, tidy the garden….. Phew!

The Detox starts well-6 bottles of juice a day. All delicious. So off I trot to the best hairdresser in West London to make me feel good-as always. The result is a very blonde & short cut this time strangely at my request. My hairdresser couldn’t believe it either when i said “cut it shorter, up to you”. I am such a control freak normally!!

Im learning slowly that a lot of my attitude is down to having to be in control. The irony is that makes me not in control! I guess because Ive been knocked down a few times, but the main factor is being an only child, your defences kick in a lot quicker-you are just used to doing things yourself, being in your own company, amusing yourself. When it goes wrong you take it on the chin & move on. So being a single female &  also an only child is a double defence delight!!

Maybe thats one of the reasons I haven’t settled down. I have some great male friends, who always look out for me & some close ones – but I always just accept any situation, good or bad, & walk away not wanting to confront anyone. I let it bug me for ages. I don’t like confrontation until its too late, then I just take the blame, apologise & get on with it. Very English as i am told…That has to stop.

Guess Ive just not yet met the one who will tell me not to worry, give me a big hug & take the stress away whilst making me feel Like a princess.  One day.

Day 2 of the detox & the headaches kick in, with the sore throat & aching. Here we go, you slow down & the germs invade…

I push on and go to join a new gym. Its amazeballs. I get a nutritionist, trainer, physio & access to any other specialist I need. Im a great believer in calling in the experts every once in a while-we do it in our homes so why not in our lives??

A few years ago I had CBT-Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I wish everyone would do it! It gives you the skills to deal with stress, anxiety (I was having horrible anxiety attacks which were crippling me) and negativity. The brain is 70% negative as it is your bodies protector, so it over analise every thought-especially in females! I could never have got through the last 3 years without it, and im not ashamed to say I did it-best training I ever did.

Day 3 of detox done, gym done, playing with a 1 year old for a few hours done, so its off to bed. I sleep for 10 uninterrupted hours-bliss and the first one in a long long time.

So now its back to food-still healthy and being delivered so I don’t stray. The big weigh in. 5lbs off since last week Wooohoooo.  So chuffed. Im feeling good, still a long way to go.

This week I got some sad news. Another special person lost to cancer too early. My heart goes out to you all, its the worst time. But all I can say is let it out-scream, shout, cry, laugh, but most of all remember they aren’t suffering anymore. Find a picture of them smiling and happy-look at it every day & smile back. Thats what they would want.  Lots of tears today, i’m even sobbing watching Dolly at Glastonbury!! She was awesome btw! Guess its just time to let it all out, now where are my sunglasses……

MOT time-all my vital statistics taken. My body fat is 24%- 3 years ago it was 31%. Awful.  My hips are too large I KNOW THAT! So a long way to go for the magic 20% body fat & correct waist to hip ratio but ive never felt more determined. The bad news is i have high cholesterol, so I have to cut out cheese. NO CHEESE. Surely thats against the law…..Wish me luck!!

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Its time to get ready for the holibobs of a lifetime. Im off to a 5 star spa hotel in Italy to be revived, restored and recharged. Cant wait to tell you all about it.

I may come back a very different person, & who knows who I will meet. Its where George Clooney has a home so you never know….

Speak to you all in a fortnight!!