There is nothing new about the mum tum.  I have lost count of the endless articles I have read over the years about why we have one and the best ways to get rid of it.  Personally, ever since the arrival of Teenager No.2, mine has resolutely refused to shift, despite me engaging in every "core strenghtening" exercise programme known to woman.

Now, however, as I face 50 I am confronted with a new crisis surrounding my core  known as the menopause, which apparently is going to make the matter a whole lot worse. Oh joy! Yes, it is a fact that the menopause and the waist are not best friends.

Apparently this is all because of the decline in oestrogen that occurs at this stage of a woman's life, which in turn leads to an increase in insulin, promoting fat storage around the waist and making it more difficult to break down.

Whilst we can't change nature, we can lessen the impact.  Keeping active is the single most important thing we can do to make sure we keep our metabolic rates up.  Yes it is harder as we get older but a sedentary lifestyle is ill advised.  Walking is free and easy and 10,000 steps per day is the recommended target.  Since Mr MoT gave me my Fitbit Zip last Christmas I have become addicted to notching up my daily steps.

We can also train our abdominal muscles in readiness for the fattening of our midriff with exercises that focus more on the obliques, which will help to tighten up our waists and thus lessen the pending androgynous look which sees our waists thicken.  A fun way to do this is with a Hula Hoop.

Launched back in 1958 the Hula Hoop is not just for kids and can work wonders on the midriff section.  It does require concentration, but once you have found your rhythm it is relatively plain sailing.  So what are the benefits?

  • The art of twirling the hoop will strengthen and tone all your abdominal muscles in one go and there are few exercises that can claim that.
  • The recommended minimum in order to see concrete results is 10 minutes per day, but believe me it is addictive and once you get going you won't want to stop. If you can manage 30 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week you should notice a dramatic difference in around 4 weeks.
  • Hula Hooping is also aerobic which of course means your stamina will improve and you will burn calories.   A 30 minute workout will see you not only burn anything up to 250 calories but also drop inches around your waist.
  • As with any exercise, incorporating weights will add a greater resistance to the workout and strengthen and tone the abs more, so go for a weighted hoop.  I have a circus hoop I bought from Flames N' Games which is around 40 inches and weighs about 1.5kg but Amazon sell similar for around £20.

Getting started is the hardest thing but I found that the Forward Stance is the most effective to begin with.  Everyone assumes you need to swirl the hoop around in a circle by swinging your hips in a circular motion but actually you need to position your feet hip width apart, place one slightly in front of the other, tuck your pelvis under, place the hoop around your waist and then after a quick move counter clockwise you shift your weight forwards and backwards to maintain the hoop's momentum.

Once you have mastered this there are many exercises online that can help you to vary your routine and work harder to increase your heart rate.  I often let my hoop slip down to my hips which then requires additional effort in a sideways motion to prevent it from falling to the ground.  Occasionally I will also hold hand weights and try to keep my arms at shoulder height to strengthen and tone my arms at the same time as I twirl.

I have dabbled with my Hula Hoop over the last few months and have always been surprised at how much firmer I felt afterwards, but in my battle against the midriff crisis I am on a mission to embrace its benefits again with renewed vigour, especially as the dreaded days for baring all on the Costa Del Sol are fast approaching.

Have you tried hooping? Do you have any great hooping exercises that work for you or do you have any other great ways of toning up your midriff?



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Nothing prepares you for the first time your teenager gets drunk.  None of the "teenage expert" talks I have attended, the books I have read or the multiple online resources I have scoured could have equipped me for dealing with the harsh reality of my son's inebriation.

A keen cricketer, Teenager No.1 plays for his college 1st XI and last week marked the end of a particularly gruelling set of matches against a stream of touring sides from across the Southern Hemisphere.    After the final match the team had drinks in the club house before joining a celebratory party for the players and their parents. The mood was jubilant and the plan was for the boys to head off to a "post-party" party.

Now Teenager No.1 was one of only two 17 year olds playing in a team of 18 year olds, who had not only finished several physically demanding full days of cricket but had also completed their A'levels and therefore left college, so for them there was a lot to celebrate.

There are not many occasions to drink at his age other than at "gatherings" at people's houses and those are few and far between, but as always we had the chat with him prior to the party about remembering his age and taking things easy.  Like us he has attended numerous talks on the dangers of alcohol.  He has nursed his friends through some nightmare scenarios.  We have talked openly as a family about drinking responsibly.  He has never let us down before, but in this situation in particular we were mindful of the fact that his peers were older and he may feel pressured to try and keep up.

It was impossible to monitor his every move but as the night unfolded our worst fears were realised.  He had drunk more than he could handle and despite us trying to rein him in discreetly we were temporarily rendered powerless.  I found myself apologising for his exuberance but everyone just kept saying "Don't worry. It's been a hard season, they are all unwinding."  Rarely, however, is a mother's sixth sense wrong.  It was like watching a kettle boil and I knew it would only be a matter of time before the switch went. The challenge was to persuade him to leave before that happened.

In the end Mr MoT had to employ a mixture of gentle encouragement and brute force, supported by Teenager No.1's best mate, (the other 17 year old in the pack) and his parents.  We agreed another party was unwise, but we needed the support of the best mate to get Teenager No.1 out of the door, which meant ending his night early too.

In retrospect I expect we have been quite smug until now, listening to the endless stream of stories about teenagers getting drunk at parties, bathing in the warm glow that it would never happen to us as our son knows better.  What idiots quite frankly.

Hands up to having been there myself.  I can remember my own humiliating drunken teenage experience like it was yesterday.  The truth is that I knew it would happen, it was just a case of when and how bad it would be.

It was bad.  Once the switch went, the demons were unleashed as his capacity for rational thought was eradicated.  He railed against our interference.  All he could focus on was that we had ruined his night.   All we could focus on was getting him home.  Before that, however, we had to endure the agony of a car journey with copious stops for "vomit breaks", turning a simple ten minute journey into an hour.

At home, he managed to lock himself in the bathroom, pass out near the loo and vomit some more. Between us we spent the night nursing him as he cried at how sick he felt and how he had let himself down.  Sobering up was hard.  Eventually he slept but not without one of us there to keep an eye on him. I never imagined that the young child I had nursed through various illnesses would, as a young adult, need us as much as he did that night.

The next morning his humiliation was complete as now fully sober we talked him through his loss of control which of course was the really scary part.

There will be those that judge us as well as him, but despite our best "textbook" endeavours for our son not to be one of those statistics, it does happen and there is no way to sugar coat it when it does.  At some point in life almost everyone will learn the lessons of alcohol the hard way.

Our son was mortified.  He apologised in person to everyone, backed up with emails castigating his own behaviour and his appalling downfall from grace.  To be honest nobody saw the situation in the same way that we did.  Many said they saw a young man who had conducted himself impeccably all season and was letting his hair down, but an apology felt right.

The really "bad bits" as I call them happened once we had left the party and only us and our dear friends who drove us all home, were privy to those.  It is true that a crisis always tests friendships and shows which ones are the ones worth hanging on to and I am so thankful for the unswerving loyalty of our friends that night in our moment of crisis.

I will also be eternally glad that we were there to intervene and hate to think of the consequences otherwise.  The real challenge now is for Teenager No.1 to learn from this and not make the same mistake twice.

As for us, well our confidence has taken a knock and we are naturally apprehensive.  For now he is grounded as we feel there needs to be a consequence to his actions, more because of his treatment of us as a result of the drinking than of the drinking itself....he has surely learnt his own lesson there.  Ultimately though we have to have faith in the son that we raised and love unconditionally and trust that this will be a one off.


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"No devices with texting or phoning s'il vous plait!" Early yesterday morning I loaded my daughter on to a coach bound for Folkestone and the onward journey to Northern France, where she will be spending the next week with her school.  Her excitement has been palpable for days.  A chance for her to hang out with her mates and have fun away from home without the usual rules and regulations that dominate her daily life.  She has been on many school trips before, but this one is slightly different....a preparatory email from the French teacher banned all mobile phones, iPods and tablets on the trip.

There are a multitude of reasons for this, but the primary one is that it is a cultural trip intended to improve the pupils' French and Madame did not want them to be distracted by screens.  She is old school and she wants them to interact with each other and their surroundings without electronic gadgets and social media, "It will be good for them, oui?"

My daughter's immediate reaction was one of jaw-dropping horror  "You can't be serious!  Well I don't care what she says I am taking my phone.  How will I keep in touch with my mates back home? What about my Instagram?  I won't be able to post for a whole week!  How will I listen to my music?  I want to watch a movie on the coach journey.  What about taking pictures?  No this is ludicrous, I am taking it...end off!"  

Adamant that I must have misread the email she asked Madame again, only to be disappointed.  Yes, she meant it and if any one dared to break the rule and bring their phone or any other "app device" it would be confiscated.  She advised them to bring board games, cards and seek out old DVD's they could all watch on the coach.

My teenagers are firmly attached to their electronics and can frequently be found multi-screen tasking.  It is nothing for them to be simultaneously watching TV, chatting to a friend over FaceTime, sending a message via Facebook, posting on Instagram and playing Minecraft, whilst chatting to me of course!

I am often asked what my rules on screentime are and truth be told I don't have any other than they must switch off all their devices half an hour before bed and nothing is allowed to stay in their rooms over night but is put in to charge downstairs in my husband's office.  We monitor their usage but we don't prevent it.  Ultimately, they both have lots of interests and lead active lives, so if they have done their homework and their chores, I have come to accept that this is what their generation do to unwind and communicate.

The flip side of this is that whilst I concurred with Madame on leaving phones behind "What a great idea", I also found myself starting to panic.  How would I cope?  My own mother laughed hysterically when I shared my fears and reminded me of my own "electronic free childhood".  Nevertheless, I communicate with my teenagers frequently when they are at school or out with friends day or night.  There is always a text at the very least to say how they are and if I want to I can always plug into "where's my iphone" and instantly track them down.

My teenager's phones have ultimately become my security blanket.  They give me access to 24 hr contact in the event of an emergency and act as a tracking device to calm  my paranoid maternal mind in those moments when I suspect they have been abducted by aliens.

So it is me who is having the real separation anxiety from my daughter's mobile phone this week, not her.  I know my daughter has arrived safely because the school messaging system has told me so, but it doesn't tell me about her...

Who is she sharing a dorm with?  Does she have time to clean her brace properly before they head out for the day?  Has she been putting sunscreen on? Are they remembering to stay in pairs when they get their free time to explore the local town?  At least if she had her phone I could just check.  But as my husband keeps reminding me as I toss and turn every night, the rule is probably there to keep the parents at bay too. These trips are a learning opportunity on more than one level.  It teaches them how to look after themselves, which is all part of growing up and being independent and that has to be a good thing right??  "T'inquiete pas! Don't worry"  said Madame as they headed off.  In the meantime...five days left and counting.

Does your child have a mobile phone?  What do you think about banning phones on a school trip?  How would you feel without contact for a week?  I would love to hear what you think.


It has been a strange week without Teenager No.2 in the house with her constant chatter and as we have been devoid of a means of contacting her the most obvious word to describe my week is "Silence".  Two more days and it will all change.

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