Putting on A Happy Face Can Work ..

We all feel insecure about our body image, none of us are perfect. But I’ve found the trick is to make the most of what you’ve got and put on a happy face!

At what age did I feel my best and confident of my body image? You’d think I’d say in my hey-day as the Green Goddess on breakfast telly 30 years ago, when my slinky body was held up as the picture of health. But no! Not only was I insecure about my lack of curves back then, but I was soon to be diagnosed with cancer which was to challenge my self confidence.

At the height of my career in 1988 I discovered I had breast cancer, I was 47 years of age and it was found on a routine mammogram. Anyone being told they have cancer finds it difficult to come to terms with. I felt cancer happened to other people not to me and for a week after diagnosis I believed there had been a mistake, I was in total denial. But in August 1988 I finally I signed the consent form and underwent a double mastectomy followed by immediate reconstruction in which implants were inserted directly under my skin.

Along with facing the physical battle of breast cancer many women feel the treatments of the disease are an onslaught to their femininity and have a tough time battling body image issues. A poll by the charity Breast Cancer Care found “88% of people who have had breast cancer say the disease has had a negative impact on the way they feel about their bodies…. and 68% say that it affected their sexual and intimate relationships.” Possibly due to my fitness level I made a remarkable physical recovery and was back on television within three months, but the emotional journey was to be ongoing.

My own body image had never been good. I grew up in the Fifties when femininity was associated with the voluptuous bosoms and waspish waists of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Meanwhile, I was 5ft 10” positively skinny, and stooped a bit to conceal my towering height. I bought a size 32A bra to boost my small boobs and made my own clothes in an effort to disguise them altogether!

I married at 19 and soon started a family. My breasts swelled to double their size during pregnancies and I felt a like a ‘real woman’. It was fun to dress in more flirty feminine fashions which made it easier to put on my happy face! I was disappointed when my boobs eventually shrunk back, but with two boisterous boys to contend with my priorities were in perspective!

In 1983, and by then in my 40s with 2 adult sons, I joined the BBC for the launch of Breakfast TV as their fitness guru, dressed in a green lycra leotard. Millions admired my lithe physique, and the national papers praised me with headlines like ‘Who is this “Green Goddess?’ which spawned my nickname! Life on TV every morning was hectic and exciting, but sadly during this time… and after 27 years… my marriage floundered.

Regrettably I took up with a Jack the Lad character and the relationship progressed with us getting married on my 50th birthday. It wasn’t an easy time, during which my body rejected the breast implants, resulting in more surgery and new prosthesis. Within a short time of marriage my new husband betrayed me. Divorce followed immediately but I pulled myself up by my boot straps and (with some difficulty) put on a happy face.

But the betrayal had shaken my confidence and I had body image issues. However, I found that talking to other women helped put my problems into perspective. My female friends are very important to me, many of whom have also battled breast cancer. These special friends I call my “bosom pals”!

But my battle wasn’t yet over… and just 2 years ago an MRI scan revealed that after more than 20 years my replacement prosthesis had ruptured. Again I underwent major breast surgery, but thanks to my brilliant NHS surgeon I now look as good as new and life goes on! At the age of 74, and after my recent third bi-lateral reconstruction in as many decades, I finally feel at ease with myself. I’m happy, healthy and lead a very active life, both socially and professionally and live life to the full; you do when you’ve been given a second chance!

Most of us will experience a problem or two during life which may affect our body image and knock our confidence. My advice is to think positive, try to put on a happy face, and who knows…… perhaps the best is yet to come!

Love Later Life

Love Later Life… a positive attitude to ageing appears to be the key to enjoying longevity.

It’s time for a reappraisal of ageing. Recently there has been a lot in the daily papers about research from AgeUK which found that more than ¾ of adults are looking forward to living longer. However, 9 out of 10 feel strongly that something needs to be done to ensure quality in later life plus a change in the negative view of getting older. It concluded that a positive attitude to ageing appears to be the key to enjoying longevity.

1 in 5 people in the UK will be aged 65 and over by the year 2020 and this should be a real cause for celebration. But research revealed that treating older people with dignity and respect in care homes and hospitals is one of the most important aspects of later life that needs to be addressed.

AgeUK is the national charity that supports people in later life and with this in mind recently launched its new vision of older age entitled “Love Later Life”. I am delighted to have been personally associated with AgeUK for the past 25 years, and as an Ambassador was asked to launch their project with a series of radio interviews around the UK. The charity hopes to challenge the negative perception of ageing and to inspire people of all ages to come together to change later life, for the better.

A more inspirational approach needs to be encouraged to show people, young and old alike that longevity can be fulfilling. We need to reassess ageing, the perceptions of later life, to think differently about growing older and to demonstrate that older people have a valued role in society. Everyone should have the opportunity to be happy in their older age and should be inspired to make changes for the better to insure they will enjoy the rest of their life, as far as is possible. Of course we must acknowledge the realities of getting older and facing new challenges, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting and preparing as best we can, for a fulfilling, independent later life.

Speaking personally I believe it is of the upmost importance to maintain good health throughout life. It’s a bit like an insurance policy; the more you put into it over the years the more there is to pull on in times of adversity. Wellbeing can prepare your body and mind for the many challenges, physical, mental and emotional, that most of us will experience with the passing years.

I also feel very strongly that interaction between my generation and young people is vital in order to create respect and admiration for all concerned. I’ll admit to being a bit “techy” myself, but would encourage everyone of my generation to be computer literate too. Today being conversant with technology is increasingly important because it helps bridge the generation gap by making communication easier, particularly with young people.

Speaking personally, and as a grandmother of four teenagers, I’m interested in, and like to get involved with whatever youth gets up to, albeit music, art, fashion, street language or dance. And fortunately for me it seems I’m appreciated by younger people for my experience of many years in the media, which appears to make me “cool” in their eyes and a more interesting person to know! Interaction between old and young needs to be encouraged, it’s special and can be very beneficial to all concerned.

Now in my mid 70’s I still work as a broadcaster and writer. Each week on the new DAB radio station “The Wireless” I have a regular one hour programme called “We’ve Got Mail” where with the help of experts we tackle older people’s problems and concerns. Broadcasting, plus my voluntary charity work keeps my very, very busy! But I’m lucky in that I do have a positive attitude to later life which helps me to keep physically and mentally active. I also watch what I eat, and when I do have time for myself I love to travel and pursue my hobbies – painting and sketching being my favourites. You see I really do Love Later Life!

Research http://www.ageuk.org.uk/lovelaterlife
Radio station http://www.thewireless/ageUK

Feeling Stressed? Then Find A Hobby And Learn to Relax!

Far too many of us living in large cities or busy communities find ourselves leading fast and furious lives. With ever more competitive working conditions some run the risk of becoming stressed, anxious or depressed resulting in a decreasing quality of life, sleep disturbance, drug and alcohol abuse, and poor performance.  Stress can, and will at some point in many peoples lives take a heavy toll on our minds and bodies, with acute stress having an adverse effect on our health.  Stress can suppress our immune functions and lead to a possible increase of infections and ailments, including hypertension, digestive disturbances, heart disorders and other distressing conditions which could shorten our life expectancy.

It is therefore important to recognise when things are getting out of hand, and to find a method of controlling our stress levels in order to maintain good health. Of course doctors can help control our anxieties by prescribing drugs or a variety of psychological techniques, but having a hobby could help take you out of your stressful life for a while. The Oxford Dictionary defines a hobby as “A favourite occupation not one’s main business”.

Personally I think it is within most of us to find a hobby or an activity which can help us “switch off” by doing something that could be invigorating, relaxing, educational, fun or if you are lucky, a little of everything.  Many people find that an appropriate programme of physical activity does the trick for them, since exercise has been proven to have positive effects on health.  But if exercise is to be effective in inducing relaxation, as well as physical prowess, then it must be non competitive, moderate in intensity, and pursued in pleasant surroundings. From my own experience of 45 years working in the fitness business I know this is proven to be both reliable and enjoyable.

Hobbies and other leisure activities can have many health benefits and there is evidence to prove that staying mentally active may actually help delay Alzheimer’s disease and keep our minds sharp. A hobby can not only prevent the harmful effects of stress but make life richer and more rewarding. My hobby is to draw and paint and when doing so I can lose myself for hours and forget the worries of the world. Studies have shown there can be a direct connection between painting and a reduction of stress levels. Its long been acknowledged that Clinical art therapy, used by therapists to encourage self-expression and improve communication for patients suffering from severe mental health conditions are effective.  Individuals affected by severe anxiety or stress are known to benefit from expressing their creative side through developing their painting skills, often in the company of others. Many hobbies help lonely people feel connected by encouraging them to interact with others, sometimes in a class of people who share the same interest.

Being involved in the process of making a picture is very therapeutic, but no one method works for everybody and other people find different ways to alleviate their stress. The secret is to choose a hobby that not only sparks your interest but engages you mentally, gives you an outlet to explore your creativity and makes you a more rounded, interesting person. People who do take time off from their routine work to pursue their hobby are more likely to be active, busy and cheerful.

As the saying goes “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.  I have worked hard all my life but try to find time for my hobbies, another of which is travel. It’s thrilling to visit new places, to meet with different kinds of people of various cultures, and it also gives me the chance to capture the atmosphere in paint!   As an author I find writing similarly as therapeutic to painting, the method of capturing what I see around me is the same exciting process. In both instances I am confronted with a blank piece of paper and the determination to put down and record what I see and feel. The creative process is the same, the desire to capture the moment, albeit in images or words. Creating a picture in words or paint is hard work and the first marks I make on that blank paper or canvas are the most challenging.

Having a hobby can help you achieve a well-balanced lifestyle. Maybe you already unwind through either listening to, or making music?  I know many people who find their hobby of cooking, gardening, fishing, photography, travelling or observing nature relaxes them.  Most of us need to try out a few pastimes before we discover the one which is most beneficial for us personally.  For example gardening develops a sense of eco-responsibility in our minds and can keep us in touch with Nature. A garden full of trees, flowers, vegetables and fruit not only looks beautiful but can give endless hours of pleasure. Gardening is another of my hobbies, delighting my senses and giving me relief from a world full of tension and pollution. And I get to paint the flowers!

Yes, painting pictures is still my number one hobby, or to be more precise my passion and I indulge it whenever I can! I’ve always had the desire to draw whatever I’ve seen around me and as a child it was my dream to become an artist.  But my strict father insisted painting was a precarious profession, and he was right of course! I may be an adequate amateur artist but only the truly exceptional make it in the art world!  At my Grammar School I was taught to draw and paint which opened up endless possibilities of style, colour, media and technique. Painting never lost its appeal but busy intervening years restricted my time, however now in my 70’s I’m fortunate to have more opportunity to pursue my passion.

My preferred medium is oils and my strengths are painting still life and landscapes. Painting in oils allow me the freedom to be spontaneous, to re-act quickly to drama – a vision, a colour, light or shade with the comfortable knowledge that changes can be made to the picture at a later stage. I particularly enjoy painting views and everywhere I look around me I see a scene, a colour, a light or a mood I want to capture. My favourite artist and my inspiration is the dramatic French impressionist Claude Monet. Like Monet I am enchanted by water and the lights and shades that play upon it. I suppose being a “Green Goddess” it follows that I love plants and trees too and am fascinated by the reflections of every colour they create alongside water.

Living as I do at the side of a river and with many beautiful lakes in the area I have no shortage of inspiration. Painting in oils is my preferred medium although I must admit oil painting can get a bit messy at times! I often work as a motivational speaker aboard cruise ships enabling me to travel the world, but always carry a sketchpad and paints in my luggage.
I find painting in water colour more restrictive, although a practical medium when I am travelling. For me the technique is more challenging because of the need to be disciplined, and to plan ahead. This is necessary in order to avoid disasters, because mistakes are harder to rectify in water colours. I become uptight, tend to lose my spontaneity and consequently find this medium less therapeutic to work in than oils. But I intend to keep on trying!

I’ve recently started working with acrylic paints which I find exciting because the technique is a combination of both oil and water colour disciplines. However one advantage of painting in acrylics is that mistakes can be rectified and changes easily made as they can when one paints with oils.  Because travelling is an important part of my life acrylics also have the advantage (along with water colour) of being less messy, less paraphernalia required than oils, quick to dry and easy to transport.   But whenever possible I opt to paint in my preferred medium oils in the style of Monet, and preferably like him, out in the open air! My aim is to simplify what I see, to try to capture a momentary impression instead of laboriously painting detail and exactly what I see. This allows me to work quickly and gives me the freedom to experiment with colours and techniques.
I am by no means an “accomplished “artist but I do enjoy creating a picture full of colour and passion. When I finally finish a painting to the best of my ability in whatever media, I am exhausted, but then whoever said painting was easy? But I will admit to deriving pleasure when I can stand back to consider my efforts, and with some satisfaction think to myself wow – I did that!

We most of us need and should have some ‘me time’ in which the responsibilities of modern life can be forgotten!   For myself dedicating some time on a regular basis to painting helps me achieve this balance. So what is it about painting that has this positive effect?  Well one of the main reasons that art therapy has proved to be successful is due to the accumulative effects of several well known key benefits associated with the act of painting. These benefits include self-care, distraction and flow. So how does this work?Self-care means taking care of yourself and taking part in activities purely for the benefit or your own well-being.  From the moment I get out my paints, brushes, canvas or board I begin the process of creating. The creative act is a great way of distracting my thoughts from whatever is causing me stress or anxiety. During my hours of painting I can dwell calmly on my concerns, see things more clearly, which helps me to deal with problems and put them into perspective.

I am lost in thought for hours whilst I paint.  Often I disregard meal times and with good music in the background I am temporarily – distracted.  Of course it is only a momentary effect, but I find that the relaxation gained is so beneficial. Painting helps me to achieve a positive state of mind – known as “flow”.  This state of mind occurs when an individual doing an activity is totally immersed with strong feelings of involvement and focus. Ideally this is what all hobbies should deliver to the individual participating.

Hobbies are more than just ways to creatively pass the time; they are good for your mind and body. Hobbies give pleasure and can soothe the soul and a hobby should not be pursued to make a profit nor need it be expensive. So set aside some time where you can do something simply for the purpose of self-enjoyment.

The artistic pursuit of painting is certainly the one which helps me counter the stress caused by my hectic modern lifestyle. My creative product isn’t of any commercial value, but does give me satisfaction and I gain so much from the dedication and hard work I put into it. The list of hobbies and pastimes is never ending so I do hope you can find one that works for you!

Arm Exercises

Arm exercises – Preparation, stretch & relax


  • Before starting any exercise programme check with your doctor if you suffer from heart disease, have high blood pressure, joint problems, back problems, if you are very overweight, have a serious illness, or are convalescing.
  • Check out location and surfaces before performing any exercises in your home or out in the garden.
  • Check that surfaces are not wet or slippery
  • Make sure you are warm enough, wear layered loose clothing, which can be discarded as you hot up!
  • Ensure that the supports and equipment you use are strong enough to take your weight.
  • Don’t exercise until at least an hour after meals, and keep drinking water near at hand to avoid becoming dehydrated
  • Take a daily brisk walk for at least half an hour each day.
  • Or take half an hour of moderate physical activity five times a week
  • Make exercise a natural part of everyday life and take the opportunity to be generally more active, anytime, anywhere
  • Learn to breathe deeply in order to encourage oxygen intake and lung elasticity
  • Stretch out your muscles before and after an exercise session or physical activity
  • Remember “if you don’t use it you may lose it” applies to both your body and mind.


To release tension and mobilise the shoulders simply place your fingertips on your shoulders.   Bring your elbows together in front of you, take them up and back pulling your shoulder blades together and drawing imaginary circles with your elbows.

6 times clockwise and 6 times anti-clockwise.

Chest stretch

Sit or stand to stretch out your chest.   Take both arms behind you and place your hands on your bottom.   Pull back your shoulders and elbows.   Lift up your rib cage and feel the stretch across your chest.

Hold for 10 seconds


Clasp both arms behind and lift up.

Hold for 10 secs.

Shoulder stretch

This stretch is more difficult – take care.   (It will also help strengthen your arms and wrists)   Sit on the floor, knees bent with feet apart and flat on the floor.   Place your hands slightly behind your bottom, shoulder width apart, fingers facing forward.   Carefully lift up your bottom and transfer your body weight onto your hands.   Push your chest forward.

Hold the stretch for 10 seconds.

Triceps stretch

Sit or stand to stretch out the triceps muscle (back of your upper arm).   Take your right arm up, bend your elbow and place your right hand behind your head on your middle upper back.  Take your left hand across your chest and push back your right upper arm and shoulder as far as possible.

Hold for 8 seconds.   Repeat with the left arm.

. Side reach

Sit or stand with feet apart.   With your right hand reach up and over your head (relax left knee if standing).   Bring arm down and reach up and over with left hand (relaxing right knee) as if climbing a rope.

Hold for 10 secs each side.

Forearm stretch

Lean forward with hands shoulder width apart.  Place hands flat on an upright support with fingers facing out away from you.  Take your body weight on your hands.

Hold for 20 secs.

Relax and turn fingers inwards.

Lean forwards take weight on hands for 20secs.   Relax.


Arms are prone to flabbiness as the years advance, and especially if you have had a dramatic weight loss through dieting


Stand or sit.   Raise arms up to shoulder level with fingertips touching, palms down and elbows bent.   Push back shoulders back – expand chest, twice with strong firm movement.

Open arms wide and fling back twice (keep palms down)  – working upper back, shoulders and expanding chest.

Bend elbows again – and push back twice.

Fling open arms turning palms uppermost – and push back twice.

Repeat routine 6 times.

Push ups

Stand or sit.   Raise arms up to shoulder level.   Bend elbows and grasp both wrists firmly.   With short, firm movements “push up” imaginary cuffs from each wrist.   Feel the chest muscle jump and underarm muscle work.

Repeat 12 times.

The big muscles in the front of your upper arms, the biceps must be kept strong in order to perform everyday upper body activities such as lifting and carrying.


To strengthen and shape simply sit on an upright chair (without arms) with your feet flat on the floor – knees at right angles.   Tuck your elbows tightly into your waist.    Keep position throughout the exercise.    Imagine you are lifting heavy weights, rise up your lower arms, fists to shoulders, and lower back down 12 times.

Make it harder by using hand weights, or small plastic drinks bottles filled with water or sand.

The triceps muscles at the back of the arms work with the biceps muscles in the front of the arms to produce strength and movement


Exercise them by sitting as before, but incline your upper body and head slightly forward.    Pull in your tummy to maintain a good position and make a fist or use weights.      With elbows bent, pull shoulders together and take your upper arms back and up.    Hold them still in this position throughout exercise.    Straighten out and push down your lower arms, turning fists out at the same time.  (Don’t “lock” the elbows.)  Keep upper arms in position – bend your elbows and bring your fists or weights, back up to your shoulders 12 times.   Feel the back of your upper arm working!

  • Side lifts
  • Top lifts


  • Lift off

To strengthen your wrists and arms, sit forward in an armchair.   Extend your legs straight out in front with heels to the ground and toes upwards.   Place your hands, with fingers facing forward, flat onto the arms of the chair.   Incline your chest forward (this corrects your centre of gravity) and lift your bottom off the seat.   Take your body weight on your hands.

Keep your legs straight and continue to lift and lower back down 12 times.   (If this is too difficult to start with, sit back into chair, and with bent knees repeat lifting and lowering, until your wrists become stronger.)

  • Palm press

To strengthen wrists, arms and shoulders.   Sit or stand, bend your elbows and bring arms up to shoulder level, palms together in prayer position.   Keep fingertips touching and open out palms of hands.  Close palms by pushing wrists together hard.

Continue opening and closing 12 times.

  • Palm squeeze

Sit or stand to strengthen your wrists and keep your fingers supple.   Holding two tennis/soft balls, tuck your elbows into your waist with lower arms out in front, and palms uppermost.   Keep your arms and wrists still.

Squeeze and release the balls 12 times, as tightly as possible.

  • Wind up

To strengthen wrists, sit or stand.   For this exercise you will need a stick or ruler (approx 1 inch thick).   Tie a piece of string 2 – 3 feet long securely in the middle of it.   Attach a small heavy object (a small plastic mineral bottle will do) to the end of the string.   Hold the stick at both ends with palms of hands facing downwards.   Wind up the string with a twisting action.   Reverse the action by holding the stick palms upwards and with control unwind.

Repeat 4 times.

  • Push away

To strengthen wrists and arms, stand at least a foot away from a wall with outstretched arms.  Have your feet apart and arms at shoulder level with hands flat on wall and fingers inclined inwards. Pull in your tummy, keep your head, neck and back straight, bend your elbows out and lower yourself towards the wall.   Take your body weight on your wrists and hands.

If possible keep your heels down; you can stretch out your calf muscles at the same time!   (Don’t allow your body to sag).

Push back upright and repeat 12 times.

  • Towel up

For arms and wrists stand with feet apart.   Hold both ends of a small towel and make it taut in front of you at shoulder level.   Lift it up and take the towel over and behind your head.   Return it up and over, pull hard at both ends to keep the towel taut.

Repeat 6 times.

Hold one end of a small towel with your right hand.   Drop the other end down behind your back.   Reach behind you with your left hand and grasp the other end of the towel.   Pull the towel taut, extend your right hand up high and pull the towel down again with your left hand with a sawing motion.

Repeat 6 times.   Reverse hands and repeat movement 6 times.


  • Pull away

Stand with feet apart, feet away from a secure kitchen unit or banisters, to stretch out your arms, shoulders and spine.   Bend forward from the waist and hold on securely with both hands.   Keep your legs straight, drop your head down, flatten out your back, take the weight on your arms and shoulders.

Hold the stretch for 10 seconds.

  • Pull up

From the same position bend your elbows and pull yourself up.   Step forward with your right foot and bring your left to join it.   Incline your hips towards the support and raise and stretch up as high as possible onto your toes.   If you feel balanced raise your arms and stretch your hands up to the ceiling.

Hold the stretch for 10 secs before lowering heels and arms down.

Heel raises correct the body’s centre of gravity and improve balance

Body Brushing

Why not give yourself time for a treat, time to refresh your body and make your skin miraculously smooth and glowing? No need for expensive spa treatments or therapies, just a few minutes of your precious time in the privacy of your own home. Dry body brushing will improve dry and tired looking skin and give your sluggish circulation a boost. It will encourage the lymphatic drainage system and help flush out toxins in your body and disperse excess fluids. Dry body brushing is an important part of skin maintenance, especially in the summer time when more of your body is exposed to the elements.

You will need a good bristle body brush which you can buy in a chemist or health shop. Make sure the brush has a good long handle; you don’t want to have to be a contortionist to reach your back. Start by using light long strokes to brush your body, by working from your feet upwards and towards your heart. Always brush the skin when it is dry and don’t use too much pressure. Continue brushing your body from your hands, up your arms towards your heart, and up from your front and back lower torso, the area where toxins can accumulate.

When you have finished your dry body brushing you will be ready to bath or shower. This is an opportunity to give yourself another treat by using an exfoliating body scrub all over your body. Exfoliating will help to slough off surface dead cells and will leave your skin glowing and satin soft. I use a natural loofah but a rough flannel is good enough. You can make you own exfoliating body scrub as I do, by using a little almond oil together with a handful of sea salt. It will also open up clogged pores which contribute to skin wrinkling and are caused by an accumulation of mineral oils in skin creams, sun creams and body lotions. Sadly there is no overnight magic lotion to eliminate cellulite, but by using a body firming cream each day after your bath or shower, will at least make the skin on your hips, bottom and thighs feel firmer which boosts bottom confidence!

To pamper yourself still further, on another occasion discover the luxury of de-toxifying bath before bedtime. Give yourself time to soak in aromatic oils to help cleanse your system and soothe away the stresses of the day. You can make the occasion special by mixing your own aromatherapy treatment. Simply mix 4 drops of essential lemon oil and 3 drops of lime oil with a teaspoonful of milk and add the mixture to warm running water. If fluid retention is your problem try mixing 3 drops of essential rosemary oil with a teaspoonful of milk instead.

Lie back in the warm water and luxuriate, resting your head on a bath cushion will complete your comfort. Close your eyes and slow down your breathing, imagine a beautiful scene or something, which makes you happy. Relax and take this opportunity to practise deep abdominal breathing. Begin by breathing in deeply and slowly, take the breath right down into your abdomen, expand your rib cage and continue to fill up your lungs. Hold your breath for several seconds. Breathe out slowly, empty your lungs completely, and relax your stomach and rib cage. Continue this slow deep rhythmic breathing and allow your stress to float away. The movement of the water supporting and around you will add to the sensation and rhythmic pattern. To make the occasion really special, dim the lights and use the flicker of scented candles and soft music to complete the feeling of tranquillity.