The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – My annual reminder – Before you Indulge..think Milk Thistle

For some of you it is Thanksgiving this week which is a wonderful opportunity to meet with family and friends and of course over indulge. This celebration kicks off the festive season and from the first week in December there will be Christmas parties at every opportunity and good intentions fly out the window as the sausages on sticks and mince pies are handed around.

Do not get me wrong… I am with you 100% and Christmas is one of my favourite times of year when chocolate coins and almond paste are on the top of my to do list! However, there are two major organs in the body that find this month of the year extremely confusing and upsetting. Our brain and our liver.

The brain turns into a pinball machine with all its pleasure and reward centres being pinged off regularly as we hand around the treats and sit down to laden tables. For the rest of the year most of us are moderate eaters with just the occasional blip, but at Christmas the restraints are off and our eyes and taste buds are in charge of proceedings.

This results in some pretty dramatic chemical changes in our brain that has a knock on effect on the glands of the body. The immune system is impacted which is why it is so easy to pick up a cold or the flu as we mingle with family and friends. As the sugar floods our bloodstream our blood sugar levels play havoc with our kidneys and our energy levels.

mince pies

The liver is in no position to help us out. Normally it happily removes toxins and waste from the body and releases stores that help with digestion and protect us. For the next few weeks it will be working overtime and it will not be able to do its job causing a build up of toxins in the cells of the body. This is not helped by all the antacids and over the counter painkillers that are knocked back in December and early January.

That is the bad news. The good news is that there are ways to support the body and the liver through the festive season. The first strategy is to use your usual common sense and know when you have had enough!! The second is to make sure that you drink plenty of water throughout the day to flush out toxins. The third is to eat light, fresh meals on the days that you are not indulging in heavy celebrations so that you give your body and major organs a break. Finally you can take a herbal remedy in the form of Milk Thistle to help support your liver as it works overtime in December.

As with in any complementary medicine, it is important not to assume that it is either safe to use or that it will cure your condition. In the case of herbal therapy there is a great deal of written and oral evidence, over centuries in some instances, that it is an effective and safe way to support the body and when appropriate can be used in conjunction with conventional medicine. In the case of milk thistle, trials have indicated that even at high doses there is little known toxicity.

Thistles are part of the daisy family, found mainly in Europe, Asia and Australia, especially dry and sunny areas. It can grew very quickly to over 10 feet and produces a milky white sap when the distinctive green and white leaves are crushed. It is a plant that takes over and smothers other growth so is not always welcome. It has been used medicinally for the last 2,000 years and it was highly regarded by the Romans. It has undergone extensive research and in some parts of Europe, like Germany, it is the most commonly used herbal therapy.

Scientific studies into the effects of the herb are mixed but do show some indications that taking Milk Thistle has positive benefits for the liver. It might also have some anti-cancer properties but this will take considerably more research to confirm. Traditionally, no self-respecting medicine man or woman would have been without the herb, especially for the treatment of poisonous mushrooms, including the Death Cap.

The liver has over 500 functions in its role as guardian of our health and it is vital it is kept working at an optimum level. If your liver is sluggish you may notice a few symptoms that indicate a need to look at your diet but also at ways to encourage the organ to function better. If you suffer from headaches at the side of your head that sometimes affects the eyes, or you feel nauseous after eating fatty foods, or find it difficult to get going in the morning you may be suffering from liver fatigue. In Victorian times grumpy old men and women were termed ‘liverish’ due to increased stress and irritation levels.

How does milk thistle work?

Milk thistle (Silybum Marianum) helps protect the liver and encourages it to regenerate. It protects against incoming toxins and also assists the liver to cleanse itself of alcohol, drugs, heavy metals, and poisons. It is also helpful in treating congestion of the kidneys and the spleen.

By stimulating the release of bile from the liver and the gall-bladder the whole digestive process is improved, which in turn ensures that any nutrients are absorbed more effectively. It also supports the liver in its role of purifying the blood, for this reason it has been used in support of treatment for psoriasis and other skin conditions.

Silymarin is the main component of milk thistle seeds and is a flavonoid containing 4 isomers – Silybinin, silychristin, silydianin and isosilybinin. Silymarin works directly with the cell membranes of the liver preventing damage and encouraging re-growth.

Research into the actions of this herb indicates that it helps reduce inflammation in hepatitis, soften the lesions caused by cirrhosis and helps detox livers that are cancerous. Anyone taking long term medication will also find that taking milk thistle (with the agreement of your doctor) may alleviate some of the side effects and help the liver process and eliminate the drugs more effectively.

How do you take milk thistle?

Milk thistle is an herb that is not soluble in water so you cannot make a tea from leaves, or extract. It is soluble in alcohol, which is why it is found in tincture form, and in capsules. One of the most effective ways to take it is as part of a complex where other herbs such as dandelion, artichoke and peppermint are included. These herbs are also very supportive of the liver – as artichoke helps reduce cholesterol and blood lipid levels; dandelion is a mild diuretic and laxative and has long been used to help with liver and gall bladder problems; and peppermint is a general aid to digestion and helps relax muscles.

Normally you would take 15 to 20 drops, twice a day in a little water, as an adult. It is one of the herbs that is not recommended for children. As a precaution, you should always ask a qualified herbalist before giving herbal medicines to children, or anyone pregnant. This also applies to patients who are HIV positive.

As with any herbal treatment it is a good idea to take a break from the therapy from time to time. If you have been taking it for three months, take a break for about six weeks before resuming. It is also a good idea to keep a diary of how you feel during treatment, as it will help you note improvements. Also, do not forget that herbs to not necessarily work overnight. They need time and it can take several weeks to notice appreciable differences in the way you feel.

Provided you have consulted your doctor there should be no problem taking milk thistle in conjunction with prescribed medication for hepatitis, gall-bladder disease and during recovery from alcoholism. One of the areas in which it may be very helpful is during chemotherapy, but in this instance it is extremely important that your medical team are consulted, as it will affect the potency of your treatment.

It is one of those herbal remedies that are useful to have around at Christmas time. As I have mentioned the liver takes a great deal of punishment at this time of year and apart from keeping hydrated and alternating alcohol drinks with water, I also suggest that you take Milk Thistle from now until after New Year. Then move to a gentle detox with the herb as part of a complex for the rest of January.

This of course does not mean you have a free licence – this poor herb can only do so much!

I am happy to answer any questions you have about health posts.. If it would benefit everyone then please leave in the comments section. Or you can contact me via

Thanks for dropping by and love to have your feedback. thanks Sally


Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Guest Post – On Getting Away With It by Julie Lawford

Welcome to another lifestyle post from author Julie Lawford and this week the effect of stress on our health and the accumulated issues of middle-age.

On Getting Away With It by Julie Lawford

Several people in my circle and my general age-bracket, are in a poor or deteriorating state of health at present. There’s cancer, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, a stomach ulcer, the after effects of blood clots, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, high blood pressure and even heart disease. I don’t have an enormous circle of friends and acquaintances, and that’s a lot of un-wellness; a combination of the diseases of middle-age, auto-immune conditions and the impact – physical, psychological and emotional – of modern living.

And that means… stress.

Stress brings with it a heavy payload of physical and psychological symptoms (just Google ‘stress symptoms’ and check out some of the lists). But chronic stress also opens the door for some far more serious conditions and diseases to enter. Who knows whether it actually causes them, but it certainly makes you more vulnerable.

Stress is about helplessness and feeling out of control. It’s not, as some people assume, about having too much to do. It’s far more about the feeling that, for whatever reason, you can’t cope with what you have to do or deal with. It’s about feeling ineffective, pushed around by others, powerless to influence your circumstances, or spiralling into some kind of a hole that you don’t feel able to climb out of.

Stress… actually weighs you down

Interestingly, stress is also an inhibitor to weight loss, as cortisol, the hormone produced in circumstances of stress, causes the body to hold on to its fat stores. The more chronic your stress, the harder it becomes to lose weight. And of course, the harder it is to lose weight, the more out of control the overweight person will feel. It’s one of those cruel vicious circles of life.

A contributor, for sure, to my yo-yo-ing weight and its gradual upward trajectory over the years, was the level of stress I lived with, mostly through the sort of work I used to do (which was wrong for me in many ways, but well-paid, so I pushed myself onward), and occasionally in bad relationships and their fallout too. Divorce, financial pressures, unsatisfactory living arrangements, poor relationship decisions, work related anxiety including two redundancies and striking out as a solo-preneur, a problematic menopause, and a constant, gnawing sense of being not quite good enough at everything I tried to do. All these things contributed to a fluctuating but ever-present level of stress throughout my thirties and forties and right through until a couple of years ago. And all the while the weight piled on.

Until such point as it was no longer a product of stress, but one of its causes.

Fat stresses

Yes, fat itself became the stressor. Here’s how it gets you: You stress about what people are really thinking of you. You see a bucket chair in a cosy coffee bar or gastro pub and wonder if you’ll be able to squeeze into it. You see a different kind of chair in a school assembly hall, at the end-of-year stage production starring your young nephews, and wonder whether it will hold your weight for a whole two hours. You worry about getting too hot or sweaty when you go out somewhere, to meet clients or be social. Wherever you go, you worry you’ll be the fattest person in the room. You stress about being out of control, about your excess weight being so overwhelming that you’ll never feel normal again. You stress about never having something comfortable or stylish to wear for an important event. You become acutely aware of heaving yourself about, hoping others will not notice the effort. When your well-meaning friends ask kindly if you’re OK to walk a few steps, or climb to the second or third floor, and you realise they think you’re almost disabled, you stress about it. You stress about weight limits on fitness equipment and spa facilities, because you exceed them. And that’s just where it starts…

Health anxiety

This is the next layer of fat-stress. Health anxiety, or hypochondria, is a fearful thing. Health anxiety surfaced for me as the menopause kicked in, and a confusion of symptoms became very unsettling. Beneath my intellectual appreciation that I was immersed in the time-of-life experience, lay an occasionally paralysing fear – because I was fat – that there was somehow something far more serious going on, that I had brought upon myself by being overweight. The sense of impending doom I would eventually learn to manage as I tried to calm my palpitating heart in the wee small hours, was frequently overwhelming. I called an ambulance on two occasions (and nearly called them on a dozen more) and once spent the whole night in A&E wired up to heart monitors as stress and anxiety exacerbated those all-natural hormonal misbehaviours.

Statistically speaking

And health anxiety isn’t just an internal thing – it’s fed by the media, in their pursuit of emotionally-charged headlines. The voices of statistical authority would have me believe that my excess weight (well over 100 surplus pounds when I started this healthy lifestyle thing last September) made – still makes – me a candidate for all manner of disease, including most of the conditions my circle of friends and acquaintances are suffering. Obesity, so say the statistics, puts me at significantly elevated risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer of numerous kinds, high blood pressure, high cholesterol (whatever the implications of this are supposed to be) and diabetes – and that’s just for starters. Add osteoarthritis, sleep apnoea and asthma, gout, gallstones and fatty liver disease. Oh, and anxiety and depression too.

All in all, it’s a misery-laden feast, particularly if you’re inclined to let scary headlines get under your skin.

A matter of time

But despite those 100 or more excess pounds, I’m one of the fortunate overweighties not eating at this misery-laden table. I wasn’t at 270 pounds, and I’m still not at 207 pounds either. In fact, notwithstanding the 50 pounds or so of excess weight I still have to get rid of, and the anxieties related to my state-of-weight that I carried for years, my health is very good. I’m through the menopause (hurrah!) so I’m even feeling like an actual human being again, no longer screaming at the universe whilst sweating from every pore. As I shed my surplus tonnage, I’m getting fitter and healthier by the day.

Believe me when I say I’m not in the least bit smug about my current state of health and wellness. And things could always change, I know this; I’m only 56 years old after all. But at the moment I suffer none of the ailments that should, if the statistics are to be believed, be my misfortune.

I changed my lifestyle last September because I finally acknowledged I was getting away with it. The slew of disabling and depressing ailments within my circle of friends and acquaintances had made me realise this, and want – at long last – to do whatever I could to avoid these conditions becoming part of my lot in life.

I know no amount of healthy living can guarantee this, but common sense tells me that it must help, to manage my weight better, eat more healthily, improve the state of my heart, lungs and circulation, and exercise regularly. I just finally got to the point where the push to do something was greater than the pull of the sofa, the packets of crisps and the ready-meals.

Now my stress level has dropped to a record low. I’m handling work better as my brain is more alert and I no longer suffer the 3pm slump. I am calmer, more relaxed, less easily provoked to irritation. I have energy to enjoy more social activities. I have self-respect again. What little disquiet as I may occasionally feel, as anyone does, is counterbalanced by a growing sense of confidence and wellbeing which has come from looking better and feeling healthier and knowing that at long last, I’m doing right by myself.

©Julie Lawford – first posted July 18th 2016.

About Julie Lawford

Always engaged with the written word, Julie Lawford came to fiction late in the day. Following a career in technology marketing she has been freelance since 2002 and has written copy for just about every kind of business collateral you can imagine. By 2010, she was on the hunt for a new writing challenge and Singled Out – her debut psychological suspense novel – is the result.

Julie is based in London in the UK. Whilst penning her second novel, she still writes – and blogs – for marketing clients.

Singled Out by Julie Lawford

‘There’s something delicious about not being known, don’t you think?’

Brenda Bouverie has come on a singles holiday to Turkey to escape. Intent on indulgence, she’s looking for sun, sea and … distraction from a past she would give anything to change.

But on this singles holiday no one is quite who they seem. First impressions are unreliable and when the sun goes down, danger lies in wait. As someone targets the unwary group of strangers, one guest is alone in sensing the threat.

But who would get involved, when getting involved only ever leads to trouble?

Singled Out subverts the sunshine holiday romance, taking readers to a darker place where horrific exploits come to light, past mistakes must be accounted for and there are few happily-ever-afters.

A simmering psychological suspense laced with moral ambiguities, for fans of Louise Doughty, Sabine Durrant, Gillian Flynn, Elizabeth Haynes, S.J. Watson and Lucie Whitehouse.

A recent review for Singled Out.

Very good on 18 June 2017

A very well written thriller set during a holiday trip to Turkey, organised for singles. You might assume that this could be chick lit, but that would do the character depth and writing style grave injustice. While certainly appealing to female audiences this novel doesn’t limit itself to pure light-hearted romantic interests but visits darker sides of the dating game and crime.

Using alternate narrative strands and voices we get insight into the characters, but we’re shown enough to be drawn deep into these characters.
Things are not as they seem and while you have an incling what is about to happen, be assured that there are always surprises waiting for you.

Not the kind of book I had originally expected but in fact, a much better one. Very good!

Read all the reviews and buy the book:

Connect to Julie Lawford at her website and on social media.


You can find the previous guest posts in this directory:

Thanks for dropping in today and I would love it if you would share Julie’s post – Thanks Sally

Size Matters serialisation – Chapter 17 – Exercise


I have mentioned walking as a form of exercise, in Chapter seven, but there are many other effective forms of exercise. This chapter will cover the most common examples. There are also several everyday activities that we take for granted but which do qualify as exercise.

chased by predators

We are designed to move fast if we need to. Predators had to be taken seriously in the past, whether multi-legged or two-legged. We have a strong skeleton, with muscles and tendons holding it together. Our joints are flexible and can withstand considerable pressure. In this day and age, however, we have come to rely on mechanical means of transport, not only when we reach adulthood but as children too.

Thirty years ago, children walked to and from school every day, although they may have graduated to a bicycle as they got older. These days, children either use a school bus service or are driven to school in the family car. Physical education and team sports can still play a part in many children’s lives, but far too many take hardly any exercise at all. This, and unhealthy modern eating practices, means that obesity in children is on the increase in most western countries.

Exercise is not just about losing weight. There are many other benefits to us. The first is to our physical structure: the skeleton, joints, tendons and muscles. All these remain healthy if put to the purpose they were designed for. Without regular use, joints seize up, muscles waste away and fat accumulates, causing stress on the body. Without exercise, our skeleton is weakened and in later years this can lead to osteoporosis. Regular exercise improves the way the body functions generally. The immune system will work much more efficiently, making us less vulnerable to infection.

Progression of osteoporosis

                     Progression of osteoporosis

Aerobic exercise maintains the body’s capacity to utilise fuel and oxygen. This type of exercise not only burns fat, it can also lower blood-pressure and strengthen the heart, rendering it less susceptible to heart attacks or valve problems. The cardiovascular system needs exercise to keep it in good condition.

Combining aerobic work-outs with a stretching and toning program helps the joints to remain flexible and the muscles supple.

Weight-bearing activities such as walking, running and weight training ensure that the bones do not become thin as we grow older. They also tone the muscles and improve our posture, thus lessening our chances of suffering from age-related structural problems.

One of the major benefits of these forms of activity is the mental and emotional strength they foster. Most people experience a feeling of well-being about twenty minutes into a moderate work-out. This is a result of natural endorphins, which are mood-elevating substances, being released into the system. Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to go out on a wet, windy day, but, having done so; it is amazing how good you can feel half an hour later. People often comment on how a long, brisk walk reduces stress and tension.

Toning and exercising the body is a natural way to preserve and strengthen our entire system. We have only the one body, so we may as well get the best out of it. For years I was imprisoned in my body, with neither the knowledge nor the willpower to escape. I could barely walk for ten minutes before I started the program, yet today I have no problem walking two or three miles a day. I would be miserable without physical activity and I soon know when I have not done enough: my joints, which have been damaged by all the years of carrying the excess weight, stiffen and become more painful.

One fact that caught my attention recently is that, for every hour of moderate exercise, our life span can be increased by around two hours. I have made a decision to live to the age of a hundred and still be physically and mentally active. If I maintain my program of two hours a day of brisk walking in the winter months and three hours in the summer until I am ninety-five, I will have added five years to my life.

Some of the gentler forms of exercise such as Yoga and Tai Chi are great for those starting out but it is important to have a great teacher. Even these seemingly gentle movements can cause you joint problems if they have not been used for a long time!!


Aerobics are a good way to maintain fitness, but it is not a good idea to do such a strenuous work-out when you are severely overweight, because you can damage joints and muscles and put additional strain on the heart and other organs. Before joining an aerobics class, carry out some basic research. Begin with low-impact aerobics, guided by a qualified instructor, and watch the class for a session before participating yourself. Make sure there is an adequate warm-up and warm-down period and some stretching exercises are included in the program.

You may feel more confident if you work out at home first, perhaps using a video. I started by dancing to my favourite music in the kitchen. At the time I weighed over 250 lbs. (113 kg), but I took it slowly at first, a few minutes at a time, until I felt confident about joining a class. You will soon feel the benefits. Not only will you burn fat, but you will also improve your circulation and lung capacity; your muscles will be toned and your stamina will increase.

Do not be tempted to do aerobics every day. Two or three times a week, combined with other forms of exercise, will be more than adequate. Make sure that you wear the right footwear, providing adequate ankle support, and that your clothing is not too restrictive. Keep a bottle of water nearby and stop regularly to take a drink. For every hour of aerobic exercise, you will need an additional litre of water.


Another popular form of aerobics takes place in the water. Aquarobics is ideal for someone who is still too heavy for the dry land equivalent. The water cushions the joints and offers resistance to the muscles to make them work harder. Provided you feel comfortable in a bathing suit, you can begin this as soon as you like. Again, you do not have to complete a whole hour. If you feel you are getting too tired, stop and swim or relax for a short time and then resume. You will find that, over a period of weeks, your stamina, and ability to perform the various exercises, will improve and you may then think about joining a more conventional aerobics class.

Jogging and running

Jogging and running are classified as aerobics, with the additional benefit that you are out in the fresh air. Again this is an activity best done when you have reached a certain level of fitness. Do not push yourself too hard. Start by walking and then, when you can walk comfortably for an hour or more at a brisk pace, introduce some jogging. Walk a hundred paces and jog for the next fifty. After several days, increase the level of jogging until you are completing your usual distance in a shorter time. You must ensure that you are wearing the correct shoes. Normal walking shoes will not be suitable so investing in a pair of running shoes is essential. Make sure that your muscles are warmed up before you start to jog. Walk for the first fifteen minutes at a brisk pace and then change your stride.


Cycling can be a great pleasure, although this depends on having access to pleasant places to ride. Mountain bikes have become popular in recent years, enabling us to ride on more varied terrain than the roads, which can be dangerous. As with all these activities, you should take things easy to begin with. Plan short trips of about half an hour. Save the day trips until you have the necessary power and stamina. Wear a helmet and elbow and knee protection if you are on the road, and the bicycle should have adequate lighting if you are cycling after dark. Most gyms have a static cycle and the home version can also be effective, but they can be boring unless you can watch the television or listen to music at the same time. Cycling in the fresh air, safely, is the best form of this exercise.


Swimming can be monotonous unless you set yourself some realistic targets. You can be any weight when you start swimming. However, I found that embarrassment kept me out of the pool for a long time. I was self-conscious in a swimming suit, even when I was lucky enough to find one the right size. Usually the cup of the suit was huge and the bottom too tight. I will admit to being a coward on this one and it took me at least two years and a hundred pounds of weight loss before I ventured into the water. Once I did, however, I loved it. There is no stress on the body or the joints, and it tones everything.

Start with the objective of completing one lap without stopping and progress until you are completing as many as possible within a specific length of time. An hour is ideal.

Over the weeks you can either increase the number of laps to fill the time, or do the same number of laps in less time. No safety equipment is necessary, except for a swimming pool attendant – and strong shoulder straps!


Tennis is a game I have loved since I was a child. It is competitive and can be fast-paced so, once again, wait until you have reached a comfortable fitness level before trying it. It is easy to damage the knees and leg muscles if you overdo it, so go gently.

I began by hitting a ball off the house wall for a few minutes every day, in time progressing to half an hour. This gave me an opportunity to get used to the twisting and turning that is involved. You get an excellent upper-body work-out with tennis, but you can strain shoulder and elbow joints and your muscles. It is a good idea to take lessons at first, to ensure that you are using the correct and least damaging strokes. If you are returning to tennis, then start with doubles, progressing to singles after a few weeks. You don’t have to make Wimbledon in your first season!

Weight training

Weight training tones the muscles and burns off fat. There are some simple routines to begin with, which require no weights at all. Moving the arms and legs slowly and firmly provides some exercise. Begin with arm extensions to the side and the front, clenching the fist and slowly bringing it up and down. I moved from this to lifting tins of beans and have now graduated to a multi-gym, which I use for just ten minutes a day.

I was always worried about being left with too much loose skin if I lost weight. The walking, drinking water and aerobic exercise have all played their part in toning my skin and forming firm muscle, but doing repetitions using light weights (two to five pounds each) has added the finishing touches. It is better from a fat-burning and toning perspective to develop a routine using light to moderate weights many times. Lifting heavy weights without proper supervision can damage the back and other parts of the body. Take advice from a qualified instructor. A book may not tell you all you need to know for your particular fitness level and body type.

Household chores

Finally, we should not forget housework and its benefits as a form of exercise. An hour of active house-cleaning, gardening or cleaning the car will use up around 200 to 250 calories. This, and running up and down the stairs in a normal day, can provide you with an opportunity to work out every day – and it also keeps the home looking good too!

Whatever form of activity you choose, you must enjoy it in order to feel all the benefits. Do have an occasional rest day, when you simply take a gentle stroll in the fresh air. Too much intensive working-out can be counter-productive, since the body can become tired and possibly strained. If you have a lot of weight to lose, this obviously is not going to happen overnight. Give your body a chance to get used to the new level of activity and vary your routine so that you and the body continue to find it stimulating and beneficial the whole time.

For me, there is no substitute for the way I feel when I finish my exercise. I am restricted, to a degree, by previous injuries caused by too much strain at my heaviest weight. However, I am delighted to be able to walk, swim and do weight training.

©sallygeorginacronin Size Matters 2001-2015

Image mammoth

Previous 16 Chapters of Size Matters can be found here.

Size Matters – Serialisation – Chapter Five – The Emotional Factor

This week a look at the emotional factors in our lives which can hinder our approach to a healthy lifestyle.  It is extremely rare for people to have a perfect life. It is usually a balance of good and challenging learning experiences but some people have a dreadful start in life. This creates an uphill path that takes courage and also determination to overcome.

I was very lucky to have had a warm and loving family and many of the events that were damaging to my emotional health were self-inflicted.

There were physical triggers but it was also the emotional factors that I had failed to deal with that also created a barrier to me dealing with my eating and weight issues.


Chapter Five.. The Emotional Factor.

Fairy tales are a part of childhood. They are wonderful stories that leave a child spellbound. Real life, unfortunately, is not quite the same. Many people have experienced major emotional ups and downs since their early childhood and hearing their stories can make you count your own blessings.

My family always offered me love and stability. My two sisters did everything with me. Two of my stronger memories from my time in Ceylon are of my sister Diana taking me swimming and my sister Sonia making me smocked dresses with ‘knickers to match’. One of my party pieces was to flash these knickers whenever I was complimented on my dresses, a habit I thankfully soon grew out of.

Scan14a - S & D with baby Sally

My brother, who arrived when I was four, knocked me off my perch as the baby of the family and like any child of that age with a distinct lack of communication skills; I decided that acting up and being a pain would help divert attention back to me.

All in all, my early childhood brought travel and memorable experiences that I shared with the family. My teenage years were also normal, with boys coming and going and I suffered no serious damage to heart or ego.

sally wedding day 1980I was on the rebound from my first serious romance when I met my former husband. Only nineteen and ‘a woman of the world’, I was swept off my feet by this tall, dark and good-looking man who was six years older than me. We were engaged by the spring and married five months later in a lavish wedding with all the trimmings. The fairy tale was not to have a happy ending. The simple reason was that our love was not strong enough to overcome the differences between us or the challenges we faced during our five years together.

Relationships are about two people and it is two people who end up suffering in these situations. It was the most emotionally devastating time of my life and food certainly was my drug of choice.

For years I carried the pain and the sense of failure that invariably follow after a broken marriage, but ultimately I learned to move on. However, over the years, talking to many other people about their lives has helped me to see that nearly everyone has suffered from some form of emotional trauma in their life. Childhood abuse, broken marriages and miscarriages are far more common than we think. The mystery to me is that, if it is so common, why are we are not better prepared for it?

sally wedding day 1980

However, whilst not quite a fairy tale, my own story also has a happy ending. Life can be wonderful and I know that if I had not experienced the challenges in my first marriage I would not appreciate my second as much as I do. Taking lessons from disastrous experiences does put a positive spin on it.

The last thirty-five years have been great, but there have still been times when the two of us had to make an extra effort to maintain the strength of our relationship. David and I have lived and worked apart quite a lot. When we lived in two countries, only seeing each other once a month, it was particularly difficult, because we are not just husband and wife, we are friends too. I enjoy our conversations, going to the movies together and sharing a weird sense of humour.

I would be lying if I said that we had a perfect marriage, but then I don’t believe that such a thing exists. Writers of romance novels and films have perpetuated the myth of the ideal marriage. I do believe, however, in a partnership where two people, often very different, can come together in a relationship founded on a strong friendship spiced with a healthy dash of passion and emotion. David and I are strong-minded people and like getting our own way, but we have a good marriage and I think that I would be bored stiff if it was all peaches and cream.

As a young woman, my expectations of marriage and life in general were seriously unrealistic. I believed that I would be swept off my feet, have lots of children and live happily ever after. I was emotionally immature and naïve and so had some tough lessons to learn. This is just part of the learning that we have to do as we grow up, and it has done me no real harm. Looking back over the years, I can see how I have evolved into the person I am today. I can also recognise when food played an active part in my emotions of the day, as much a reward as a consolation.

How many times did our parents tell us that, if we were good, we could have some sweets? If we were hurt, we were given chocolate to make the pain go away. We were told that, if we finished all our dinner, we could have pudding. Do you hate cabbage and love biscuits? We were told that there were starving children in Africa and we must never waste the food on our plate. How many of you today treat yourself to a bar of chocolate if you have been good, or had a hard day? It is truly remarkable how strong a link there is between how we feel and how and what we eat.

I have learned some positive lessons from my experiences and know that I will certainly learn more in time to come. Life is like that. Of course we must dream and plan for the future, but it is always wise to expect the unexpected, and to be strong enough to handle it when it comes. Encouragement, love and loyalty from those around us are far more useful than the ability to unwrap a chocolate bar. A support network of friends and family and the ability to build on our own strengths are vital elements in our personal development. It is amazing how different things look when we feel great and look good. It then becomes possible to turn some major dramas back into the minor soap-operas they really are.

Identifying the emotional highs and lows of my life enabled me to see that, when something went wrong, I turned to food as a source of comfort. I had now reached the point where I could see the need to develop more constructive behaviour and it became obvious that I required help in transforming the habits of a lifetime. I realised that it was necessary to translate the information I had gathered into a working program that was mentally, physically and emotionally balanced. To lose 150 lbs. (10 st 10 lbs., 68 kg) in a healthy way, over an extended period of time, was the challenge. The time for reminiscing was over and I was ready to do the work.

I studied and obtained nutritional therapy qualifications; researched health issues connected to lifestyle and diet and read every book or article I could get my hands on. I wanted to solve my own problem in the beginning but discovered that I could share this vital knowledge with others and help them take back control of their weight and health issues too. I applied all the management expertise I had gained over the previous twenty years to planning the project: I set myself some realistic and achievable objectives and applied good measurement procedures. I followed the principle that you are not really aiming to get to your goal if you do not measure where you are, on a regular basis, just to see if you are getting closer.

The next chapters outline the project plan that has taken me to where I am today. When you come to complete your own plan, much of the detailed work will have been done for you. With luck, the lessons I learnt the hard way will make it easier for you to tailor your own plan to achieve your target weight.

Some of the solutions that I first offered when I began writing this book 18 years ago were based on my theories at the time. Thankfully many of those theories have been backed up in recent years with scientific studies. They have also been verified by the results achieved by my clients putting those theories into practice. The good news is that I have now created some shortcuts for you that will make achieving your weight and health goals much easier.

All I ask is that you read the next chapters with an open mind. Complete the analysis part of the program before you actually try to lose weight. It is essential that you understand the reasons why you became overweight in the first place. This is a three-dimensional eating program, designed by you to achieve your target weight loss. I can illustrate here the solutions I used for my own success, but you will probably have to come up with one or two of your own. The more you put into this part of the exercise, the more you will own it. Ownership is very empowering and I promise that, once you begin to feel in control, you will not give up easily.

Previous chapters are here:-

©sallygeorginacronin Size Matters – 2001 – 2015

Would love to have your feedback and please feel free to share.

thanks Sally

Size Matters – Serialisation – Chapter Three – A Life of Change

Part three of Size Matters identifies that part of my obesity issue was the pattern of constant change.  Countries, schools, friends, homes and relationships. Externally the stress was not visible but internally I needed comfort in the form of food.  As I began to work with others who also struggled with their weight, it became clear, that they too often had change as an important element of their younger lives.


Chapter Three – A Life of Change.

I was the youngest daughter of a naval officer. The travel log for the first twelve years of my life was: England, Ceylon, England, Malta, England, South Africa, England. We actually made seven moves, with seven new schools and seven new sets of friends. During this formative twelve-year period, my father was away for a number of years with the Royal Navy, and his presence, or lack of it, is evident in a little story that happened when I was five.

Scan7a - Sally

We moved to Ceylon when I was eighteen months old, but I do remember when we returned to England, at the age of three, to my mother’s old home in a small village. We moved again, within a short period, to the naval city of Portsmouth. Then my father was sent to Cyprus, and I really did not get a chance know him very well. When I was five he came home on leave and I screamed the house down when I found this strange man in bed with my mummy! He had lost a lot of hair by then and had put on some weight, no longer bearing much resemblance to the skinny blond man in the picture my mother kept by her bedside.

sally wedding day 1980

In the frequent absences of my father, my sisters, who were ten and eleven years older than me, took me under their wing and played a large part in my upbringing. On reflection, while travel to foreign places was exciting, there was an element of insecurity which may have steered me towards seeking comfort in food, as I looked for something constant and unchanging to cling to.

When I was very young, I obviously realised that there were certain behaviours you could adopt, when placed in an unfamiliar environment, which helped make you less noticeable. One of my neatest tricks was to adopt the local accent of every place we were stationed. Within weeks of moving to Cape Town, in South Africa, I was attending an Afrikaans school. At school I adopted a very strong Afrikaans accent and you would never have detected that I had not been brought up locally. Then, as soon as we moved back to Preston in Northern England, I changed my accent again so that I could have easily passed as a native-born Lancastrian.

With all the moves and school changes, my education had suffered. Each school or country had a different curriculum, and coming back to England at thirteen it was hard to try and catch up in the subjects I was due to take for ‘O level’. I was seriously behind in Mathematics, French, History and English. In fact, I hated writing prose – mainly because I was unfamiliar with many of the rules of grammar. So, to avoid the need for commas and colons, I wrote all my essays and homework in poetic verse, an unusual feat that my teachers actually let me get away with. I am sure that they would be hugely surprised to find out that I have been writing prose for a living for some time now.

Weight was already beginning to be a problem even at that time in my life. And in our last year in Cape Town I managed to put on 42 lbs (3 st, 19 kg) in weight. This is a big change for a child and, in the next chapter, I will cover what I believe to be the significant root causes for this gain.

Physical education following my weight gain was something I really hated at school, especially the communal showers we were forced to take afterwards. This was mainly because it was my first experience of being teased about my size.

Teenage girls can be pretty nasty when they put their minds to it, and if you have ever been at the receiving end of this kind of ‘teasing’ you will know how it makes you feel. So, in self-defence, I became the only girl in the school to have periods for three weeks out of four, and PE classes became much less of a problem. For those occasions where I still had to attend I ‘developed’ athlete’s foot so that I wouldn’t have to go into the showers. Basically, I was learning to use my imagination to manipulate my way out of situations that I could not handle.

By the time we returned to England, I was thirteen years old and when we got to Lancashire I was attending my fifth school to date. I worked hard, trying to catch up with the rest of my classmates in all the major subjects. But, the Navy being what it is, my father was transferred again. This time we moved back to the south of England, back to our house in Portsmouth, where I attended my sixth and final school and stayed there to take my ‘O level’ exams.

I actually slimmed down over the next four years. A normal active teenager, I started smoking at the age of fifteen and avoided school dinners to pay for my cigarettes. Luckily, the threat of teenage acne persuaded me to abandon sweets. Socially it was a busy time, with youth clubs and discos. Boys came into the equation rather than chocolate and, at sixteen, I was far too busy enjoying myself to spend time eating. This period of starving myself was to have a bearing on my weight gain in later years and I will explore this discovery in the next chapter.

As you can see, change was a constant part of my childhood. Moving to different countries introduced me to interesting and different cultures, but my education suffered as a result of changing schools so frequently. However, at heart we are all survivors, and when confronted with strange places, people and behaviour, we will adapt in any way we can. In my case, I changed my accent and dived into the chocolate!

Don’t think that I am trying to blame my childhood for my weight – even children have choices. But, apart from giving up sweets as a teenager, I did not exhibit much willpower where food was concerned. I couldn’t say no to anything that tasted the slightest bit sweet. To keep this in perspective, we have to remember that when we are children, and even when we are adults, we don’t always link our eating to our weight gain. We may understand intellectually but we do not understand emotionally. We do not truly accept that just one little bar of chocolate can do much damage. There is no immediate, obvious, weight gain and we don’t become emotionally committed to the belief that changing what we eat can really change our weight. Change needs strong emotional commitment. This lack of emotional commitment to losing weight was one of the missing elements all through my life until I decided to lose all the extra weight at forty-two years of age.

A quick review of the years since my late teens revealed a definite pattern. I was married far too young, at twenty. My husband and I were mismatched and the marriage ended in divorce five years later. During those years we managed to move seven times. Despite the problems within my marriage the joint decision we made to end our relationship was not taken lightly. Following a miscarriage early in our marriage we had no children, and, with or without children, it was a difficult time. Remember too that in the mid-seventies divorce was not as widely accepted as it is today. Again, the pattern was one of constant change with the added element of extreme emotional stress. This reinforced my need to establish familiar, comfortable territory, and food would never let me down.

Over the next three years I moved twice. Money was not plentiful and, stupidly, I spent more on smoking than on putting food into my mouth. Since meeting my second husband we have moved thirteen times in thirty-five years. In fact, because we have had temporary homes when we have worked in separate cities, we have actually had something like sixteen or seventeen addresses since 1980. Luckily, my marriage also brought me emotional stability that enabled me to at least change environments within a loving relationship. Not quite as scary as it might have been.

In my search for answers, I soon came to the realisation that change has been a major factor in my life from early childhood. I adapted to that change externally by acting the fool, changing my accent and trying to please people so that they accepted me. Overeating was my way of coping with the changes. When I was unhappy, I would buy a bar of chocolate. As a teenager, smoking became the sugar substitute and I lost weight. Under some circumstances, being heavy also probably gave me a sense of security and confidence. Nobody was going to bully me.

As an adult, I have also been faced with a great deal of change. However, when I look objectively at each of those changes, I can see that half of them were probably unnecessary. Change for change’s sake. But why? Now, I think that not only was it ingrained in me to expect change, but also each instance of change offered me the opportunity to become a different person. I could start afresh, in a place where nobody knew me, and then leave again before they saw behind the wall that I had built around me.

Talking to friends who have known me for some time has revealed that nearly all of them felt that it took a long time to get to know me, and that they never really knew where they stood with me. They felt I was aloof and secretive. What they did not realise and I have only just come to understand is that I spent most of my life feeling afraid. To the outside world I was a capable, adaptable girl and woman who made things look easy, whereas in fact I was just a very accomplished actress.

Happily, things are different now. I am slimmer, confident and open with people. I have helped many other people to discover how to lose weight. I find that opening up to them about my own experiences is vitally important, not only to show that I understand the way they feel about themselves, but also so that they realise that being reticent is a natural way of protecting ourselves.

Luckily, I have always had the support of my husband and my family. When I began the process of losing weight twenty years ago, David suggested that we both enrol together on some self-motivation courses. He felt that it would help support the process of losing weight by adding some extra ‘equipment’ to my tool-kit for making such a major change.


We both also believe that a shared experience is generally much more fun, more memorable, and longer lasting than one where we are alone. For me, it also meant that I would have some company on the long, hard, cold road that I would have to travel in order to lose 154 lbs (11 st, 70 kg). Apart from the fun we had together doing these courses, we also discovered new aspects to our relationship and hidden strengths that have certainly helped me overcome major obstacles along the way.

We moved to Ireland in 1998 and bought a house north of Dublin in County Meath. We were very close to Bettystown beach which provided a wonderful opportunity for long walks with our newly acquired family member. Sam, a ‘Lassie’ collie, whom I first met when he was only three weeks old.


During my first marriage, through circumstances that were beyond my control, I had to give up two collies. One female was eighteen months old and had been my support through some very hard times. The second was a male whom I had to leave behind when he was only eighteen months old, because of my divorce. My heart was broken both times. David and I had waited eighteen years until I could be sure that I could devote the time and effort needed to give a home to another dog. Sam was my companion, my fitness trainer and my great friend for ten years. There is no shadow of a doubt in my mind that, if he had not introduced me to the joys of sunrise in the dunes, I would not have lost all my weight so easily.

Change never stops, however, and just when I thought we were settled in Ireland, David was offered a wonderful opportunity to move to Madrid. For the first time in my life I turned down change. I was not actively seeking it and I did not embrace it. We had just bought our house, found Sam and I had just bought a new health and dietary centre in our local town. Apart from the financial losses incurred by both of us moving to Spain, it would also have meant that I again would interrupt something that I was involved in passionately to start all over again in another country.

However, there was no way that I wanted to stand in David’s way. He is a brilliant businessman and this job was the pinnacle of a successful career. Our relationship was strong enough to make a compromise.

For three years David and I exchanged visits between Ireland and Spain every few weeks. We also managed to spend holidays together, I loved him and missed him dreadfully, I hated coming home from our house in Spain and when he returned from a visit to us in Ireland. But this time I was strong enough – with sufficiently security to know that our relationship would not suffer because we were not together all the time.

In fact, by leading two lives we found stimulation and challenges that have strengthened our feelings for each other.

Following my nutritional studies I ran the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre in Ireland for four years. During that period and then in the UK, I worked with over a thousand clients with obesity and other dietary related problems including fertility. This close involvement with men and women who needed help to adjust their lifestyles, and to regain their health, benefited me as well, as it taught me that I was not alone in my struggle and put me in the position of role model. There was certainly no opportunity for me to backslide and it reinforced my determination to maintain my weight loss.

This travelling back and forth to Spain actually satisfied my inherent need for change in my life. Eventually we could not stay apart any longer and in 2002 I decided to move permanently to Spain. I worked between Madrid and Marbella, writing for magazine columns and providing weight and health programming for English speaking radio every week. I published my first fiction ‘Just and Odd Job Girl’ and since then six more books.

For five years, I commuted back and forth to the UK for varying periods to stay with my mother in her 90s. During the times I was in Portsmouth I presented radio shows for a local station, worked with clients and continued to write articles and my books. Following her death at home, at age 95, I returned full time to our home in Madrid and as well as my daily blog posts I have published two more books with another two due at the end of 2015.

You have a choice about the past, use it or lose it. The experiences from our childhood and young adulthood have the ability to haunt many for the rest of their lives. Certainly I was privileged to have had a loving home and family with frequent moves the only disruption. I chose to use that experience in my work, both as a therapist and as a writer. I appreciate that not everyone has such happy memories but, even then, sometimes you have to realise that you cannot change the past, only the present and the future.

Now that I accept that, I also accept and adapt to change much better. One thing that I do differently today is to think about the change that is happening, and instead of leaping blindly into the next adventure, I give some thought to where it will place me, and the effect it will have on both my health and my relationships. Of course today – moving countries does not mean changing friends. With email, Skype and social media no-one gets left behind!

The previous chapters of Size Matters are here.

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All my books are available on Amazon Author pages

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Size Matters Serialisation – Chapter Two – A Good Place to Start.

Here is chapter two of my journey from being morbidly obese at 330lbs to a healthier weight. I want to make clear that I am not some perfect role model for weight loss.  I can fall off the wagon as quick as a flash given the opportunity and for me it is a lifetime’s challenge to stay within a healthy weight range. Now I am in my 60s it is tempting to slack off but sharing this with you also helps me.  By remembering where I was and reminding me how much I hated being that weight.


A Good Place to Start

The majority of the diets that I attempted in my adult life were one-dimensional. By this I mean that the diet generally gave the dieter a list of foods to eat and the ‘right’ amount of calories, regardless of age, sex or level of activity. Little effort was spent in analysing the reasons for the obesity.

Having been repeatedly unsuccessful in my previous attempts at dieting, it was obvious that I needed a new approach, to ensure that this would be the last time I would put my body – and mind – through such intense stress.

So, I decided to approach the weight loss from a completely different perspective and from as many angles as possible. This new concept meant looking at the mental, physical and emotional reasons for the weight gain in the first place: a three-dimensional approach.

Obesity is the symptom, but the root causes are not generally immediately apparent. In fact, there are a number of different factors which play a part.

Picture this.

It is 11.30 p.m. at night. I am pacing the floor of our lounge, car keys clenched in my fist. Since 6 p.m. I have eaten a large dish of spaghetti, three chocolate bars, a tub of rich ice cream and the re-heated remains of a take-away from the night before. There is nothing left in the refrigerator or cupboards. I am desperate for something more to eat – something sweet.

The garage down the road closes at midnight. If I can just hang on another ten minutes, it will be too late to get there before it shuts. Part of me is fighting to go, throw a coat over my pyjamas and take my last opportunity to get some chocolate before the morning. Another part of me is fighting to stay, to keep away from the very thing that is causing me so much misery – the misery of being this gross person that I felt I had become. How on earth had I come to this point in my life? How on earth was I going to learn to live through this?

Over the last twenty years I have walked thousands of miles, so there has been plenty of time for reflection. When I began keeping a journal, it was to record my personal journey of discovery and enlightenment. Some of the events and feelings that I am sharing with you are very personal, the kind we do not usually reveal to strangers. The reason for this openness is to illustrate that there is usually a lifetime of accumulated baggage that makes up the person we are today. Good times and bad times are recorded and stored and replayed time and again, a bit like a stuck record. In the process, we can get caught up in a ‘poor me’ state of mind, where we blame our past and those who inhabit it, for our present.

Without being too analytical, I have tried to identify some of the factors that may have contributed to my attitude to eating and my attitude to my body. I very soon came to the realisation that I was carrying too many layers, in more ways than one!

I am going to ask you to travel with me for the next few pages and then complete your own journey. You need to establish where and when you might have unconsciously turned to food as an answer to your problems. Maybe you even developed a physical reason for your weight gain.

When you are looking for answers remember that you have to look inside yourself. You are the only person who knows what has really happened in your life. ‘Know thyself’ is a fundamental idea that has been around since the time of the ancient Greeks, and it important to remember this as you make your journey. Another famous saying is ‘You are what you eat’. Keep these two ideas in mind and they can help you to get to the root of the problem.

You will find a chart, in the actual programme (Annex 4 – Fat Accumulation Table), that will help you to ‘know thy food’ in a different way. It will help you to appreciate the cumulative effect of eating certain foods on a regular basis. The results show the long-term weight gain you would achieve by habitually eating some well-known foods. I like the cumulative approach because I feel that it really reflects how life works to help us to gain weight a little at a time, so you don’t really see it happening.

Everyday events, concerns, stress and worries also accumulate over time. Much like a snowball rolling down a hillside, we collect ‘layers’ which slow us down until we come to a stop at the bottom, pretty to look at, maybe, but it is impossible to tell what debris has been collected, along with the fresh layers of snow, during the journey.

Of course, not every layer that you add will be harmful. In my life I have accumulated many delightful memories of events and people. Humour has always been a great saving grace, especially during the hard times. On my journey, I discovered that what I really needed to learn about was the ‘dark side’. The side we very rarely show to other people, the side that governs many of our emotions – and the actions we take when we are in certain emotional states. Some people live in a world of balance. Others tend to live at the extremes of their abilities and senses. Extremes are important to an addict, and an addict is what I had become. I had developed an addiction to food, particularly to sugars, that was extreme compared to any normal consumption. Later, I will come back, in much more detail to the vital impact of sugars and how they can affect us and the way that we develop our eating habits.

The theories that I first developed all those years ago have become firm beliefs and in some cases confirmed by scientific research.

The next chapters look at the many mental and physical changes I experienced from an early age. It was only when I began writing about my life that I realised just how much I had forgotten, or put to the back of my mind. This gave me the opportunity to revisit some good times (and some confusing times as well) from the past that have shaped the person I have become today.

This is a record of my journey back to my past from a mental, physical and emotional point of view. It is a journey not lightly undertaken. When you make this journey yourself remember that it is important to try to be objective in order to learn how best to help yourself in the present. Many people have had traumatic experiences in their lives that may be hard to recall, so don’t hesitate to seek help from a counsellor, for guidance through this process of exploration, if you feel at all nervous about the process.

I see myself as an intelligent, imaginative person, with a sense of humour, keen to try new experiences. Using these assets, I have tried to look back over the years in order to identify the patterns that might have led to the sort of compulsive eating that had engulfed me.

The first place I chose to start, logically, was my childhood.

fat accumulation table

In a post recently I featured the Fat Accumulation Table and here it is again for those of you who might have missed it. Most of us have little rituals associated with some of the food that we eat. And we will often attach one or two foods together. For example Tea and two biscuits. Coffee and a Danish. When I smoked I could not drink a cup of tea without having a cigarette at the same time. Once you have developed that ritual it is very difficult to break. However, when you next time say to people ‘If only I could lose that last 10lbs!’ Take a look at your rituals and it may well be that having two biscuits with your cup of tea instead of just one might make all the difference.

Next time Chapter Three and some of the triggers from my childhood that encouraged me to turn to food as a coping mechanism.

Here is the Introduction and Chapter One.

Please feel free to share with anyone who might find my story useful to their own struggle with weight.