What’s in a name?

I have always had a slight obsession with names. As a young child, I was intrigued as to why my siblings had strong, simple names (Deborah and Kerry), yet I was burdened with a French name that bore no connection to my Irish heritage.

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When I asked my parents, the answer was inconclusive:

“It was just a name that was popular around the time you were born,” they said, which appeased me until much later, when I was making the big decision of naming my own children.

I needed to respect the fact that my husband had to have choice as well. We were blessed that we were able to find out if we were having a boy or a girl, so we were able to narrow the names down.

Due to my unusual Christian name, I favoured simple and classic names, such as James, Ryan, William, Richard. But my somewhat “modern” husband preferred names that were, well, modern; different, but not too unusual. So when my eldest son began his transition in to the world, I was doubled over in pain with the television projecting the cricketers name “Matthew Hayden”, knowing that this man was sharing his surname with my son’s first name. There was no other connection with his name apart from this. Gavin liked it, I thought it was OK, and I made Gavin promise that the next child would have my choice of name (within reason).

When choosing Hayden’s middle names however, more thought went into this. I wanted to honour both of their grandfathers, so Hayden’s official birth certificate name says Alan, and his baptismal name is Michael, which was not only Gavin’s father’s name, but I also chose this name because I had always referred to Hayden has my “angel”, so it was very fitting

We followed a very similar decision-making process with our youngest son. I decided on his Christian name with the decision based purely on the fact I had read an article of a rock star who had named his son that, and I loved it. The bonus was that it was Irish, and that it was unusual enough to keep Gavin happy. It ticked all the boxes. His middle name honoured Gavin’s father on the birth certificate, and as Donovan had a due date which was the Feast Day of St Nicholas (and that he was my early Christmas present), we decided on his baptismal name of Nicholas.

Despite our perhaps sloppy decisions on the first names of our sons, we did dig deep into our core values when it came giving them their other names. It was important to me that both maternal and paternal grandparents were incorporated (we would have done the same with female names had we had girls), and my religious background had to bring in the reasoning behind their baptismal names. When it comes to their Confirmation names (should they wish to take this path), that will be down to them, as it was to me when I took mine.

The important point here is that any important decisions we make in life, we draw upon our core values to help make that decision. For example, Gavin and I have very healthy, good, and longstanding relationships with our fathers. They are active in our lives, and I hope they continue to be so, for a very long time. We have named our sons after them from a place of love and loyalty. Had we not had any kind of relationship with our fathers, the names we chose could have been very different, and we could have adapted our mothers’ names, or honoured good friends.

So let’s move on to the decision of changing jobs, or moving house. We don’t make these decisions lightly either. We don’t just decide to move house or walk out on a job. This normally involves a long process where we analyse the reasons why we want to do it, and see if it is worth moving on. For example, we decided to move into our house as we knew we would be starting a family, we wanted to be in a family community with good local schools and a short commute from our jobs. The house ticked the boxes, and we are here now. Should any of that change with time, we would look to move again. And the decision would have to be made again through that process. Do we need less room now? Are we able to still travel to work? Are we still near family and friends? All these things are important to us.

And this moves me on to the reason I ask my new clients *why* they want to lose weight and get healthy. I want them to look beyond just getting “skinny”, or fitting into a certain size, or having their body “bikini ready”. I appreciate that these things are important to people, but I want to delve deeper. It can normally take a life-changing situation to really make people aware they need to make the changes. A health-related death in the family for example, a particularly horrible photo they have been tagged in on Facebook, a sombre chat with the doctor during their check-up, laying out all the risks they will have should they continue on this path, a comment from a friend of family member voicing their concern, upping of medication they never thought they would be on. These are all reasons why people end up contacting me, once we delve beyond aesthetics.

Have a think about the most important decisions you have made in life, and what thought processes you have gone through to get there.

As always, I welcome your comments!

What if they don’t understand?

At the end of May, I was four rows back at my church, ready to witness my 8-year-old receive his 1st Holy Communion.

This was after months of preparation, commitment, and of course, sacrifice for all involved in this sacrament. And there was a mixture of excitement and nerves.

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As I sat there, waiting for the service to start, there was also an element of apprehension about me. You see, my family are divided when it comes to faith. Not in a massive way – we are still talking to each other and there are no hard feelings – but my side of the family are Irish Roman Catholics. We are all “cradle” Catholics, and are familiar with the ceremonies, the sacraments, the prayers, the responses, and the importance of Communion. My husband’s family are not so so familiar. Most of them (not all) have been baptised by the Church of England. Most only attend church for a wedding, christening, or funeral, and for this reason are not overly familiar with the ways of the Catholic faith. And they were all sat in the church with me, waiting for the Mass to start.

Thoughts were rushing through my head:

“Will they be bored?”

“Will they judge?”

“What will they think when I kneel?”

“Are they going to understand what the Priest is talking about?”

“Will they talk during times when the silence is required?”

And a million other fears and concerns.

My family are amazing people. And even when I read those thoughts back that I have committed to paper, I find it amusing that I am relating them to my family. But I did at that time. Of course, nerves had a huge part to play, but in the end, they were as I would have expected – dutiful, compliant, respectful, and, most of all, supportive of my family and my son, who was going through perhaps one of the biggest days of his childhood.

In fact, at the reception after, many of them told me how much they had enjoyed it. They asked questions about the Mass and made a super fuss of Donovan on his special day. I couldn’t have been prouder of my son, my family, and also my extended family for making the day so special for us.

But it did make me think how different it could have been had my family not been as supportive as they were. What if they caused problems by refusing to come to the church because of conflicting beliefs? What if they had caused a scene and tried to stop it from happening? What if the Priest had to send them out of the church? These may seem like extreme examples, but I have heard of such things happening when it comes to faith.

I see this all the time as well when it comes to the support my clients receive from friends and family about their new eating habits. They will find themselves out to dinner and making a good choice, only to be scuppered by a “well-meaning” friend or family member asking why they can’t “treat” themselves now and to “live a little”. Or the husband who, despite knowing that his wife wants to make the good choices and lose the weight that will make her happier, insists on bringing a Chinese home and convincing her to to have “just a bit”.

I call these situations barriers. And we shouldn’t really have to put up with this from people who are close to us. Yet we do. I did a complete blog post recently to my group about what to say when people try to sabotage your efforts. It was one of my most popular blogs and it was a shame as that struggle IS real.

When it comes to belief, be it religious, moralistic, or health, it is important to be as supportive as you can. We are all different and we all have things we believe in more than most. So if you are tempted to pass comment, go out of your way to make it difficult for something, or just to outright stop them, please think first and remember how it feels to be on the receiving end.

What Does It Mean To You?

I was speaking to a friend recently about a course she went on. This course was training in Dowsing Rods – which I have zero understanding of.

I asked her to explain what the course was about and what she hoped to gain from it. And there stemmed a very spiritual conversation between two people with very different beliefs – and I loved it.

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You see, I am quite sceptical about the whole healing process when it comes to cleansing energy, the power of crystals, and anything that doesn’t involve physical evidence, so people are very surprised when I talk about my faith and the power and strength that I get from God. I am a walking contradiction in that respect. I know that.

My friend went on to tell me that the course had people from “all walks of life”. Young, old, spiritual, Catholic, Islamic, and even a Scientologist. They were all brought together to experience this ancient practice and learn more about it. They all shared the same belief in the power, and it meant different things to each of them.

So lets bring this back to Catholicism and what it means to us. There are three things that I LOVE about being a Catholic:

  1.  The sense of community and belonging
  2.  Somewhere to go for help (in more ways than one)
  3.  The continuous education (yes even a cradle Catholic like me, I still learn every day)

There are of course more things I love, but they are the ones that are most important to me, and they have been listed in order of importance.

In light of recent events in Manchester, I have seen many posts about requesting prayers, offering prayers, and also questioning why ANY God would allow something like this to happen in the first place. They are all valid.

We have all experienced things that have prompted us to ask God for help. These could be throw away comments, such as “Thank God they are OK”, or “God help them”, or “I pray that things work out for them”. Even in desperate times when we are looking for help we plead with God to help us. But what we EXPECT from God can be very different.

I had quite a difficult time at work recently, and whilst waiting for a client in the gym I Googled “prayers for strength”. I found some suitable ones and found a quiet spot to offer these up. I will share the one that stood out for me here:

Lord, you are Holy above all others, and all of the strength that I need is in your hands.

I am not asking, Lord, that you take this trial away. Instead, I simply ask that Your will be done in my life. Whatever that means, that is what I want.

But I admit that it’s hard, Lord.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t go on. The pain and the fear are too much for me, and I know that I don’t have the strength on my own to get through this.

I know that I can come to you, Jesus, and that you will hear my prayer. I know that it is not your intent to bring me to this point just to leave me in the wilderness alone.

Please, Lord, give me the strength that I need to face today. Don’t have to worry about tomorrow.

If you just give me the strength that I need today that is all I need.

Keep me from sinning during this trial. Instead, help me to keep my eyes on you. You are the Holy Lord, and all of my hope rests in you.

Thank you for hearing my prayer.

The reason this resonated so much with me is this: I have never expected God to help me by changing things, by changing people, or helping fate along. All I have asked him to do is to guide me and give me the strength to deal with whatever is thrown at me. After muttering this prayer a couple of times I slept well that night knowing that despite the troubled day ahead, the next day would be OK. That I had been filled with the strength and the guidance to know what to do. I was fine, of course. I knew I would be.

So I was telling my friend about this and she said that it was wonderful. That she also pulled upon the strength of healing and other ways (I know next to nothing about these by the way which is why I remain vague) to help her during testing times. So we both drew upon the strength of the power we trusted to help guide us, NOT change things.

And with everything else, we can apply this to the mindset of health and fitness. I will often have people coming to me in the hope that I will “transform” them. Which I can do, but only as much as they are willing to help themselves of course. A client asked a few days ago, what she would need to do to get MAXIMUM results. I told her to simply “LISTEN” (to me…).

You see often people come to me and by giving me money, they think they have found the answer. What is quite alien to some is that they don’t put the work in and still expect to get results. Look at the success of gyms and slimming groups up and down the country. If I had a £1 for every time someone had said to me they have a gym membership (and have had since January) that they never use, I would be very rich.

So you need to get out of these things what you put in. For me, I pray but realise that praying alone won’t help – I still need to go through and work out (with renewed strength) what needs doing.

Much like I tell people that exercise alone won’t help. You need to keep an eye on your food, sleep, and general activity – ALL the time.

What do you think?

Do you understand?

This weekend, my family celebrates my youngest son’s 1st Holy Communion.

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Parents in the Catholic faith will fully appreciate the level of commitment that the children – and the parents! – need to go through for 8 months prior to this occasion. 8 months of the child going to Saturday school, on top of a heavy school week; 8 months of additional learning and spiritual guidance; 8 months of the parents (me) attending evening meetings for reminders on how to guide our children in the Catholic faith; 8 months of attending Saturday or Sunday Mass EVERY week (good job I do this already!).

All this, and I am still not 100% sure that my son or his friends in the group understand exactly what is going on. After all, I didn’t at that age. It was something that we knew we had to do. I do remember feeling very grown up at the Sunday Masses that followed my 1st Holy Communion, as it meant that I could now receive Communion rather than getting a blessing from the priest. But the reason why I was now able to take the Body and Blood of Christ? I was clueless.

Here are the things that I learned from the process at the age of 8:

  • I had to make sure that I stuck my tongue out fully so that the priest could put the bread on my tongue.
  • I had to say “Amen” loudly after the priest offered me the Body of Christ – if I didn’t, he would refuse to give me Communion.
  • I had to bless myself after taking the bread.
  • I was told to put the bread to the roof of my mouth and work it down slowly with my tongue.
  • When I got back to the pew, I was to kneel and say a prayer of thanks, before sitting up and waiting patiently for the rest of the congregation to finish.

What I didn’t know (or remember learning) was the REASON we did all this. That came at a later stage.

Has history repeated itself with my children? My 10 year old is a couple of years down the line, but aside from knowing his prayers, he seldom talks about the power of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. My 8 year old, who is about to receive, just talks about how nervous he is, as he doesn’t know what to expect.

Let’s theorise for a moment. We have person A, Leanne, and person B, Maria. Leanne has around 12kg to lose in weight. She attends her local slimming club and takes direction from the “leader”. She follows the process, attends the weekly meetings, and gets results.  But does Leanne really understand HOW she is losing weight? Maria has the same amount to lose, but decides to work with a personal trainer and nutrition coach. This coach does not work in a prescriptive way and wants to teach Maria how she can lose the weight – and keep it off for the rest of her life. But Maria has to learn. She has to attend each session, read the emails that are sent, and do her homework. She loses weight, but now understands WHY and HOW her body reacts to certain things.

Who do you think will keep the weight off for longer (maybe even for life)?

Maria will have a stronger chance for sure. She has an understanding and an education, whereas Leanne has just been told what to do. So when she STOPS being told what to do, there is a likelihood that the weight will go back on.

Now, back to the 1st Holy Communion. The children are going through the programme and being told what to do, and have been for the past 8 months. How many of them do you think will willingly come to Mass each Sunday, attend an extra class on a Saturday, and ask their parents for spiritual guidance, without the “rules” that we as parents and Catechists have put into place? Not very many, I bet (if any at all).

I am perhaps guilty of not educating and supporting my children enough beyond taking them to Mass and to their classes, leaving it to the “professional” Catholics to work their magic. But how can I expect this new generation of Catholics to continue on with their faith, and teach it to their children and grandchildren, without the understanding that I have today?

It’s much like how I never expect my clients to stay with me forever. I expect them to listen, learn, and apply. If they do that, they get results, and the knowledge to be able to sustain this way of life – for good.

I welcome your thoughts on this subject!

Do You Trust Me?

When preparing to teach children’s Liturgy, I try to keep one step ahead of myself so that I can prepare the lesson to make it as “child friendly” as possible. I always like to make the half hour they are in my care fun, interactive, and – hopefully! – wanting them to come back.

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This is pretty hard when teaching the word of the Lord, as I am sure most Priests will tell you when they are preparing their homilies, so it was with a sigh that I found myself researching and thinking of ways to teach children about trust.

Psalm 56:3

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

A BIG subject for children, and it can take on different meanings depending on your situation.

So let’s start on the current subject, children’s Liturgy. Currently we only teach school years 2, 3, and 4, so we need to be able to relay the Liturgy in a way that is understood by them all – like I said, a tough job.

Before they walked in, did they trust their parents’ judgement that they would be safe in our care at children’s Liturgy? Of course, we get the children who are very young and it is their first time – we have to sit with them, or, worst case, we have to walk them back out to the church to find their parent(s). But, for the most part, they TRUST their parent to let them come and see us, and once they are in the hall, that trust is transferred to the Liturgists. And for that half hour they are with us, they have trust in what we say, how we act, and what we tell them to do.

Children trust everyone.

For the most part, that is not a fault. In fact, a lot of adults could take a lesson on trust from children. From their parents, the Liturgists, their teachers, their siblings, their friends, their friend’s parents, their swimming instructor. When you think about it, wherever a child is led, they trust whoever their leader is.

Now, let’s think about how we react to trust when we are adults. We have to trust the car we drive to get us to our destination, we have to trust the school we send our kids to that they are teaching them correct and are keeping our children safe. We have to trust our judgement on our work decisions and also if what we are doing for the family is right. We have to trust our family, our friends, and our faith.

Because without trust, we get stuck. We can do nothing, because all we can rely upon is ourselves.

So we don’t trust the car, what is the alternative? We walk.

So we don’t trust the school, what’s the alternate? We home-school our children.

So we don’t trust our judgement? We let someone else decide…

… So we still need to trust?

It’s a tricky one.

I had a particular difficult time at work this week. One which left me feeling inadequate, not trusting in my own judgement, and scared that this would get me into trouble. Who did I trust to share this with? My husband (to a point)?

It was God.

I actually Googled “prayers for strength and clarity”, and sat in my car before the gym and prayed quietly to myself, which was strange for me as I normally feel I need to be in a church environment to be able to pray effectively. A load had been lifted, and I felt that, by putting my trust in God, I had left it to Him to give me the strength to deal with the situation, however it panned out.

When I work with clients, they put 100% trust in me.

Prior to working with me. they had to set foot in a gym and have trust in themselves that they know what to do. They had to have trust in the gym instructor that they have told them how to work the equipment right. And trust in their own knowledge that THIS is the best way to lose weight.

Except, sometimes it doesn’t work. Their trust in themselves goes right down, and they look for someone else to trust.

Me… Such pressure!

So I have to be confident that I can trust myself with that responsibility.

That I trust my knowledge of the gym environment to teach correctly.

That I trust my knowledge of nutrition that I can give the correct advice.

That I trust my judgement on the clients exhaustion scale to know when to step in.

That I trust the gym equipment that they can workout effectively.

I could go on. But I trust you get my point?

Have you had issues with being trusted or trusting others? Leave me your comments below.

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

This is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt. I seem to be quoting it quite a lot recently.

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You may have seen similar memes, such as:

“Don’t compare yourself with anyone else in this world, if you do you are insulting yourself”

“Don’t compare yourself to others…that’s a battle you can never win”

“Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to other people”

“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle”

Now the latest prompt for me to quote this was a question I had from a client. As with a lot of my clients in the private group that I host, the client themselves become friends and confidants, and will for the most part keep themselves accountable and motivated. Which is exactly what I want to happen – when women do this, I get the best out of them. But in the most recent case, it seemed to have a negative effect.

“Why am I not losing as much weight as <name>? I eat less and our diets do not differ much, I’m confused!”

Valid question.

We are part of a world where things are better explained when they are black and white. And when I think about this in religious terms, we can often think that praying to God means that he will answer our prayers. When I ask my children to pray, they will ask God for an Xbox game, or 10 out of 10 on their next spelling test, or that Luton Town will win their next match. And if what they have prayed for doesn’t happen, they ask questions, and are sometimes left with an attitude close to “what’s the point?”. And I get that. What they don’t get that their prayers do get answered, but in a way they don’t expect. Such as being asked to earn the money for their Xbox game, meaning God intends for them to learn a lesson that you get what you work for. The same would stand for the spelling test. They would perhaps get 7 out of 10, meaning they had to learn by their mistakes to get the 10 out of 10 mark they prayed for EVENTUALLY.

So lets look at the black and white of the weight loss industry. We are told, that in order to lose weight, we need to EAT LESS AND MOVE MORE. Simple. So scientifically, by doing the maths, someone who normally has 2500 calories a day and doesn’t exercise, should lose weight by eating 2000 calories and walking half an hour each day.

SHOULD.

And it could be that this is the perfect formula for one person. If they continue to do this, and reduce their calories and increase their exercise, the weight loss should be steady.

SHOULD

But things are never that simple. That could of course work for one person. That person could have 3 stone to lose, have a very inactive lifestyle to start with, and any negative change in calories and positive change in exercise will have the right impact. But what happens when another person has 10lbs to lose, is active anyway to a point, and has an autoimmune disease. What if that person has an intolerance to certain foods and has suffered from an eating disorder in the past, meaning their metabolism is affected. Extreme, I know, but they walk among us, and when it comes to getting ANY weight loss from someone who is suffering a high amount of stress from all areas of their life, it is very hard.

So what happens if the person who loses weight from the black and white method, compares their weight loss to the person who is suffering from all of the above?

They get very different results.

And this is just TWO people that I am comparing. We live in a world full of billions of people, half of which are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #bodyimage and #abs as their hashtags. And it is these people that we tend to compare ourselves to. And this is wrong.

I want to refer you to another meme that I posted to my group yesterday:

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Look at yourself. Take a good look and ask yourself what you want to do, where you want to be, and why.  Because, I bet if you ask the person standing next to you, the answer will be very different. In the same way that when you are kneeling next to that person in Church this Sunday, your prayers will be very different – and answered in different ways.

Does exercise have the power to heal?

This weekend in my Parish it is “healing” weekend, and there have been signs up at the church inviting all to attend the open day (for more details please contact me here).

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This is going to be a busy time for the church as volunteers are needed to listen, make tea, cook the dinners, clear up, and even offer accommodation. This will fill us all with a tremendous sense of community that I am proud to be a part of.

But what does it mean to be healed?

Many people will have the first vision in their heads of an outspoken minister, speaking to a young person in a wheelchair, apply some “laying of the hands” and mutter a blessing, and the wheelchair-bound person then stands up, unsteady at first, then launches in a sprightly dance, much to the congregations delight and cheers.

Or perhaps you have a vision of Jesus, making a blind man see (click here for my take on this story), which we heard in the gospel earlier in the year.

But it is important to remember that healing doesn’t just come in physical form.

If you had watched the London Marathon last month (did I tell you I have entered for 2018? Eek!), you would have seen lots of banners and paraphernalia bearing the brand “Heads Together”, which raises awareness for mental illness. When I was growing up, depression was something that we knew nothing about. Often people were told to “pull yourself together”, or we heard whispers that Mr Jones across the street was in the midst of a “nervous breakdown”, and we were told to steer clear.

Fast forward 20-30 years and the conversation surrounding mental illness has really turned around. People are now sitting up and taking notice of what it is all about. You just have to look at the increased diagnoses of conditions such as ADHD (not just in children), anxiety, Autism spectrum disorder, eating disorders, mood disorders… to name a few. The list goes on. And these are all conditions that we speak about when we refer to healing – healing of the mind, the body and the spirit, and, where the church is concerned, this is done with the power of faith. Not in a miracle-type way (although these are always welcomed!), but due to belief and mindset.

Which is something that I have to work on EVERY DAY with the people that I work with.

I quote a lady that I work with:

“I know I have seen the physical changes that working with you has brought, but I cannot tell you the improvements that working out has done to my mind.”

She then went on to tell how she could see “addiction” tendencies when it comes to exercise (there is a science to this of course), and how she has to work on her mindset to get herself out and into the gym (or out for a run/walk/swim etc), but once there, she feels amazing. Not just physically, but mentally too. Like she can accomplish anything.

So whilst healing can be done via your faith, and the kind words of the people around you, think of what the power of exercise can do also – just ask all those marathon runners a few weekends ago.

Have you been mentally “healed” by exercise?

– Colette