The Sunday Telegraph - Stella
‘I’ll never go back to… working 9 to 5’ ‘I’ll never go back to… emotional eating’
Nicola Jenkins 45, jewellery maker 27, pharmacy manager and co-founder of Money Medics
When I tell people I left my stable marketing career at the start of the pandemic, I often get strange looks, but it’s the best decision I’ve made. I’d worked in the industry for 15 years and had a comfortable if stressful job, but deep down I was desperate to do something creative. Early last year, things came to a breaking point at work and one day my husband Paul said, ‘Right, you need to leave.’
Days later, I handed in my notice, planning to find something else – then the first lockdown hit. Some nights I panicked that I wouldn’t find a new job. I felt flat and lost. But scary as the pandemic was, it put everything into perspective. Did I really want to be in that career for ever? Why not try something new?
Years ago I used to make jewellery as a hobby and sell it to friends, and my mum reminded me of an old box of beads and jewellery I’d stashed in the loft. ‘Why not have a go at that?’ she suggested.
Luckily I had some savings to fall back on and I found a part-time job with a local charity, which afforded me the materials, lighting and photography equipment to get started. Today, I make colourful costume jewellery, then photograph it and sell it on Etsy and Instagram. The process of stringing the beads and adding hooks and clasps is incredibly soothing; it helps with anxiety, which I’ve battled with in the past. And I get a buzz out of every sale. When I sell something, I shout out to Paul, who cheers.
The last year has been a struggle for many, but rediscovering my creative side and becoming my own boss has been so fulfilling. My advice for anyone considering doing the same is to go for it now, instead of waiting for the ‘perfect time’ – there isn’t one.
I piled on the pounds when I started working in a pharmacy three years ago. It’s based in a supermarket so cakes and doughnuts were within arm’s reach and I’d grab one as a boost. I’d also eat if I was bored or stressed.
Gradually, I gained 20kg. My BMI inched towards ‘obese’ and my confidence dwindled. I always intended to lose the weight ‘one day’, but things changed when the pandemic hit. Working in the pharmacy at that time was so hard – the hours were long and seeing what Covid-19 did to people was terrifying.
Knowing I was at higher risk of complications because of my weight gave me a kick. I found a personal trainer online and began doing strength-training workouts three times a week, via Zoom. Soon after, I signed up to a fitness challenge, which involved looking at my diet. My trainer pointed out I was eating around 4,000 calories a day – thanks to takeaways, fizzy drinks and sweets – and flagged the damage I was doing to my body with that much saturated fat, salt and carbohydrate. It was surprising I hadn’t had a heart attack.
I changed my eating habits overnight and the weight came off quickly – I lost about 13kg in six months – and I’m more mindful of my comfort snacking urges. My diet now is relatively high in protein and low in carbs – I have a chicken breast with rice and salad for lunch or dinner, and fruit or rye crackers for snacks. Recently, I read a tweet that struck a nerve. It said: ‘You’re not a dog, why are you rewarding yourself with food?’ Now, when I’m stressed or low, I do something nice like reading a book in the bath or giving myself a facial. The pandemic has put the importance of our health into perspective and I’m determined to keep it a priority well beyond lockdown.