Brands – valuable construct or modern day mumbo jumbo?

I have always been fascinated by brands. As a child, I was one of those who was not happy with the single point of brand contact, I had to go all in. From Maya the Bee, on tv – I had to of course get the Maya the Bee doll.  Barbapapapa – I had the toothbrush holder.  Smurfs, the cuddly toy, the branded backpack and of course those collectibles at the petrol station. Heidi, in addition to the books, I had a lovely set of earrings and matching necklace. Snickers and Mars Bars (at the time not available in South Africa) but a friend had brought me some as a gift. Then the Hello Kitty accessories and stationery and of course let’s not forget the masters of kiddie branding (both small kids and adult kids alike), Disney.  The deliverers of magic (and still to this day I am a serious fan of Walt Disney) but they also delivered my first brand disappointment.

My Dad had traveled all the way to America in the 80’s. The land of brands!  At a time where it was not quite OK for him to travel outside of South Africa. He had won an incentive prize at work and so his company went about obtaining special permission for him to leave the country – to go to the land of brands. Of course this was a huge deal.He was the first person in my family to travel outside the borders of our country.  Prior to this he had been to Zimbabwe, in the time when it was still called Rhodesia. All sounded pretty exotic to me but I digress.

Dad had an amazing adventure.  He brought back plenty of photographs and memorabilia from his trip. Of course as a kid I was only interested in what he had brought back for me. In addition to a piece of the Golden Gate Bridge and plenty of your typical touristy trinkets. My prized possession, a backpack and floppy hat from the REAL Disneyland with none other than Mickey Mouse on it.  It went to school for Monday News.  It stayed in my school bag. It went everywhere with me. Then one day while flicking it around in my hand my eye fell on the label.  “Made in Taiwan”.  Of course I couldn’t quite process how something that came all the way in a plane from America could have been made anywhere other than at Disneyland by Mickey Mouses & Co. I mean, it said Disneyland on the front of it.  Mickey was there in all his famous glory. How did this happen? What was Taiwan anyway?  And why would this be allowed?  So many questions followed.  Talk about #brandfail and Dad trying to explain how products are manufactured outside of countries as they are produced cheaper. This did not make any sense to me. It said Disneyland so it surely has to be made in America where Disneyland is!

And so started my continued disappointment and love affair with brands. I am mostly fascinated by how brands can make you fall in love with them. Rip your heart out. And yet, still find a way to creep back into your life. Despite what you may know in the realms of logic and reason. Some brands are able to transcend the biggest disappointments, and resurrect themselves, like phoenixes from the ashes. And others, after some small but significant mistakes, are forever put on the #brandnever pile. But what exactly separates those brands who are able to resurrect themselves from scandals and #brandfails to those who crash and burn at the slightest hint of impropriety.

So, brands. Modern day mumbo jumbo or valuable construct?  Like art, I guess, brand love or hate is in the eye of the beholder consumer of that brand.

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The writing muse is alive…

And just like that, it’s the eve of Nablopomo 2016.  My last post on this blog was in January this year.  While a lot has happened in my offline life, my writing has taken a backseat.

Well it has and it hasn’t.  I have not been writing for leisure, creativity or the sheer joy of putting characters on a piece of paper.  Instead, I did the kind of writing, that can drive you crazy. The kind that can basically suck the life force out of you.  The kind of writing you do for academic purposes. While I can appreciate that it has a purpose. It was an almost counter-intuitive-to-everything-that-I-had-learnt experience. Business writing these days requires short, to the point, and sometimes one-pager dashboards to communicate things.  Then there’s the online world. Short sentences. Paragraphs. With lots of white space.  Brevity.  So extrapolating 15 000 words from something that could have been said in less than 1000, proved to be a painstaking challenge.

But it’s done. I don’t think I could muster up any energy just after handing THAT in to write. But recently, I have been feeling the need to dust off my trusty blog and churn out some posts.  How fortuitous that it’s the end of October. Halloween today actually. So in keeping with the days observances. I am honoring the death of the last 18 months of the torturous writing experience that had me in its grip. And I look forward to the new that lies ahead.

A whole month of posting on a daily basis. Challenge accepted.  I have signed up to the official blog roll. Let’s do this.

December 2015 Challenge Review

Happy New Year.  I know. Its 5 days into the new year already. But life happens.

This post is mostly about the results of the 10 000 Steps Challenge.  I will briefly talk about this months challenge and the yearlong challenge I am undertaking along with some family and friends.

Firstly, Decembers Challenge. On some days, getting the 10 000 steps goal was easy. Xmas shopping took care of some of the days.  Other days?  Not so easy. We really have become naturally sedentary in our daily lives.

This is what my monthly graph ended up looking like.

December 2015 Graph

Roughly, for 50% of the days I did not achieve the 10 000 goal.  But its definitely made me more aware of trying to be more active on a daily basis. I spent the first day of 2016 at gym doing a piloxing class.  It was fun and exactly what I needed to kick start 2016.

For the month of January, I have signed up to do the Sleekgeek 30 Day Challenge.  Check it out.  The key things about these challenges is to make your fitness and health goals a continuous part of your awareness. Sign up for online support. Get a group going with friends and family.

On that note.  I am also part of a group (of family and friends) who are doing a fitness challenge which will end on December 16 (its a public holiday here in SA on that date and we are usually all together then).  So the basis of this challenge is weightloss.  But I am using it more as a way to stay motivated and accountable.

In addition to the daily challenges of the Sleek Geek 30 Days for January. I have some goals of my own.  For the month of January, I will exercise for at least 45 minutes, 3 times per week for the entire month.

Good luck to you in achieving your fitness goals.

 

 

 

7 Days done and counting…

December’s monthly challenge has been going well so far.

I have managed to hit the 10 000 daily goal every day.  I mentioned the crazy house circling thing I have resorted to doing when I am not quite close to the goal by the time I get home.  Why don’t I just hit the road you might ask? Well, because I have to then carry my phone with me. And I don’t fancy the potential of: a) dropping it again – that’s an expensive repair job, b) possibly getting mugged and c) leaving the house would involve having to put on trainers and proper training kit as I will be hitting the road surface in addition to being seen in public. Whereas walking around my house I can do so in flip flops and whatever I’m wearing. And at this point I don’t need anything that might make this too much effort. It’s still in the heady early “dating” phase. I don’t know if this is a long term thing yet.

I also know that the daily goal of 10 000 steps is not enough to effect any kind of major transformation to my fitness nor body composition. But for now, I am happy that I am hitting that number and at the same time, building a solid base from what was a primarily sedentary existence for the time that I was studying this year. I definitely want to return to my weekly Zumba class (I love dancing) and I definitely need to add some heavy lifting into the mix. I am more concerned with building a body that will remain functional and mobile well into my old age.  While I am not anywhere near to old age yet. I have a limited window of opportunity to get a solid base in place. The sooner the better.

The festive season has been helping me out in a different way. I mean usually it’s an eating festival. Which it probably will be. But in terms of Xmas shopping and being in the mall.  Instead of lugging all my stuff with me. I make multiple trips to my car to go and drop stuff off. This helps with boosting step numbers. So it’s awesome. I realise just how lazy and sedentary our daily lives have become. Ok that’s me making a large generalisation based on my own experience. But life has become one large sedentary convenience. And daily activity rates have declined without even trying. I sit behind a computer for most of my working day. I am hoping the 10 000 steps will go some way to at least bring back a baseline of health benefitting activity. Then to add the “extras” to the mix once this month is done!

30 November December graph

So these have been the stats so far.  I am including the last day of November’s steps (on the left). When I wasn’t making a conscious effort.  And then also the snapshot I took last night (on the right) which now has my baseline sitting at 10 192. YIPPEE!!

Decadence for breakfast

So, I am on Day 4 of December’s Challenge. Strangely, this far, I have also been able to cut out evening snacking.  Perhaps its all that crazy circling I have been doing at home. Or maybe its that elusive thing I have heard about. That thing some people tell.  That exercise blunts your appetite. I have never believed that myth. In fact exercise usually drives me in the opposite direction. Like a shark during a feeding frenzy.

But, so far so good. I have not attacked the crisps at night nor sought out something sweet and cakey.  I usually have to have one of those things after supper.  And whichever one I indulge in usually has me craving the other. To balance the taste on my palate of course.  But the current goal of 10 000 steps has me doing the following. I get home and assess how many steps I am short. I have had a serious shortfall thus far every single night.  So before I settle down to eat supper, I tell myself I need to hit 7000 before I can eat. And then crazy circling starts. When I hit over the 7000 mark, I then allow myself to sit down for supper. After supper I then make up the rest of the shortfall before I can sink into the couch. Post-supper I usually circle at a slower pace. Something tells me that I am confusing my digestive process by walking. But then there’s also that conventional wisdom of taking a walk after supper.  Who knows what’s right but I am just focused on hitting 10 000.

So, some form of appetite control mechanism has kicked in. Don’t ask me how and what. I am just riding this wave while it lasts.  Appetite or changing eating habits was not the goal of this challenge. Just those 10 000 steps.

But this brings me to the other thing I have discovered. I read a number of websites, blogs and Facebook pages on health, fitness and activity on a weekly basis.  I have mostly been a lurker on these pages. Patiently waiting to read about the next silver bullet which is going help me drop a “Table Mountain’s” amount of weight.  But I do know that no such silver bullet exists. But I can remain hopeful. So what I have discovered, via the online community over at SleekGeek, are these Banana Muffins.  Well I make them into flapjacks.  They are amazing.  I sprinkle some cinnamon on them and they make an amazingly decadent breakfast or snack when you are craving something that tastes like decadent French toast with banana.

I have read about banana and its effect on blood sugar and how you need to make sure you have it with a protein and good fat to balance out the sugar effect. I don’t know jack about the science but I figure it’s a whole lot better than eating the pastry or cream doughnut I would have eaten if I wanted something to soothe my sweet tooth.  They also keep you satisfied for quite a while. So they have been a hit for me. If you are going to try them, just follow the instructions in terms of leaving them to fry for 5 minutes on each side. I was a bit impatient and tried to flip them too soon. They broke up a bit but were salvageable and definitely edible.

Give them a whirl if you are trying to cut down on the cake! But as the recipe says, watch the portions. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch with zero calories.

Happy Weekend Everyone!

The pursuit of healthiness

The start of December’s month long challenge came out of nowhere really. I had fallen off the exercise wagon in a big way this year. The usual excuses. I had a day job. Attended classes in the evenings. And spent most weekends working on group assignments. I know there are people who do more than this in their week and still manage to fit in exercise. But I am not them.

I finished exams in early November. Tried to jump back into an exercise regime. I did 3 classes that week. But then exhaustion took over and that was that. For the entire month of November I did 5 classes. Mostly Pilates and Yoga as I am attempting to get the foundation built.

Then on 30thNovember the 10 000 step challenge came to me in a flash. I needed another goal that was easy to track and easy enough to implement. But with this challenge, so far, came a number of other benefits. For the past two nights my sleep has already improved from a quality perspective. I used to wake up often during the night. But now feel like I am getting a much deeper sleep. My abdomen feels like its relaxing. I naturally carry a lot of tension in my stomach area and I can already feel like I am breathing a lot easier. I have also added Pilates to the mix as well. I am trying to build a good functional base from which to do other exercise. I did a class on Monday and one today.

The amazing thing about Pilates. You are forced to breathe deeply. Something we generally don’t do in the course of our everyday lives. Right now my legs feel fatigued. I can feel every single big muscle in them saying HELLO! But I know that’s not a bad thing. It means the muscles are waking up and are really working.

I really need to focus on getting more coverage during the course of the day. This house circling is taking things to a whole new level of crazy! The pursuit of health is worth it though!

 

 

 

 

December Challenge 2015

Having finished November’s Nablopomo Challenge I thought that I should keep the momentum going.

So, for December, the challenge is to do 10000 steps a day for the entire month! Am I up for this? Who knows but it’s already Day 2!

Day 1 was easy enough as I had a particularly active day. But I was about 3000 steps short of the daily target. So what did I do? I did a circuit inside and outside my house. If anyone was watching me, they would have thought I was crazy.  But I was determined to achieve the target on Day 1. It surely couldn’t be a viable start if I didn’t hit 10000 on Day 1.

And Day 2 was even more challenging. I got home and had a 6000 step deficit. No problem! I did my crazy house circling thing until I hit that magic number.

I realised two things. Focusing on hitting the number distracted me from what I was doing. Walking is not my favourite mode of exercise but I know it’s a good base. By focusing on the pedometer it made it feel less arduous.

The second thing I learnt is that you can squeeze in extra steps without noticing. I did funny little double back steps just to increase the “length” of my circuit. Whenever I got out of my car I sort of circled it. Instead of going directly to the door behind me to take stufo out of my car, I took the long way around the car to get to the spot.

Yes. It’s seems crazy but I think a healthy dose of crazy is going to help me finish this month’s challenge.