Great apps for simple living and staying sane

I use a variety of great apps for staying sane in this crazy world. Here are a few that I strongly recommend. All are freely available for download.

Although all of these apps also have Premium (paid) versions, I have not yet found it necessary to pay for any of them – the free versions work very well in all instances.

Insight Timer

Daily meditation practice is a cornerstone of staying sane and sensible, and the Insight Timer app makes daily meditation really easy.

Some of the guided meditations offered for free at Insight Timer.

It offers a variety of guided meditation, as well as a Timer option for personal, straightforward meditation. There are groups to follow and be a part of, and you can even create your own local group if you want.

Available here: Insight Timer.

30 Day Fitness

30 Day Fitness offers a series of free workouts you can do at home, with no need for weights or machines. It makes working out easy. You can focus on various muscle groups, or do an all over workout, and each of the exercises is explained with simple videos.

Available here:


MyFitnessPal is simply the best food and diet tracker I’ve ever come across, and I’ve been using it, on and off, for years.

You can easily scan in practically any processed food via its bar code, or you can enter via calorie load. You can even enter your own foods, or foods you cannot find, as well as complete recipes and eating plans.

The app tracks weight as well as diet, and has attached forums and friend capabilities, if you choose to use them.

Available here:


StrongLifts has an excellent name as one of the simplest muscle building programmes around. It’s been around for years, via the StrongLifts website, and the app is straightforward, free and easy to use.

While using the Stronglifts app, I saw my bench press go up by nearly 15 kgs, and saw similar gains in the other exercises it incorporates.

Whether you stick just to the StrongLifts program while lifting, or use it as part of your overall fitness program, it’s a useful app and a useful tool. Worth checking out.

Available here: StrongLifts.


MapMyWalk is a great, straightforward walk and run tracker. It tracks calories and distance, and you can see the walks and runs others in your local area are doing.


MapMyWalk enables you to track your walks anywhere in the world, and share them with others.

You can set goals, and keep track over weeks and months of where you’re at and what you’re achieving, or just use it on an irregular basis out of curiosity to see how far you’re travelling when on holiday. Up to you, but I find it useful and fun.

Available here: MapMyWalk.

WARNING! Avoid the social media side of these apps!

I think our lives are all too busy these days. It’s easy to let our phones get clogged up with apps that make life even busier with stuff that doesn’t matter, while ignoring the important things.

While the apps I’ve recommended above do have a social media element to them, I strongly recommend against this side of them. Don’t link them to Facebook and Twitter, and don’t join up to all the attached forums and chitchat.

Instead, use them for their best purpose – which is simplifying your life, helping you to stay healthy and calm, and helping you to eat well.

If you do this, avoiding all the social rubbish that comes with the apps, you may find them a useful way to simplify and improve your life.

I did 🙂

New year fitness resolutions that work!

Happy new year!

So here we are, in 2016, and we’re all cringing a bit at the heavy food we ate over the holiday season.

The ads are on TV for every kind of weight loss program and fitness machine you’d care to name, right? And every time we even think about fitting into our tightest pants, we heave a sigh of regret.

That’s how a lot of us feel, anyway.

But before you go signing over your money to the next program that doesn’t work, take some time to reflect. Not on the fastest way to lose weight, but on what will work for you.

Consider me, for example. I hate running. I’m 45 years old, and I know enough about myself to know that I hate running, hate exercise machines, and there is no way in hell you’ll get me on an elliptical at the gym.

Sure, I could do it for a while, but inevitably I’d stop and stall, and the program would end.

Likewise, although I love to swim, it’s too hard for me. The nearest pool is a fair distance away, I’d have to book a lane, it’s expensive, and I feel insecure in my swimsuit.

On the other hand, I love to go for walks. I live in a relatively flat area, with lots of beautiful scenery and few cars. Walking is easy. I can take my music player, and I find it relaxing and enjoyable.

I also love lifting weights. I love the challenge, and I’m really good at it. My gym is close by, and it’s cheap and friendly for women.

Now, you might be different. You might love swimming or adore running, while hating the very thought of lifting weights or going for a walk.

What I’m saying is, it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it, and keep on doing it. And the only way that will happen is if you genuinely enjoy it.

Tips for choosing a sport

Do you have good hand-eye co-ordination?

If you’re the kid who was picked first for teams at school, then yes, you probably have good hand-eye co-ordination. Consider ball sports such as soccer, netball, cricket, football, volleyball, tennis.

Do you prefer: Group activities or singular activities?

If you love being with others for sport, try team sports. If you don’t have good hand-eye co-ordination, try rowing, sailing, group dance, lawn bowls, yoga, judo, a bushwalking club.

If you prefer to work alone, consider billiards, swimming, running, weightlifting, sculling, archery, golf.

Diet tips

You probably already know what to eat, and the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are out. Marion Nestle explains them well at her blog:

  • Less than 10% of calories from added sugars (esp. sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages)
  • Less than 10% of calories from saturated fats (esp. meat)
  • Less than 2,300 mg sodium (esp. processed foods and junk foods)

It’s not rocket science. Just clear your pantry of junk and processed foods, drink water, and limit meat serves. Then make sure you bring lunch from home and cook dinner instead of eating out.

Follow these guidelines and those extra chocolates and cake will be sure to come off in no time! 🙂

Capsule wardrobes, weight loss and learning healthy habits

One of the big issues that comes up again and again on The Project 333 is what to do when you’re losing (or gaining) weight.

I’ve had to deal with this. Last year I gained a lot of weight as I went through my separation. I suddenly found that nothing I owned fit me any more.

Although you hear advice to “just buy new clothes and bin the old stuff”, my budget didn’t stretch that far. I’d gained nearly 20 kgs (44 lbs). Ouch!

Even my shoes didn’t fit! I couldn’t just buy a whole new wardrobe!

So, instead, I used the “boxing” technique. I knew that the excess weight was temporary (due to severe and uncontrolled emotional eating). So I boxed up the too-tight clothes, shoes, and underwear, and put them in plastic crates, so they wouldn’t clutter my active wardrobe items while I was much bigger.

Then I dealt with my eating issues sensibly and logically, with a lot of help from my friends and online resources. I’ll talk about this in a moment, and how I’m one third of the way back down already.

This worked well. Now I’m coming back down through the sizes (and feeling better now the emotional triggers are gone), it’s a great feeling to get clothes out that didn’t fit me, and find that they do again.

Of course, for everything I bring out of retirement, something I was wearing must go. But that’s usually not a problem, because the things I was wearing in my bigger body are usually too baggy now. They’re off to the charity shop!

It’s important to ONLY have clothing in your active wardrobe that fits. There was no point in keeping items that were too small on hangers, where I could see them, while I was going through hard emotional times and feeling bad about my body. Seeing clothes that were too small only made me feel worse.

It was like shopping for clothing with a very skinny, supermodel friend – every time I opened my wardrobe made me hate myself even more!

I turned a corner for my body when:

  • I realised that being bigger didn’t change the amazing person I was inside. My kids still loved me. So did my friends. I was just as capable. I was just as powerful as a woman. Self-hate did nothing.
  • But being bigger made me feel less sexy. I didn’t like that. I found it hard to feel attractive sometimes. I found it hard to find clothes I liked and felt good in. I wanted to wear my old clothes. I wanted to look better.
  • I realised that my habits were making me fat. A no brainer? You’d think so, but it wasn’t. My portions were too big. Even healthy foods in too-large amounts will make you fat, and they did that to me. I was eating too much. I needed to admit that, instead of lying to myself and pretending that somehow I was getting fat for no reason.
  • I went back to the gym. Because the gym put me outside my comfort zone, it really helped me tackle my weight problem. You know, the hardest thing ever was walking in the door that first time. I was so scared! I thought everyone would stare at me, and I’d be the biggest whale in the joint. But I wasn’t, there were lots of people who were as fat as me (and fatter), and I was okay. It just took courage to make that first step.
  • I needed to accept that there are some foods that I will NEVER be able to control myself with. I needed to ban those foods from my life. I will never be able to control myself with dairy chocolate (I eat 85% dark chocolate instead now). I cannot stop eating toasted cheese sandwiches, once I start (now I eat salad and tuna for lunch). I have a problem with junk food outlets (so if I take the kids, I have a kiddy meal too, instead of an adult sized meal, and I give them the fries). I cannot control soda or diet soda, so now I drink plain soda water with lemon juice (and it’s really yummy!). Knowing yourself is a key to success.
  • I needed accountability. Weighing in for the first time was HORRIBLE. Then I accepted that I need to weigh in every day. Now I do it. The weight is coming off. I’ve also started blogging about my fitness journey (more accountability) and joined Fitocracy.
  • I needed to see what I was actually eating. The free MyFitnessPal app was invaluable, and it still is. I’m logging everything. I was stunned to learn that I was eating more calories from “snacks” than from my actual meals. Chocolate, biscuits, cakes, soft drink, alcohol – all these little “extras” were adding up to over 1000 extra calories a day. Sometimes much, much more. It was a real wake-up call. I’d put on weight for some very real reasons, and all of them were called FOOD. I’m still logging every single thing I eat, down to a single bite of an Easter egg from one of my kids. It matters. It all matters.
  • I needed to stop judging myself. And others. I was surprised at how BITTER I’d become. How judgemental. I think, because I was hating myself more and more, I’d also started hating others too. We women are so critical of ourselves! I needed to understand that our society is really harsh on people about our weight – men too – and that we should support each other, not criticise. If someone is really overweight, you can be sure as hell that they know it, and are hurting. Be kind. I’m still working on this one, but I like to think I’m getting there.

I’m gradually recognising my old body again. It feels good to be returning to ME again. Sometimes NOT throwing old clothes that don’t fit out is the wise decision. But the first choice must be to love ourselves, no matter what shape we’re in. Only then can we begin to start a healthy journey, no matter where it takes us.


12 ways to stay healthy in flu season

One of the bloggers I follow mentioned how one of her fellow workers came to work sick, and wondered what she could do about it.

She doesn’t get sick leave. If they don’t show up, they don’t get paid.

So, here’s some tips on how to stay healthy in flu season, and all year around.

  1. Don’t eat out in flu season. If you do, make sure your food is cooked. Sandwich and salad bars in particular are easy disease transfer points (how well did your sandwich maker wash their hands? If at all!). Ideally, make your lunch at home.
  2. Keep hand sanitizer, tissues and antibacterial wipes at your desk or workplace.
  3. Ask your employer to install hand sanitizer pumps at the entrance to your place of work and at various points around the workplace, and to keep them filled.
  4. Ensure bathrooms and kitchens in your workplace and home have plenty of soap, and that soap dispensers are filled. If not, ask your employer or boss to get them sorted.
  5. Keep some antibacterial wipes on your desk or work station, and wipe down all contact surfaces at the start of the day BEFORE you start work and at the end of the day.
  6. Be absolutely diligent about toilet hygiene. Considering that a huge percentage of people (this article suggests that 95% of people don’t wash their hands correctly after going to the toilet!) don’t even WASH their hands at all, I’d really recommend disposable gloves whenever you go to the toilet, or using a tissue or baby wipe in your hand to open the doors after you’ve been to the toilet.
  7. Wash your hands BEFORE as well as AFTER visiting the toilet. If you don’t know already, learn how to wash your hands properly:
  8. If you have the habit of touching your face, BREAK it!
  9. Disease carrying surfaces include: mobile phones; neckties; handbag (purse) bottoms, clasps and handles; wallets; door handles; the back of chairs; computer keyboards; electronic tablet surfaces; computer mice; coffee mug handles (wash yours daily); tap handles; desk phones. Wipe them down with antibacterial wipes regularly.
  10. If you’re at the gym, clean your machine and / or weights BEFORE you use it, as well as AFTER!
  11. If you wear contact lenses, be absolutely diligent about lens hygiene, as your eyes are a mucous membrane and an easy access point into your body for harmful bacteria. During peak flu season, you may wish to wear glasses instead, as they provide a physical barrier for your eyes.
  12. Tie your hair back off your face when working, if you have long hair. Hair traps airborne droplets very effectively, and loose strands can transfer disease very effectively into your eyes and mouth.

I hope these tips help! My family and I were recently in Hong Kong and Singapore right in the middle of several flu epidemics, and NONE of us caught any disease.

I think it’s because we were diligent with our hygiene.

Stay healthy everyone!

This article was cross-posted at Lethally Fit

Go on, get strong, be happy!

I had a great workout at the gym today. I’m doing the Stronglifts progam (check it out – it’s free, and there’s even a free app!), and I followed it up with 40 minutes of cardio.

Getting my body moving makes me happy. There’s something about lifting huge weights that just makes me feel awesome. I’ve been a bodybuilder for about three years now, and my goal is to compete in the 2016 South Island Championships in the Women’s Physique class.

But it hasn’t been an easy road. Last year, dealing with depression caused by a divorce and a whole stack of other associated pressures, plus some other stuff, I stopped going to the gym. I put on a lot of weight, and started feeling really bad about myself, as the fat crept on, the junk food I was relying on made me feel awful and sick, and my fitness slowly disappeared.

It’s true that our bodies reflect out innermost selves. When we’re younger, they’re more a matter of luck I think – you can be unlucky and have a bad family that don’t help you out with good food, or you can be that poor kid with cystic acne that really brings you down.

But when we become older (I’m in my early 40s), our bodies more and more reflect the love and care we’ve given them, and our state of mind and wellbeing. If we’re feeling good, our bodies reflect that. If we’re sick and treat our bodies badly with poor food choices and drugs, our bodies show that too. And if we’re depressed and stressed, our bodies bear that heavy load.

Everything is connected. You can’t be mentally unwell without it taking its toll on your body. Likewise, if you start healing your body, it will begin to have positive effects on your mind. I’m back training again, and already feeling better about myself.


I’m glad I’ve come out the end of a very long, dark tunnel. Sometimes we need to recognise that we need help, and by giving our bodies the love they need, we can move away from our dark places and step into the sunshine.