Throughout January, I often found myself wanting to SCREAM as I heard endless friends chatting about Slim Fast shake diets, or crazy juice detoxes. I watched woman after woman placing Weight Watchers ready meals in their shopping trolleys, and then listened as they moaned about their 'jelly bellies' or wobbly bits to checkout assistants.
It makes me sad to hear women picking apart their bodies, criticising them for not being slim enough, toned enough, tall enough, or anything enough. It seems we're just not happy with what we've got.
But you know what? I want to call an end to it. I want an amnesty to all this craziness - and I want us women to learn to love our bodies, once and for all.
I'm saying this to each and every woman reading this post right now - your body is amazing. And I mean AMAZING. Really, and truly amazing. It's time to stop fighting what you were given and to start loving it instead.
To do that properly, I'm going to teach you how to get healthy, the easy way. I may not be an expert, but I'm passionate about food, nutrition and health - and I know all about the horrific learning curve that can be learning to love your body.
So, here is it. My top tips on How to LOVE Your Body And Stay Healthy - The Easy Way. What are yours?
LOVE YOUR BODY - YES, YOURS
We're told to "love the skin we're in," yet how many of you are guilty of ignoring that? In fact, I bet every single one of you has stood looking in the mirror, loathing the body you've been given, at some point in your lives.
Well, ladies, whatever your body type or body shape, learn to love it - your body is good enough, just as it is. In fact, take a moment to stop and think about it. Every day, your body keeps you alive. Your heart keeps beating so that it can send blood coursing through your veins, it feeds your brain, it keeps you moving. It lets you speak, eat and think.
Not only that, but our body helps us to create life. It lets you run, laugh until your stomach hurts, dance until your legs give way and walk until your head is clear. And, really, how amazing is that?
I challenge you to spend this week loving exactly what you've been given. I know for a fact that most athletic types have spent their lives craving more voluptuous boobs, or a bigger booty. And all you curvy ladies, I know that at some point you've longed for a slimmer tummy, or more toned thighs.
But why want what you haven't got? Embrace what you do have and learn to love it! Accepting and loving your body starts and ends with you. Your body is a living, breathing, wonderful thing, and it's there to be enjoyed.
STEER CLEAR OF SCALES
I am always, always being asked how much I weigh (why, I haven't the foggiest) and each time, I answer the same way: "I don't know". In fact, I don't even care. I don't own a set of scales, and I never will - they simply aren't a good indicator of health or fitness. Don't believe me? Well, take a look at this:
Madness, huh? Instead of obsessing about your weight, live by how you feel. If you feel healthy and gorgeous, then who cares what the scales or anyone else says? Besides, everyone's weight fluctuates - do you really want to put a dampener on your day because you happen to weigh 1lb more than you did yesterday? I know I don't.
DITCH THE DIETS
Honestly, I'm tired of hearing of the latest diets, the latest fads. As someone who spent years of her life bouncing from diet to diet, looking for miracles, I'm going to be honest with you - diets don't work.
There, I said it. They do NOT work.
Ladies, join me in ditching the diets and, instead, embrace good, honest foods. I don't care whether you're a fan of juicing two days a week or the 5:2, the Atkins, Slim Fast, Weight Watchers way of life - diets simply are not sustainable. If you want to be healthier or you want to lose weight, then instead change your lifestyle. Make it for the long-haul, and choose good, honest foods instead.
In the same way, quit obsessing over calories. I mean, 200 calories of biscuits aren't exactly equal to a 200 calorie fillet of salmon. I never ever count calories, and only ever focus on the nutrients my body is getting.
YOU CAN DO IT
OK, so perhaps you're never going to be a Victoria's Secret model, but stay realistic and you can get the body of your dreams. Don't listen to anyone who tells you it's not possible, or you can't - the only person setting your goals is you.
LET GO OF NEGATIVITY
I'm sure I speak for us all when I say that every one of us has a 'friend' who likes to get a wee bit competitive and make us feel pretty low about ourselves. You know, the ones you never laugh around, who soak up all your energy and leave you feeling foggy, tired and downright miserable. There are also the friends who refuse to accept the life choices we make, no matter how good those choices make us feel.
To really learn to love your body (and yourself), you need to sweep aside the negative influences and learn to say "no". Respect both you and your body by ridding yourself of any draining people in your life - once your mind is happier, your body will be too. And then - and only then - can you focus on loving the skin you're in.
RUN FROM READY MEALS
I often have to restrain myself from racing over to people in the supermarkets (usually bedecked in full gym clothing) who are loading ready meals into their shopping trolleys. Yes, they may be labelled "low-fat" or "low-calorie", but they're NO GOOD for you.
You need to axe processed foods (which are packed full of sugar, salt and other body-hating additives) and, instead, treat yourself to good, honest, home cooked meals. If you haven't got time (although, truthfully, everyone can if they put their minds to it) then opt for whole foods, and embrace what nature gave us - it's delicious! Trust me when I say that you're not going to get fat if you eat unprocessed, simple foods.
FORGET LOW-FAT - AND LOSE THE SUGAR
For years, I was guilty of this one. Desperate to shape up for my wedding, I ploughed myself into that all-too common 'advice' of eating less fat. For breakfast, I'd wolf down my bowl of Special K, and then throughout the rest of the day I'd eat smoothies, low-fat yoghurts, cereal bars and dried fruits by the handful. If it was low-fat, I'd eat it.
Of course, I often wondered why that stubborn layer of fat around my hips simply wouldn't shift, but I never stopped to question it. Until I learned all about sugar and how the low-fat foods promising to be good for you are laden with it, I had no idea...
Anyway, trust me when I say that most low-fat foods (yep, that's including your beloved Special K - more sugar per bowl than a Krispy Kreme doughnut, FYI - and all your low-fat yoghurts) are loaded with sugar. And this, far more than fat, will cause you to pile on the pounds.
Now, instead of eating low-fat foods, I LOVE fat. I LOVE it! (We're talking about the healthy fats, obviously) Not only does it make food taste great, but it also gives you clear, glowing skin, shiny hair and a great body. Stop fretting about the fat in avocados or nuts or healthy oils - just eat!
FIND AN EXERCISE YOU LOVE
I bet that when you were a kid, you used to ride on your bike all day long, sun hot on your shoulders and wind whipping through your hair. I also bet that you didn't hate it. In fact, I bet you loved it - and you never wanted to go home.
Now we're adults and, all too often, exercise can seem like a chore. But from dancing and swimming to Pilates, running, skipping, boxing and cycling, I promise there's an exercise for everyone to enjoy. Find that one activity you love and embrace it, then try and stay active every day. It really does work wonders.
All too often, I see women screw their noses up in distaste at the idea of lifting weights. "But won't I get bulky? Look like a weight lifter?" they say. The honest answer to this is NO. Lifting weights won't make you bulky or look like a man. I mean, how many men would love a body building physique, yet never ever ever get one? It's not that simple.
Instead, weight training will boost your metabolism, forcing you to burn fuel even when you're not moving. Plus, it's proven to help strengthen your bones, heart and lungs AND fight stress levels.
With a 17-month-old son and a job to juggle, I don't have the time to get to the gym. But I DO still lift - I just steal my hubby's weights (yup, I lift the same as he does) and get on with it. Which leads me on to my next point...
This is the number one problem I see. All too often, people frown and say, "but I don't have the time" or "I don't have the money". If this is your attitude to life, then what chance do you have of being the healthiest, best version of you?
When you make excuses, the only person you're hurting is yourself. Where's the harm in getting up five minutes earlier to enjoy a healthy breakfast? And who honestly can't give up half an hour of their day to exercise? Besides which, staying healthy and loving life should be a priority.
LAUGH. EVERY DAY.
I don't care how you get your kicks, but make sure you laugh, every single day. And I don't just mean a quiet titter, or a little giggle. Nope, I mean a deep, belly aching, side-splitting laugh. You know, the kind of laugh which makes your sides ache and your whole face want to fall off. Why? A happy body is a healthy body - and looking after our minds is just as important as looking after our limbs.
FIND THE ONE THING YOU LOVE ABOUT YOURSELF
OK, so you may not be your biggest fan. But if you're not going to be, who is? While I'm not suggesting you start bragging about your killer abs, or your pert bum and perky boobs, I AM saying that everyone should find something they love about themselves, and zero in on it. Next time you're standing in front of that mirror and feeling critical, remember that one special thing and smile.