About Polly


Welcome to my website!

Here's a bit about myself...

I was born to an Irish mother who very reluctantly gave me up for adoption (I eventually managed to trace her to the USA, where we were reunited) and a French father whom I've never been able find and who, sadly, remains unaware of my existence.

After training to be a teacher, I taught in the UK, Canada and Gibraltar, where I met my husband. We've now been married for forty-four years and have five amazing children and two lovely grandchildren.

Although I'd already had some success with writing, I knew absolutely nothing about art and thought I was utterly hopeless at it. But during my time on a psychiatric ward, following a complete mental breakdown,

I discovered an enduring passion for the tactile experience of playing with pastels, thanks to the kindness and encouragement of an occupational therapist.

I took early retirement from teaching and ploughed my energy into writing books, travelling and messing about for hours with pastels in an old shed in the garden that I refer to as my 'art studio'.

My obsession with depicting fields of poppies under cloudy skies comes from my excitement whenever I see a mass of bright red poppies and I get spellbound for ages watching different cloud formations - well, we all need a hobby, don't we!

Being passionate about colour I often spend hours on pictures of the glowing sunsets I've watched and seascapes that appeal to me. And I've recently developed a taste for using gouache to paint bikes, French shops and the odd apple or strawberry. I'm even lucky enough to sell some paintings occasionally!

Writing my mental health books was cathartic for me. I wrote about why I developed mental illness and the therapies that finally enabled me to move forward with my life. I also felt that it was important to write about the damaging effect of adverse reactions from those who'd never experienced severe mental health problems. I wanted so much for sufferers to know that they are not alone and to tell them that there are therapies out there to help them, despite the fact that they are not always easy to access.

I am keen to play a part in changing public perception of mental illness. With formerly taboo topics like 'sex' and 'cancer' now being discussed freely, wouldn't you think that there'd be a greater degree of openness and a genuine understanding of the mental health problems suffered by one in four of us in society? But whilst physical ailments generally evoke a positive, sympathetic response from others, such is the stigma around mental health issues that they continue to be viewed with a massive dose of fear, ignorance and denial.

On a slightly different note - in 2003, during a fortnight's holiday in Paris, I blew our entire life savings in one gulp. In the space of a couple of weeks I'd put down the statutory ten percent deposit on a tiny, near-derelict apartment (I don't recommend this way of purchasing a property abroad!). It took years to make it habitable, whilst at the same time struggling with the language. However, we are now fortunate enough to have a comfortable little oasis of peace on the edge of this truly magnificent city. I've described the whole experience in 'Going In Seine'.

I enjoy eating those lovely French pastries! But being heavily overweight and because obesity runs in my natural family, I feared becoming diabetic and dying prematurely like my natural mother. So I spent years trying lots of different diets, with each one lasting only a short time - I've got very little will power when it comes to dieting! But every time I gave up I felt a huge sense of failure as my waistline expanded once again. In the end I got fed up with this pattern of yo-yo dieting and just tried to eat healthily and exercise more. However, I didn't lose weight.

When the 5:2 diet finally hit the UK scene in a big way I weighed it up and decided to give it a go, expecting it to have the same shelf life as all my previous efforts to stick to a diet.

I've now been a fan of the 5:2 diet for almost three years - far outstripping the length of time I've managed to maintain any other weight loss regime - because it's so easy to follow. The pounds have dropped off steadily and I don't have to miss out on things I enjoy such as chocolate, ice cream and wine!

After a few months of using this way of dieting and finding that it worked incredibly well, I decided to share my enthusiasm, and the simple meal plans I'd devised, in 'The 5:2 Diet Made eZy'. And when I realised that I could pack more food for fewer calories into my two weekly diet days by eating veggie-style, I wrote 'The 5:2 Vegetarian Diet Made eZy'. I subsequently collaborated with two other authors to produce 'Everything You Need For The 5:2 Diet'.

In the past, if I was having a bad day, I dealt with my emotional distress by turning to an excess of sweet foods for comfort. Now I look for healthier ways to make myself feel better, like going into the garden to listen to sounds around me, feel the sun warming my skin and look at the beauty of nature. Rather than push away any negative feelings inside me, I simply notice them and accept that they are there but know that it's necessary to look outwards as well. And when I realised how a mindful approach could make preparing and eating a meal so much more satisfying, I shared this discovery in 'Mindfulness for the 5:2 Diet'.

I can really only write with genuine feeling about things I've experienced personally. 'Missing Factor' is about the trauma of an unexpected diagnosis of haemophilia in our baby son and how we learned to cope with it; I wanted other parents in the same position to know that it's perfectly possible to have a normal family life, with this blood-clotting disorder relegated to the background. It's the kind of book I would have liked to read when we were faced with this condition.

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If there's anything on this website that you'd like to comment on or ask questions about, please feel free to contact me; I'd love to hear from you! You can easily get in touch by clicking on 'Contact' above or on Twitter: @FieldingPolly