Guest Blogs, highlighton other fab ladies, Life of a Mum, Other fabulous ladies

Nicky Masson – A global force to be reckoned with (guest blog)

Interview and words by @chameleoninhighheels

When you speak to Nicky Masson, a friendly smile and inviting enthusiasm in her voice make you feel at ease immediately.  But there is also an air of calm collectednessabout her, a sense of empowering confidence that is infectious and inspiring. Nicky Masson is a business coach and mentor at Nicky Masson Global, helping individuals and businessesachieve their goals, get results and focus on a positive mindset.

I first met Nicky over four years ago at a local baby massage group where my little one had chosen to scream for the entirety of the course. We bonded over a shared determination to breast feed our babies and Nicky was giving supportive advice as a mum of two which I, as a first time mother was incredibly grateful for. 

We recently reconnected as part of Nicky’s exclusive Make It Happen membership program, which offers advice and coaching to new and existing entrepreneurs. I met her for coffee and flapjack to chat about her journey over the last 4 years, her business and life as a full time entrepreneur and mother.

When I ask Nicky how and why she embarked on her career as a business coach, I am taken aback by her candid honesty.  Nicky describes 2016 a key transitional stage in her life.  She got made redundant from a job role she had known for many years.  In response to this, she set up her own network marketing business but failed to make significant progress.  “My fear and anxiety stopped me”, she smiles shyly. “I had so many ideas but I just couldn’t apply myself.” A chance meeting at a webinar introduced her to her mentor and has been working with him ever since.  “It was a catalyst toacknowledge that I had to work on myself and change.  Theway we act and behave is a mirror to what’s happening on the inside. I realised that, if I can achieve it, then I can help others to do the same.

Does she think being made redundant has shaped the way she approaches her own business?  Nicky is thoughtful with her response and I can tell this delves into some difficult memories.  “I left a good job to be a mother and returned to find it had been taken from me.  Instead I had to do menial tasks that gave me the feeling of being neither wanted nor skilled enough, all because I’d had two babies and worked part-time.”  Recalling my own experiences of returning to work after maternity leave, I can empathise with Nicky’s recollection. She also sums up the emotional side of employment as a new mum perfectly: “As a mother you are vulnerable and dealing with so many emotions.  Being given the feeling you are not good enough anymore makes you question everything.  In the end I just felt numb and went through the motions.” She laughs, but it doesn’t come from the heart. “Ironically, by treating me this way, my employer didn’t get the best out of me anymore either.” Nicky suffered from postnatal depression and anxiety, something she struggled to comprehend and combat.  “I didn’t understand what it was, why I felt the way I did.  It wasn’t a good time.”

Has this insight into darkness helped her in her own development and that of her clients?  Nicky nods passionately.  “Through my mentor and the coaching process I got answers to who I was.  I believe that personal development is incredibly important in any business, yet most people don’t get trained and furthered that way. Most companies only focus on knowledge and skills.  However, 85% of how you work is about your attitude. If you focus on the positives and embrace change, you will thrive.”

I am interested in how Nicky combines running her own successful and growing business with being a mother to two young children.  I mention that a recent study conducted by the universities of Manchester and Exeter showed that full-time working mothers with two children experiences significant stress levels that could, in the long term, be harmful to their health (Barr, 2019, The Independent). Does she have any tips for other mums? “The biggest thing is managing and separating your time.  It’s all about focus: If you focus on your work you will get things done and, in return, you will spend less time doing it.  Likewise, once you are with your family, that’s where your focus should be.”  
Does she ever experience mum guilt, I ask.  “Yes, of course.  It happens to all of us.  When we work we think of our kidsand during family time we may want to check emails.” Her words resonate as I recall my own guilt since the day I dropped my babies at nursery.  How does she cope with her own mum guilt these days?  “I am getting better”, Nicky smiles serenely.  “I have created a better environment for myself with my business and I can help others achieve the same”. 

I feel it’s time for my million-dollar question: Does she believe that women can have it all? Nicky’s response is immediate, firm and delivered with such conviction I want to close my notebook and sign up for whatever course she wants me to sign up in the future.  “Yes, without a doubt”, followed by a pause, and I am not quite sure if I need her to elaborate.  However, she has an explanation up her sleeve.  “Women in general deserve so much more credit in modern society.  We are the ones who do all the juggling and wear the different hats. We do it all.  The important thing, however, is that we have to believe that we can have it all – if you don’t believe it, it won’t happen.” I wonder if Nicky still has moments of doubt or if she has figured it all out.  She laughs. “I constantly work on myself.  There are still things that hold me back and,as with everyone’s road to success, it’s work in progress.”  

We leave the café over an hour after our official interview has finished, reminiscing and ponder over where we are now. Nicky’s achievements and proven strategies have intrigued me to interview and write about her, something our past selves would probably not have predicted. What I can predict, however, is that there is a lot I have already learnt from Nicky, and can’t wait to implement her strategies.

Nickys Facebook

Nickys Insta

Guest Blogs, highlighton other fab ladies, Other fabulous ladies

Can I really eat plants for the rest of my life? (Guest blog)

I recently decided to remove all animal products from my diet. I did my research; took time to find out about nutritional requirements; experimented with the vast array of milk alternatives on the market; found a good plant- based spread for my toast.

The result? I feel less bloated, my tummy has gone down a little,I feel somehow ‘lighter’ and I may be imagining it but I think I look good! Better still, my conscience is clean. It feels so darn good to enjoy food that is not associated with any harm or suffering of animals.

I have a growing collection of vegan cook books and eagerly await the new edition of Vegan Food & Living magazine. So is that it? Have I transitioned with success? Can I really be happy eating plants for the rest of my life?

My name is Zoe. I am 43 years of age. I was brought up by 2 wonderful meat- eating parents, who truly believed that providing a balanced meal consisted of meat and 2 veg. Meat and fish were the basis of every meal. Back in the 80s, there wasn’t a great influence of international cuisine. Dinners consisted of chicken, fish or pork with seasonal veg. I looked forward to a traditional Sunday roast every week, something that I adopted as a tradition in my own adult household. I don’t remember eating rice or pasta until I was in my teens and I certainly didn’t know anything about lentils, cous cous or quinoa! But I was happy. My mum was a great cook & I always ate whatever I was given. I never had to be reminded to finish everything on my plate!

So what changed? Looking back, I remember several moments when I questioned what I was eating. Looking into my soft boiled egg, wondering what the white slimy stuff really was and was I really supposed to be eating it? Finding a gristly bit of mince in my shepherds pie and wondering what part of the animal it was. And that chewy bit you’d find in sausages, well I won’t even go there!! I naturally felt some doubt about what I was eating but easily put it to the back of my mind as it seemed ‘normal’. Until my big sister declared herself Vegetarian. How dare she shake the belief system of our parents and cause such a fuss? Well she did. And despite being told it was a fad or a phase, she has continued her veggie lifestyle until this day. To her I am very grateful, as she allowed me to begin to question my beliefs. Following a roast pork dinner one day in my late teens, where all I could think was “this tastes too much like pig.” I decided to ‘try’ being veggie. It lasted a week. Until my mum made my favourite Sunday dinner of roast-lamb. I caved. Life got busy and I continued my carnivorous lifestyle for another 25 years.

By this time, I had 2 grown up daughters of my own. The youngest, Ebony, who at age 9 began to leave the meat on the side of her plate each dinner time. We would get into a painful battle of “Finish your dinner or you’re not leaving the table” She would cry and ask me “Mummy, what animal is this on my plate?” I didn’t know what to say. Something in me felt I couldn’t force her to eat an animal if she didn’t want to, so after several gruelling dinner times, I eventually decided to swap her meat for Quorn to see if it made any difference. She ate the whole lot from that day forward with very little argument. To my strong-willed little 9 year old, I am very grateful, as she was the second person to make me question my beliefs.

A decade later, my eldest daughter, Jasmine, began an animal welfare course at college. Within her first year, she too decided to remove meat from her diet. Now things were getting a little tricky in our house; cooking meat and fish for my husband and I, whilst trying to keeping the girls happy with meat-free alternatives. It was a challenge to think of things to make for vegetarians when I was still eating meat myself.
Jasmine liked to research the animal agriculture industry and began to share information with me. She did so in such a non-pushy way that I found myself unable to turn away. I felt an obligation to at least humour her and take a look. At first I found it almost impossible to allow myself to see the truth. In short, it was so horrendous that I sobbed, my heart breaking. How could I have shielded myself from the truth of what really happens to animals for so long? Why didn’t anyone tell me about this? Then denial. Surely, this must be exaggerated or just in remote cases? Sadly not. I carried on as ‘normal’ for a while longer but I knew that I had already started to question myself.

And then it happened. I woke up one morning and knew that I wouldn’t be able to eat the farm shop free range chicken that was in the fridge for dinner. I had bought 2 portions the day before and didn’t have an inkling at the time, or the night before when I had enjoyed the other portion for dinner. I wasn’t prepared for this! I had no clue what I was going to eat instead but I just knew that I definitely couldn’t eat that! Over the next few days I felt a bit confused and sorry for myself. I wasn’t looking forward to meal times as much as normal and didn’t know what to cook for myself.

I continued to eat fish for a while and this became my safety net (pardon the pun) whilst I found new meat-free alternatives I liked. It became incredibly easy to be pescatarian. Restaurants and cafes generally offered Vegetarian options and friends and family were happy to make vegetarian food for me. I felt lighter and happier. My husband, Derrick, was happy to eat less meat and more fish. For the first time in years, I was making one meal for the whole family!

The information kept coming from Jasmine. Listening to Earthling Ed made me question my beliefs further. I was curious. Why do people go Vegan? Why make life harder for yourself? Isn’t it enough to ditch the meat? Why go the whole hog (sorry again) and ditch dairy too? I registered with PETA and educated myself about the dairy and egg industry and it wasn’t long before I couldn’t bear the thought of drinking cow’s ‘breast’ milk. I found a new love for almond milk on my cereal and in coffee/shakes. I was still looking for a replacement to go in my tea. And then Jasmine rocked my world again by announcing she was going Vegan. Wow. I felt in awe. She asked me to help her do her weekly shop. So there we were in Aldi, reading all the labels, checking for dairy and other non-Vegan food ingredients. It took ages! It was fun though and I was surprised at just how many foods were naturally plant- based. Her trolley looked amazing, so colourful and healthy with all the different vegetables and fruits. 3 weeks later, I decided I was going to follow suit.

The process has been a very natural one for me, taking every step at my own pace and in my own time. Dropping eggs wasn’t so hard, I always thought it was a bit odd eating eggs anyway. Then someone recommended oat milk in my tea and I haven’t looked back since. I stocked my fridge and cupboards with healthy plant-based foods and got to work. Transitioning to a vegan diet was a little more complex than that of simply dropping meat. I quickly realised I needed to re-think my meal plans.

Effectively, I needed to re-learn how to cook! I found that if I tried to replace components, it didn’t really work, so instead I thought about the meal as a whole. I experimented with ingredients I had never used before and created dishes I had never heard of. I began to find a rebirth in my passion for cooking. I would get out a variety of ingredients onto the worktop and just get creative! Vegetables cook quickly so many dishes can be created in 30-45 mins. I now have a number of dishes I regularly enjoy at home and would never be without my beloved humous and avocados.

I truly believe that transitioning to Veganism is more of a psychological change. Humans get so much pleasure from eating good tasting foods. The size of the food and restaurant industry is a demonstration of that. We love to eat. Correction. We love to eat good food. We pay to eat good food. So, if we can change our perspective of what good food is, from the dated idea that it has to come from animal derivatives and be more open to a new perspective of dishes and ingredients, then we can learn to love vegan food just as much, if not more.

So can I really be happy eating plants for the rest of my life? Hell yes! You bet. Thank you to my daughters for leading the way for me. I love you so much.

Read more about Zoe and her vegan lifestyle Zoe’s Insta