So last week in the first of our Inspire Interviews we heard from Kris Pace, the Branding Director of KOBOX. This week, we have a completely different inspiring story for you… and spoiler, she’s a total babe.
Even if I have a tiny positive impact on just one person, I’m happy. Starting each day looking forward to the possibilities that lie ahead is a pretty wonderful feeling, too. – Venetia Falconer, TV Presenter, blogger, podcaster and influencer.
Not only does she create my all time fave podcast – Talking Tastebuds – and have the kind of voice I just want to listen to on a permanent audiobook, she’s a multi-talented(and titled!) career queen absolutely bossing the online content space while making waves and gently pushing positive change without preaching in her treatment of ethical eating and sustainable fashion. And that’s not to mention her impressive TV career and presenting chops… this week’s Q&A is with the smart and super-beautiful Venetia Falconer!
B: One thing I really love about the work you do is this amazing energy you bring to everything you do – I first saw you talk on The Future of Wellness Panel where you presented for YellowKite Books – you’re obviously multi-passionate and multi-talented – can you talk a little bit about your background and how you became a presenter, blogger, vlogger, podcaster and influencer…?!
V: Thank you so much! I worked my way up behind the camera as a producer at MTV learning how to write scripts, film, edit, work with presenters and hone my interview skills. A friend then put me forward for a presenting job at 4Music and I thought I may as well go for it and I got the gig! I spent 18 months hosting their daily live show which was the best training ground. I was then picked up by Tastemade and fell in love with the digital sphere, so launched my YouTube channel and then my podcast, Talking Tastebuds.
B: You’re also vegan, and make it seem so easy! How did you make the transition to fully fledged veganism?
V: I took my sweet time – 5 months to be exact! And that’s always my number one top tip, go easy on yourself and take your time. It’s a big change to your body (I was eating eggs, dairy or meat with every meal), so it was necessary for me to ease my way into it.
B: Do you ever struggle to balance career and wellness? Any top tips for keeping that balance?
V: Of course. I meditate daily and try to take regular digital detoxes. Friends are my favourite remedy and a huge part of my life, so I’ll spend as much time as possible hanging out with those who lift my soul!
B: What are you most proud of in your career so far?
V: My podcast. It’s really exceeded all of my expectations.
B: What made you decide to launch ‘Talking Tastebuds’? (I’m literally addicted!) Any highlights and/or struggles?
V: I’m so pleased to hear that! I was taking some time out in Sri Lanka and the idea literally came to me (another reason why time-off is so important if you’re a creative).
Highlights have been hanging out with my heroes! Going to interview the Happy Pear in their hometown was particularly spectacular. Struggles are trying not to overthink about where to take it next…
B: Can you describe a (working) day in the life of Venetia Falconer?
This is hard as it varies so much day-to-day. I like to wake up at 6am so I have time to meditate and do yoga or a TRX class at Equilibrium, before launching into emails and editing. Then I’m often rushing around London to meetings, events, shoots and interviews.
It’s important to me to have a good work/life balance, so I aim to have my laptop closed by 7pm before enjoying dinner with a friend.
B: Have you made any mistakes along the way to where you are today and what have you learned from them, if so?
V: That you can never take a short-cut. You want to be able to do each and every part of your job as well as your boss can. And not to rush. The journey is the most enjoyable part!
B: You’ve been very open about anxiety and the importance of mental health which is so inspiring and has helped a lot of people. What would you say to someone who is suffering and needs help or advice?
V: You are not alone. Talk to someone. Don’t suffer in silence. And if you’re stuck in an Instagram vortex of self comparison, please switch off your phone.
B: What does ‘success’ mean to you?
V: Even if I have a tiny positive impact on just one person, I’m happy. Starting each day looking forward to the possibilities that lie ahead is a pretty wonderful feeling, too.
B: Best and worst career advice you’ve ever been given?
V: Best: “It’s ok to say no”. Worst: “Being vegan will make you less employable”. SEE YA.
B: What’s your life’s mission in a nutshell?
V: To spread a positive message around mental and physical well-being. And to encourage others not to mess with the animals and the planet… 🙂
It’s your last EVER day of your life. What do you do for the day?
Spend it on the coast surrounded by all of my favourite humans. There would be glorious sunshine and lots of incredible music. We’d dance a lot and have long rambling conversations about life. There would be exceptional coffee and food. I would be wearing an incredible boho-dress, but no shoes (minor but important detail).
And I have to ask your infamous podcast question – please can you share your ‘death row dinner’ (the last ever meal you’re going to have!):
This changes every single day. Currently it’s papaya drenched in fresh lime juice. Shared on a beach with David Attenborough, watching the sunrise.
I literally find Venetia’s podcast the most uplifting thing in the world and it’s so interesting and educational too – if you haven’t already gotten yourself hooked on Talking Tastebuds, get your fix here.
So while we mostly deal in fitness and nutrition here on this site, as I mentioned on the new bookclub page, books have been so important to me since forever. Growing up I was always a strange little bookworm and didn’t go anywhere without one. People laughed at me ploughing through a book nearly bigger than me – The Lord of The Rings – at about 7 years old… And I think books are key to wellbeing and cultivating curiosity and generally just living, experiencing and understanding life. Stories and narrative seem to be our way of creating or imposing patterns and meaning on the world.
Doing an English Literature degree made me a major book snob for ages, but thankfully now I’ve opened out to enjoying a wide range that includes low brow as well as high, chick lit as well as Chaucer (only I never actually read much Chaucer!) So this LegallyBooked bookclub isn’t a formal bookclub in a sense, it’s just sharing both high and low brow books we can all enjoy and chat about, and exploring interesting ideas in them.
As promised, to kick off the LegallyBooked posts, for this month I’ve picked AMERICANAH by Chimamanada Ngozi Adiche. It’s not a new book, it’s just one I’ve been trying to get around to reading for aaaaages.
I’ve not quite finished it, but it’s an incredible book and the way it deals with race and identity is illuminating, and it touches on political correctness, loss, belonging… and I just absolutely loved it, you HAVE to read it.
Essentially, it examines race and what it is to live in the UK and USA as an African immigrant, but it is also a love story, and Adiche is amazing in the way her voice is able to penetrate the darkest corners of society and throw light on currents of racism without it feeling like a sociological text – it’s not sneering, or preachy, or awkward. It’s lucid, self-aware, vivid, touching.
I feel like I’ve learned a lot about race and privilege that I never really noticed before (which tends to happen – if something hasn’t been an issue for you or come to your attention before, it tends to be because you’re privileged). Something I’d never really been aware of before was the politicisation of African hair types, and the pressure for anyone with this hair type to use relaxers or more white hairstyles at work, for example.
I’ve linked below to a couple of reviews you might like to read, and below are some “bookclub” style question recommendations for you to ponder from ReadingGroupGuides.com.
Bookclub questions (link to source above)
1. The first part of Ifemelu’s story is told in flashback while she is having her hair braided at a salon before she returns to Nigeria. Why might Adichie have chosen this structure for storytelling? What happens when the narrator shifts to Obinze’s story? How conscious are you as a reader about the switches in narrative perspective?
2. The novel opens in the Ivy League enclave of Princeton, New Jersey. Ifemelu likes living there because “she could pretend to be someone else…someone adorned with certainty” (3). But she has to go to the largely black city of Trenton, nearby, to have her hair braided. Does this movement between cities indicate a similar split within Ifemelu? Why does she decide to return to Nigeria after 13 years in America?
3. How much does your own race affect the experience of reading this or any novel? Does race affect a reader’s ability to identify or empathize with the struggles of Ifemelu and Obinze? Ifemelu writes in her blog that “black people are not supposed to be angry about racism” because their anger makes whites uncomfortable (223). Do you agree?
4. Aunty Uju’s relationship with the General serves as an example of one mode of economic survival for a single woman: she attaches herself to a married man who supports her in return for sexual access. But Uju runs into a serious problem when the General dies and political power shifts. Why, given what you learn of Uju’s intelligence and capabilities later, do you think she chose to engage in this relationship with the General instead of remaining independent?
5. Ifemelu feels that Aunty Uju is too eager to capitulate to the demands of fitting in. Uju says, “You are in a country that is not your own. You do what you have to do if you want to succeed” (120). Is Uju right in compromising her own identity to a certain extent? How is Dike affected by his mother’s struggles?
6. In the clothing shop she visits with her friend Ginika, Ifemelu notices that the clerk, when asking which of the salespeople helped her, won’t say, “Was it the black girl or the white girl?” because that would be considered a racist way to identify people. “You’re supposed to pretend that you don’t notice certain things,” Ginika tells her (128). In your opinion and experience, is this a good example of American political correctness about race? Why does Ifemelu find it curious? Do you think these attitudes differ across the United States?
7. For a time, Ifemelu is a babysitter for Kimberly, a white woman who works for a charity in Africa. Adichie writes that “for a moment Ifemelu was sorry to have come from Africa, to be the reason that this beautiful woman, with her bleached teeth and bounteous hair, would have to dig deep to feel such pity, such hopelessness. She smiled brightly, hoping to make Kimberly feel better” (152). How well does Kimberly exemplify the liberal guilt that many white Americans feel toward Africa and Africans?
8. Ifemelu’s experience with the tennis coach is a low point in her life. Why does she avoid being in touch with Obinze afterward (157–58)? Why doesn’t she read his letters? How do you interpret her behavior?
9. In her effort to feel less like an outsider, Ifemelu begins faking an American accent. She feels triumphant when she can do it, and then feels ashamed and resolves to stop (175). Which aspects of her becoming an American are most difficult for Ifemelu as she struggles to figure out how much she will give up of her Nigerian self?
10. Ifemelu realizes that naturally kinky hair is a subject worth blogging about. She notices that Michelle Obama and Beyoncé never appear in public with natural hair. Why not? “Because, you see, it’s not professional, sophisticated, whatever, it’s just not damn normal” (299). Read the blog post “A Michelle Obama Shout-Out Plus Hair as Race Metaphor” (299–300), and discuss why hair is a useful way of examining race and culture.
11. What does Ifemelu find satisfying about her relationships with Curt and Blaine? Why does she, eventually, abandon each relationship? Is it possible that she needs to be with someone Nigerian, or does she simply need to be with Obinze?
12. Ifemelu’s blog is a venue for expressing her experience as an African immigrant and for provoking a conversation about race and migration. She says, “I discovered race in America and it fascinated me” (406). She asks, “How many other people had become black in America?” (298). Why is the blog so successful? Are there any real-life examples that you know of similar to this?
13. Obinze goes to London, and when his visa expires he is reduced to cleaning toilets (238); eventually he is deported. On his return home, “a new sadness blanketed him, the sadness of his coming days, when he would feel the world slightly off-kilter, his vision unfocused” (286). How does his experience in London affect the decisions he makes when he gets back to Lagos? Why does he marry Kosi? How do these choices and feelings compare to Ifemelu’s?
14. While she is involved with Curt, Ifemelu sleeps with a younger man in her building, out of curiosity. “There was something wrong with her. She did not know what it was but there was something wrong with her. A hunger, a restlessness. An incomplete knowledge of herself. The sense of something farther away, beyond her reach” (291–92). Is this a common feeling among young women in a universal sense, or is there something more significant in Ifemelu’s restlessness? What makes hers particular, if you feel it is?
15. When reading Obinze’s conversations with Ojiugo, his now-wealthy friend who has married an EU citizen, did you get the sense that those who emigrate lose something of themselves when they enter the competitive struggle in their new culture (Chapter 24), or is it more of a struggle to maintain that former self? Does Adichie suggest that this is a necessary sacrifice? Are all of the characters who leave Nigeria (such as Emenike, Aunty Uju, Bartholomew, and Ginika) similarly compromised?
16. Aunty Uju becomes a doctor in America but still feels the need to seek security through an alliance with Bartholomew, whom she doesn’t seem to love. Why might this be? How well does she understand what her son, Dike, is experiencing as a displaced, fatherless teenager? Why might Dike have attempted suicide?
17. Is the United States presented in generally positive or generally negative ways in AMERICANAH?
18. The term “Americanah” is used for Nigerians who have been changed by having lived in America. Like those in the novel’s Nigerpolitan Club, they have become critical of their native land and culture: “They were sanctified, the returnees, back home with an extra gleaming layer” (408). Is the book’s title meant as a criticism of Ifemelu, or simply an accurate word for what she fears she will become (and others may think of her)?
19. How would you describe the qualities that Ifemelu and Obinze admire in each other? How does Adichie sustain the suspense about whether Ifemelu and Obinze will be together until the very last page? What, other than narrative suspense, might be the reason for Adichie’s choice in doing so? Would you consider their union the true homecoming, for both of them?
20. Why is it important to have the perspective of an African writer on race in America? How does reading the story make you more alert to race, and to the cultural identifications within races and mixed races? Did this novel enlarge your own perspective, and if so, how?
Welcome to the first in this series of Inspire Interviews! These will be permanently available on the careers section of this site, which I’m currently expanding so keep your eyes peeled…
It’s no secret how much I love KOBOX and their awesome Brand Director, Kris Pace has generously agreed to answer some questions for us today on all things work, fitness, boxing, branding and a cheeky quickfire round!
It’s always really interesting to go behind the scenes of our favourite brands and companies, as I think so many people aspire to work for places they can be proud of doing what they love.
Don’t get yourself into a position where you’re representing someone or something you don’t care about, because anyone you meet will see right through it. Genuine passion goes so far in this world, and if you’re proud of and fervid about who or what you’re representing, you won’t go far wrong. If you don’t believe in what you’re showcasing to the world, you don’t deserve to be doing it. – Kris Pace, KOBOX Brand Director.
We touch on this in the interview, but KOBOX really does change lives, and so it’s no wonder the ‘fight club meets nightclub’ has been a roaring success. While KOBOX’s brand is amazing, clearly part of what makes it so incredible is it’s so much MORE than a brand, there’s a real sense of this KOBOX community that they’ve built, and as Kris says below there’s a sense of pride in everyone working there in getting to contribute to something bigger… so let’s dig in to chatting with Kris and find out his secrets to work success, how he ended up this amazing role, and his sport and fitness approach… Plus find out which KOBOX instructors he’d rather hug, marry and waterballoon…!
B: Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be Kobox’s Brand Director – did you always know this was the kind of work you wanted to do?
K: I met Shane and Ian Streetz when I worked for Men’s Health magazine. The team there wanted to do a 12-week body transformation, through boxing, for a feature. Whilst working there, we’d all heard a lot of good stuff about KOBOX, so we went down to see what it was like, and we knew instantly it was the right place to host the transformation…
Once the feature had finished, I’d loved being there so much that I kept going back, both to train and to socialise. The business was growing rapidly, and the Brand Director role was formed about 6 months later. I jumped at the chance, and the rest is history…
B: Can you describe a (working) day in the life for you at Kobox HQ?
K: Everything and anything can happen in typical day at KOBOX. There are so many variables at a boxing club, you simply have to be on top of everything. My day can vary from cleaning the office and serving protein shakes to conceiving and executing authentic online content or meeting people to further expand one of many sides of the business. But, for definite, the main stream of consciousness for every single employee at KOBOX, daily, is to make sure we’re giving people the best 50 minutes of their day when they come in to take a class.
B: Have you always been passionate about fitness?
K: Sport, all my life. Fitness, all my adult life. I think naturally I like to try new things, and test myself in new waters. I’ve body-built, gone super heavy but then also gone super slim for a triathlon, then tried my hand at boxing… it’s important to see what you’re made of.
B: What advice would you give to someone looking to go into branding/marketing roles?
K: Don’t get yourself into a position where you’re representing someone or something you don’t care about, because anyone you meet will see right through it. Genuine passion goes so far in this world, and if you’re proud of and fervid about who or what you’re representing, you won’t go far wrong. If you don’t believe in what you’re showcasing to the world, you don’t deserve to be doing it.
B: Have you made any mistakes along the way to where you are today and what have you learned from them, if so?
K: Of course, many. I learn something every single day, and I’d never want that to change.
Whether it’s something that has differed from your expectations; something you attested to but it turned out otherwise; or even if it’s something that you’re proved right on, you learn every time. You can’t predict the future, but you can take note and not make the same mistake twice.
B: What are the best and worst bits of your job? Any top challenges and/or achievements?
K: Genuinely, there are too many best bits to choose from. I get to walk into KOBOX every day, which is a place I fell in love with before I worked there. But to name a few? The team, the ambition, the classes themselves and the difference they make to people’s lives – which is extraordinary, and I feel privileged to be a part of that.
Worse bit? Sloane Square’s on the District Line, which is, without doubt, the most lamentable tube line ever made. Ever. I never moan about it, though. Ask anyone…
B: Do you do KOBOX workouts yourself or do you like to mix up your regime? Any favourite ways to train?
K: If I’m honest, I wish I had more time to do class. It’s tricky for me to pick a class time and stick to it, as my day can change at the drop of a hat. But I love Core Day!
Away from class, I like to lift weights, but with a circuit/HIIT element to it… I’ve started to round up the trainers to participate, which helps with the old wilting willpower!
B: Best and worst career advice you’ve ever been given?
K: Best: Trust your gut.
Worst: Tailor yourself to the role.
B: Do you have a role model or mentor you look to for career inspiration?
K: I wouldn’t say one in particular. A lot of people are full of hot air, but there are also people who talk a lot of sense. Pick attentively what ‘words of wisdom’ you take with you.
B: Who are your fave fitness icons?
K: Eric ‘The King’ Cantona. My all-time sporting hero, but not necessarily a fitness icon. It’s hard to look past Rich Froning in that sense – what he’s achieved is incredible. I think he now defines modern-day fitness.
B: And finally, what does ‘success’ mean to you?
K: Retiring when I’m 35.
Joke. Building something that will outlast you.
B: Bonus question: which Kobox instructor would you least like to get in a ring with and why?!
Any of them, they’d all batter me in the ring.
Fave combo on the heavy bags:
2. 2. 2. 2. 2. 2…
Eggs or oats?
Burpee or bear crawl?
Neither, they’re both grim.
Nature or nurture?
Nurture. It’s the only thing we have control over.
Talent or hustle?
The best KOBOX shake on the menu?
Peanut Uppercut. Or the Suckerpunch (just because I named it).
Chocolate or cheese?
Boxing or MMA?
You have to hug, marry and water-balloon 3 kobox instructors – which ones do you choose?! 😉
Hug:Ollie. Who doesn’t want to cuddle the #BrownBear?
Water-Balloon: Ian Streetz. He wins at everything and I’ve had enough of it.
It’s your last EVER meal of your life. What do you order/make?
A proper, old-school Indian. Not one of these fancy new ones.
Thanks so much Kris for answering all of these questions and sharing your work and fitness insights! You can find Kris on instagram here, and all things KOBOX here. Keep an eye out for the next Inspire Interview coming soon!
So this week an email landed in my inbox from Rhiannon Lambert (her Rhitrition newsletter has all kinds of interesting nutrition nerdy news and tips so do subscribe!) linking me to an article in The Independent about Meghan Markle’s favourite smoothie. But the article misses out another favourite recipe of Meghan’s that she mentions in an interview with The Chalkboard, so scroll down to unearth this extra little royal gem!
It’s no secret that this gorgeous, smart, soon-to-be-royal was a fan of all things wellness before she took up with the Prince… and all fairytales need to feature magic and potions somewhere, right?!
Rhiannon Lambert, as I’m sure you all already know if you’ve been around this blog/insta a while, is an amazing Harley Street nutritionist (info on her book here) and in the article mentioned above, she breaks down the health benefits of the ingredients to Meghan’s go-to smoothie. The recipe Meghan claimed she uses can also be found in this article in Hello Magazine, but Rhiannon highlights how the protein powder could be improved to a healthier one, so I’m going to share a take on the smoothie that’s more in line with these Harley Street guidelines ❤
With the Royal Wedding coming up, I thought I’d experiment and give you a recipe made with these ingredients that you can blend up in time for the celebrations along with the bonus extra the Independent missed out… who knows, maybe we’ll get Meghan’s glow if we drink enough of it 😉
I am really excited to be launching an interview series with some incredible people. Whether your dream job involves burpees and barbells, boardrooms or business-meetings (or none of the above!), I’ve chatted to some reeeeally cool people who graciously agreed to share their stories about what they do and how they got there.
Coming your way in these Q&As will be:
Top tips from incredible entrepreneurs, industry shakers and influencers
Their stories, insights and career tips
How they balance wellness and work
Secrets to their success
While this blog is very ‘health’, ‘fitness’ and ‘nutrition’ focussed (I mean, “gymliving” features in the name!), I’ve also always been honest that fitness isn’t my whole life – career is important to me and mine is actually in law rather than the fitness industry (I’m “legallygymliving”, after all!). And another part of this picture is that ever-elusive ‘balance’ – maintaining mental and physical health, and enjoying interests, family, friends and loved ones rather than being chained to the grindstone.
A huuuuuge part of my view of the world and the content I try to share with you all is finding a way to make health and wellness and working out fit around YOUR lives. And also sharing non-fitness related content that can inspire and enhance your career and all the other things that are important to you, because there’s more to living well than matcha lattes and working on our abs!
I’ve been interviewing some incredible people who are just so inspiring for all kinds of different reasons – some work in careers related in some way to fitness or wellness, others don’t – from influencers & entrepreneurs to lawyers & financiers, I wanted to share with you all some of the people who have been generous enough to let me interview them, and share their amazing insights and stories with you!
Whatever you want to work in, I think you can learn a lot from exploring new areas (my marketing, events and account management ‘first’ career taught me a lot, for example, and while I may not use it while I’m drafting legal docs day to day, you can chalk everything up to life experience and you’d be surprised when things pop up!) so hopefully even if there’s not someone I’ve interviewed who you want to exactly-to-the-letter model your path on, you’ll find some inspo and top tips to getting to where you want to be!
First up we have a fab interview from the insaaaaaaaaane Kris Pace, Brand Director at Kobox (& formerly of Men’s Health)! Watch this space… it will go live on Friday 🙂
So as you may have seen a couple of years ago on this blog, I LOVED Kayla Itsines’ bikini body guide… when the app first launched I was SO INTO IT. Like, getting my trophies every week was actually weirdly compulsively motivating… I’d get upset if my phone died and I missed a trophy! I also real results, and fast, without over-training (pictured above).
One of the things it did was help me fall in love with fitness. I moved on, after 25 weeks+ of religious BBG to try weightlifting… then to mixing things up, my own programmes, boxing, kobox, my own combos of classes, HIIT and plyos… I did a little bit of GraceFitUK’s guide… I’ve become a bit of a dabbler. Which is great! Sometimes. But as we’ve discussed, routine is a cornerstone to long-term health because you can’t rely on motivation 24/7. Also, work is my main priority now, and so fitness has to fit around that.
I recommended it to a friend recently and it got me thinking about it again. It was the longest I’ve stuck at doing exactly the same routine…
So basically, I do love the wider fitness scene and I’m so glad BBG launched me headfirst into that, and built up a good fitness foundation for me, or I’d never have survived a kobox session!
I won’t go back to JUST doing BBG. But I am going back to trying to do it as my default base.
This is why.
Community (sounds cheesy but it’s so true!) I miss the sense of community we had, with all the bbg girls checking in on insta every time we did a workout. I made lovely real life friends through the historical meetups [blogged here!] and online community where we actually bonded over a love of Kayla and law – the lovely Tash (who eventually vanished 😦 without a trace) and amazing Alex (now a big blogging deal and serious ab goals, the girl you all know as @theleanlawyer, but I met her as just another lovely, down to earth bbg fan about to travel the world!) Plus the epic online community – some of us have stuck together for ages (oh hey Andrenna Taylor!) Yes other apps and guides promise this kind of community – I’ve dabbled in Tone It Up (OMG you guys, can you believe Kat is pregnant SQUEEEEEE?!!!), Grace Fit Guide… but it just hasn’t stuck or worked at the same level for me. I feel a bit isolated now – I obviously am plugged in to the instagram fitness community, but do my own thing so often that when motivation dips it can be a bit blue and lonely!
Home sweet home suitability! When I stopped using BBG, I had got to the point where I loved the gym, so I needed a Kayla-at-home programme less, but now I’m actually craving home workouts again. The office gym is okay, but I don’t always have tonnes of time, and also it can be weird working out in a raggedy sports bra next to very senior members of the firm who can see you looking disgusting and totally unprofessional and tomato-faced haha! Not when I feel at my best! Also, increasingly, the more time I spend at the office, the more I just want to be home. Even if that means working out in my spare room / dressing room rather than a gym!
Time &ease –While my hours are pretty decent for a trainee lawyer right now (touch wood!), in my next seat this is almost guaranteed to change. I won’t have hours or bundles of energy to gym, there’ll be a lot more finishing work in the early hours, and I like my regime to be sustainable. BBG’s effective 28 minute workouts can be done anywhere with so little equipment.
App upgrades – the app has come along way since I ditched my subscription. It now features BBG stronger, Kayla’s weights and gym-based programme, Kelsey Wells’ PWR weight training programme and also Sjana Elise‘s mind/body yoga-based programme, so you get far more options for progression when you eventually fatigue of 50 weeks straight bbg!)
It’s challenging no matter your fitness level & hits the physique type/goals I now have – I don’t need it to build base fitness anymore like the first time I did it… but that’s okay! (Although it’s PERFECT if that’s what you’re looking for!) If you need to be pushed, though, you can do more reps, add more weight, or go faster, harder… you don’t have to plateau! Also I have, since bbg, built some muscle, eaten more food, got some glutes and abs and quads a lil thicker… now I don’t feel a need to build, I just want to do the fat loss thing… which Kayla’s original Sweat programme kicks butt at! And if I ever DO want to bulk and build again, I have the PWR to do just that with Kelsey or get BBG Stronger with Kayla!
So those are the reasons I’m aiming to incorporate more bbg into my life, and top 5 reasons I’d highly recommend it for you too!
On my recent insta poll a lot of you said you want to hear about my full weekly routine, so here it is (extended to 10 days for better insight)… but first:
Pleeeease note that I am NOT a nutritionist, doctor or dietician and so can’t advise you on your diet. Please don’t copy what I eat because we’re all individual, and advice must come from qualified professionals. This is for inspo and curiosity only! Nothing here is sponsored – all stuff I’m buying or using! I haven’t included guess-timated weights of food or macros as I tend to eat intuitively. I thought about recording them for you but I don’t think it’s helpful as it just encourages people to copy another person’s diet, which as we’ve discussed is not good!
WORKOUT: 4.6k run outdoors (casual pace, not working for speed, distance or time. Find me on Strava!)
Breakfast – some granola from the office (medium serving) and water
The water isn’t a ‘health’ thing, it’s just that I can’t stomach milk, and don’t like alternatives particularly… sometimes I’ll include oat or coconut milk in a shake, but otherwise I just go with water for porridge etc! Sounds weird but I prefer it.
Lunch: plaice with courgette and red rice & quinoa mix
Dinner: tuna and green pesto with wholegrain brown rice, sprinkling of cheese. Cocoa orange nakd bar for dessert.
Confession booth: I had some very stressful family stuff happening in the evening, and so ended up having a vodka and soda water which isn’t great to do when you’re stressed, but I made myself calm down first and then had it as a little treat. Then the Boy brought me home a mini bottle of prosecco (approx. 2 glasses) as a treat as he knew I was upset so I had that too! Oops! Normally this wouldn’t be a ‘confession’ type thing – moderation is fine, but as I’m on a cut it’s a bit of a deviation, and alcohol messes up your body metabolising fat and affects nutrient absorption so it’s not great… but these things happen, hey ho! Tomorrow is another day.
I know I’m working until at least 9pm tonight and I’m not sure how the day will go & can’t count on lunchtime, so I set my alarm for 6.15, 6.20, 6.30am and get myself up and into city for a Kobox class. They’re 50 minutes, pretty ‘HIIT’ in style. Today was a core workout with Jacob and it was AMAZING. [There’s a full review of Kobox here if you’re keen!]
Breakfast: Blueberry Brawler Shake made of blueberries, coconut water, choc vegan protein.
I‘m in a rush to make it from class ending at 9.10 to work for 9.30 so I grab a Kobox shake (any excuse!) which they have ready and waiting for me when class is over… winner! I opt for the ‘Blueberry brawler’ – blueberries, coconut water and usually it’s vanilla protein but I request they swap this for chocolate vegan… try it, it’ll change your life!
Lunch: Hake with broccoli, kale, mango and a small serving of white rice.
I’m spoilt because work has fantastic healthy options at lunch time, so you can eat well and cheaply. In fairness though, this is the kind of thing I’d make at home too and it’s so quick to prep and pop in a lunchbox.
I’m not a big snacker to be honest and on my summer shred my standard position is to eliminate snacking, but today I have to do some pro bono legal work in the evening until approx. 9pm so I know I won’t get dinner until I’m home around 10pm… so I’m keen for something to tide me over!
Dinner: turkey steaks, mashed [white] potato, sugar snap peas and four bean salad with sweetcorn. Cocoa orange nakd bar for desert.
I actually finish work earlier than planned so am home by 21:10, and I decided to cook this kind of ‘bro-food’ ish meal with a twist.
WORKOUT:none. I have coffee with a friend before work, a work thing at lunch and then have to leave for Somerset to see family this evening so there genuinely is no time. Plus I’m super sore from Grace’s lower body workout (see above!) earlier in the week so I’m letting my poor glutes and hamstrings recover!
(I’d tried to have avo on sourdough this morning but Curator’s Coffee Gallery (love this place!) on Margaret Street were out of avo, so after two of their INCREDIBLE black filter coffees with a friend, I had to rush to the city and grab something quick at work that wouldn’t take too long to eat. Don’t like strawberry yoghurt but they were out of raspberry and I’d planned to get a fruit salad but protein balls were just quicker. Next time though!)
Lunch: beef burger in a bun with green salad leaves. Followed by a double espresso over ice with added cold water for ‘dessert’
I’m having lunch with a colleague today who wants to try the office terrace BBQ… and once outside I just can’t opt for a veggie skewer, I want the beef! While I say yes to the bun (bread isn’t the devil, people!) I don’t like sauces or dressings anyway so I skip those, and I don’t have cous-cous salad or potatoes with it as the bread is enough for white carbs, although with hindsight I’d have preferred a naked burger with cous-cous as the bread isn’t great quality. But in general… what do you know, cut friendly and indulgent… you can still do this and not miss out! Pouring a double espresso over ice is a nice way to have an iced coffee without the milk (which I hate anyway!) or the added sugars and syrups which I not only don’t like but are unnecessary for my cut. Bonus! (I add cold water to make it a long drink though… it’s a hot day, don’t want to dehydrate!)
Dinner: Mexican-style spicy chicken, aubergine and mixed peppers, smashed avo & brown rice
Slip-up!: 1 vodka soda water, 1 prosecco
I was determined not to drink alcohol tonight but the weather is SO SUNNY and I don’t have to leave for Somerset for an hour or so after work as we drive down late to avoid traffic (don’t worry I wasn’t driving!) so I cave in and spend an hour on the terrace in the sun with colleagues… and a couple of cheeky drinks.
WORKOUT:just a dog-walk with the family.
We’re in Somerset for the day to see family (approx. 3 hours drive from London) so while I’d brought my kit to go for a run up Glastonbury Tor, I decide to spend all the time we have with family rather than disappear off for a workout. We manage to see The Boy’s mum, my dad, and my mum (all of whom live in different bits of Somerset at least 30 mins apart each) before driving back to London that evening so it’s a lot to fit in!
Breakfast: 2 slices of fruit bread toast
One of the hard things about staying with family is less control over what you eat, especially if you don’t want to make a big deal about a cut. Often I plead not hungry, but obviously you don’t want to not eat at all! So sometimes you gotta roll with it. Don’t stress. S’all good! This is where #balance and a healthy mindset is important… once I’d have obsessed but now although it niggles initially, I shrug it off and enjoy.
Lunch: Tomato, spinach, rocket, watercress and stilton salad with a couple of pieces of hot wholemeal baguette + Slice of apple & cinnamon cake made by my -mama-in-law
Luckily the Glastonbury family lunches like this are always perfect, although I do accept a slice of cake The Boy’s mama has made… because it looks amazing, because their European influence means they’re kind of feeders hehe, but also she’s health conscious too so I know it’s all natural and made with love, so why not? Treats like this are far more worth it than a mindless chocolate binge at 3pm at work because everyone else is doing it! The cake is epic btw.
Dinner: Halloumi-courgette-mint cakes with broccoli & spinach. I steal 4 of The Boy’s skinny fries too, haha!
We decide to have dinner out so before we head back to London we swing by The Red Lion, Babcary for where I waitressed in my youth from pre-A-Levels to university summers (and had many a lock-in party and woke up hungover on the sofa the next day far too often…!) The food is some of the best in the South West pub scene (more actual gastro/restaurant style though – fab quality, menu is better now than it was when I worked there for sure!), but it has lost a bit of it’s charm as it used to be more of a local and now they have the B&B guesthouses and things it feels a bit more like a resort. Beautiful village though and the food is fantastic. Also if you’re having a break but feeling nostalgic for the city, they do serve cocktails and espresso martinis worthy of London 😉
WORKOUT:6km outdoor run in 36 mins (early afternoon) & a gentle walk with The Boy in the evening for some LISS + an at-home 20 minute yoga, stretch & foam roll session.
I was aiming for a faster 5k but it was so hot and the pavements and parks were so busy I had to weave a lot. Also strava (the app I use to track my runs) doesn’t update you through headphones how far you’re running so unless you keep looking it’s easy to overshoot distance (I may go back to Nike run… thoughts?!)
The Boy has his chest day at the gym while I’m still sleeping and gets home craving protein so he generously whips up enough of this for me too. He improvises this as we’ve made it quite a few times so it doesn’t match the book to the letter, but even he is a convert to this recipe book (review here) and as it’s by the Harley Street nutritionist who looks after his fave snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan, I think he’s more willing to listen haha! #celebrityendorsement (you can buy ReNourish here)
Lunch: roast beef, 1 Yorkshire pudding, greens (spinach, dark green cabbage & kale), carrots, parsnips, 3 white roast potatoes (NO GRAVY BECAUSE I HATE IT!)
Dinner: stir fried prawns and mixed veg, dash of soy sauce.
Evening treat: 1 gin & slimline tonic (it’s so sunny and it’s the weekend so I indulge, despite being conscious that I’ve been a bit lax with the alcohol recently. Considering an 8 week alcohol break for the duration of the rest of the cut… but we’ll deal with that on Monday! Tomorrow starts another week…!)
WORKOUT: Grace Fit Uk’s Home Guide (although I do it at the gym as it saves faffing with a tonne of equipment!) full body workout, approx. 38 minutes. Extra abs (ab bikes, leg raises, plank, commandos, Russian twists, weighted sit-ups) + 3 sets of x10 burpees to finish.
Now the weather is nicer I also add on a 30 min walk daily Mon-Fri by not taking the train near me and walking 15 mins in the morning to the tube and 15 mins home at night from an earlier tube stop for extra steps.
Breakfast: 1 slice sourdough, 1/2 smashed avocado, chili flakes, drizzle of olive oil
Lunch: salmon, broccoli, kale, a few chickpeas and sprinkling of mango
WORKOUT: fast (for me!) 5k [treadmill]- I get a PB of 26 mins 31 secs &the daily commute walk I mentioned above – 30 mins total (15 before work, 15 after)
For short distance treadmill runs I try to always run just above my comfort zone (comfortable level for me treadmill wise is approx. 10-10.5k/h). So I start at 12k/h (a mind game I play haha to make the push pace feel easier!) for about 1km and then settle into 11k/h. I increase to 11.5k/h for my power track, then gradually up to 12, then 12.5k/h, 13k/h which is really working me hard…! And I finish the last 1/2km on 13.5k/h and am grateful when I hit 5km distance to be able to press the ‘stop’ button!!!!
Breakfast: same as yesterday – 1 slice sourdough, 1/2 smashed avocado, chili flakes, drizzle of olive oil
Lunch: vegan salad (rocket, quinoa, sweetcorn, spinach & mixed leaves, black olives, kidney beans, grated carrot, red pepper, sprinkle of walnuts and coriander, red pepper, celery, samphire)… plus a pack of Coconut & macadamia protein balls (not vegan – contain whey) by The Protein Ball Co.
Dinner: my fave quick brown rice Bolognese – its basically 5% fat lean beef mince, small serve of brown rice, 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, lots of spinach, dash of Worcestershire sauce & paprika, pink Himalayan rock salt & black pepper (the Worcestershire & spices are the key secret ingredients that make all the difference!) + 1 paleo bar [coconut & macadamia nut] for dessert/snack as I’m weirdly still hungry an hour later and know I have fasted kobox in the morning…
WORKOUT: Kobox – lower body, 50 mins. Plus the extra 30 min LISS commute walk as per yesterday.
I’ve waxed lyrical about Kobox before and above, but just to say – Jacob has now been added to my list of fave instructors haha, think he has the best playlists in the place! Today the workout was fun but felt hard, because my legs were DOMSy from Monday and yesterday’s workouts… it was good to be challenged, but tomorrow is definitely going to be a rest day to let my muscles recover 🙂 As I mentioned before, now it’s spring/summery I walk 15 mins to a further train stop in the morning and 15 mins back in the evening – brisk pace to ensure extra LISS. It’s a nice way to warm up and wind down for the day!
Breakfast: Peanut Uppercut Shake made of chocolate protein (I ask to add an extra scoop today!), almond milk, banana and peanut butter.
Lunch: Mackerel with courgette, yellow peppers, tomato salsa and spinach & mixed leaf salad
By late afternoon I’m STARVING – haven’t had a hunger pang like this in a while! I wonder if it’s because I’ve not had many carbs today looking back at breakfast and lunch, or just because my workouts have been relatively intense… either way, I decide to eat but I need to be quick and don’t have anything prepared, so a bag of popchips it is! Not super nutritious but a fairly low kcal and so theoretically cut friendly option!
Dinner: (White) jacket potato with tuna, stilton and sun-dried tomato (no mayo because I hate it!), spinach & rocket.
I get home and I’m pretty knackered and sore from the last 3 days worth of workouts, and I just want to lie on the sofa so I want the quickest possible meal (and one I can leave out for The Boy to reheat for himself because he’s working much later than me this evening!) I recommend, if you’re a cheese lover, using blue cheese rather than cheddar as you don’t need as large a serving and you actually get more flavour, so you can avoidaccidentally over-indulging on the fat (fat isn’t bad per se but cheese isn’t full of the ‘good fats like salmon, nuts and avo – bear in mind dairy has a lot of benefits though!) I also state ‘white’ potato here for clarity because a few years ago I was obsessed that white potato is bad and sweet potato was fine – NOT SO! My nutritionist explained to me they both have benefits and neither is better or worse, the profiles are just slightly different (sweet potato has more vitamin A for example!)
And that was 10 days of my workouts and meals!
I don’t typically make it a practice to weigh myself but I have been documenting it for the cut, and at the end of the 10 days I am down just over 2lbs, just over 1kg.
My abs are starting to peek back through, especially for ‘morning abs’ which is fun – while aesthetics aren’t the sole or even main reason I train, obviously cutting is designed to tweak your aesthetic and as long as you don’t fixate, it’s fine to play around – just make sure you’re healthy and check in with your doctor and ideally see a nutritionist!
Disclaimer: I started my summer shred recently, inspired by Grace, so please note my nutrition is going to be either a little more on point than it would if I was cruising at maintenance, and/or a little more critical of my ‘treats’ and slip-ups than I normally would be! (For healthy fat loss tips see this post, and feel free to follow and join me on #gettingshreddyforsummer on instagram here!)
While I mention that I have a nutritionist in this post, I say it in a loose sense – I don’t go regularly, I have the occasional check up. This isn’t a meal plan she’s given me or anything!
A note on my daily drinks whether I’m cutting or bulking or maintaining, I don’t drink anything during the day other than tonnes of tap water, lots of peppermint tea, a couple of green teas, 1-2 black coffees a day. I only drink water based drinks really! And then there’s the alcohol which is all openly declared above… *sigh* Always the toughie to resist, especially in nice weather!
What I learned from this week
It’s so interesting for me to write all this down and actually look at my picture for the
week instead of viewing it daily. It makes me realise maybe I’m too dependent on protein balls or nakd bars or similar for a quick fix haha (although they’re an all natural company, I feel like real food where possible is always good rather than faster options!) I can see I eat quite a bit of seafood which is good and I’m happy with, and occasionally get caught off-guard if I’m rushing, so maybe some fresh fruit and nuts saved in the office for emergencies would help… Also you can see my diary commentary increases as the week goes on but then resets on the second Monday when I’ve relaxed over the weekend and feel refreshed and ready for a stronger start – obviously I get busier as the week progresses so I have to think more about my choices, whereas earlier in the week it’s just simple logs of what I eat, no muss no fuss. Just noticed as well that Friday was a bad day with 4 servings of caffeinated coffee, although it’s calorie free broadly as I don’t add anything to it, for health reasons I shouldn’t be stressing my body with so many stimulants so I need to watch the cheeky pre-work coffees and maybe just take a single espresso over ice with extra water for a treat. Plus the alcohol thing… would be best relegated to just 1 or 2 over Saturday and Sunday, not just for cut reasons but for general health reasons as alcohol isn’t fabulous for you in addition to being packed with nutritionally-empty calories! The best alcoholic drink from a cut perspective is something like vodka soda, with soda water being calorie free, vodka being 50kcal (compared with diet tonic which contains approx. 15g carbs per 200ml). While I don’t advocate calorie counting for food (NUTRIENTS NOT NUMBERS woop woop!) it’s important to be aware of it with alcohol as your body basically derives no nutritional benefit from it – genuinely empty calories (not saying have zero unless you want to teetotal – it’s fine to have treats, but I’m just talking about being aware as it’s easy to drink a few days worth of your recommended food intake if you’re not careful!)
So guys, hope that answers the questions! I’ll do a similar post if people find it helpful for when I’m not cutting / #gettingshreddyforsummer so you can see what that’s like.
I’ve been 100% honest above and recorded my alcohol/extra snack slip ups even though I didn’t want any on my shred and certainly not during the week – all to show you that WE ALL DO IT and it’s fine, it won’t totally derail you, just get back on the bandwagon the next day! Also visiting family in Somerset with family meant I didn’t have as much control over food, so this is a good illustration of attempting to stay on a cut and dealing with family meals, but also sometimes saying you know what – eat the damn cake & hang out with family instead of going for a workout, life’s too short.
Diet culture needs tackling. Where ‘clean eating’ feeds this – it’s a problem. Individuals need to be educated and supported. Perhaps the lesson here is all viral fads are unlikely to ever be holistic (when things go viral they’re not joined by the scientific papers and research are they?!) and so are potentially always dangerous because a fad, even if it sounds saintly and perfect and #wellness, is still a fad and the lifestyle that follows from it is unlikely to be as tailored, balanced and healthy as it needs to be if it comes from a buzzword, be it ‘clean eating’ or ‘Atkins’. – B, @legallygymliving
Clean eating: what is it?
The way I and many other fitness and nutrition enthusiasts understand it is the idea that certain foods are, for want of a better word, ‘cleaner’ than others… i.e. not processed, as close as possible to their natural state… Essentially from nature. I heard phrases when I first got into clean eating like: ‘if it didn’t die or grow in the ground, avoid it’.
And what’s the harm, right? We all need to be encouraged away from eating so much processed, junk and massively added sugar-laden food don’t we?
Well… to an extent. I personally believe the ‘movement’ started with these good intentions – to encourage eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods as much as possible, to try and ‘re-set’ what people regard as go-to foods to a healthier place. For example, James Duigan’s Clean, Lean cookbooks (he founded Bodyism and coached celebs like Elle McPherson).
But increasingly there’s been a backlash against the movement as it grew – let’s talk about why.
Clean eating: the backlash
Semantically, the opposite of clean is dirty, right? So the backlash can be summarised in a nutshell like this.
People begin dividing foods into ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’. It spirals out of control. Orthorexia rises (an eating disorder where people become obsessed with only eating ‘clean’), presumably triggered by the cultural prevalence of a movement that seems healthy but encourages binary thinking about food as GOOD vs BAD. Instead of being a balanced, encouraging tagline, the term essentially seems to encourage an either/or mindset and this catches on beyond the pockets of health bloggers and fitness professionals via instagram, and grows and grows into a clean eating frenzy – so we’re basically back to demonising certain foods on a fairly wide scale, because they’re not clean, and worrying about whether we can eat stuff – is it ‘clean and lean’ or is it ‘dirty’ or ‘bad for me’. It’s like the 80s and 90s fad diets all over again, but dressed up as balance and health.
This is pretty much how and why the backlash happened.
And I agree it needs to be discussed – it’s dangerous, particularly for impressionable young girls, boys and even adults who glean all their nutritional information from the media – to become brainwashed and let this kind of mindset spiral out of control.
Influencers like Alice Liveing realised the movement was having unintentional negative consequences, and distanced themselves – Alice famously changed her instagram username from @cleaneatingalice to @aliveliveing partially for this reason.
My two cents: clean eating, orthorexia, & foodie language – words have power, but also have (& need) context!
I am not a nutritionist, so I’m not qualified, I can’t advise, this is just my personal view! I am a nutrition and fitness enthusiast and I followed the clean eating trend as it rose, and fell. I see both sides of the coin. It didn’t trigger orthorexia in me, despite being an ex-eating-disorder sufferer (of bulimia and body dysmorphia). It has clearly triggered an increase in orthorexia, or at least been problematic for ED suffers and this really needs to be addressed.
I think we need to be so careful about how we talk about food and ensure we’re not promoting things that can make it easier for eating disorders to be triggered. But remember – they are eating disorders and it’s a mental and physical health issue. Describing food as clean isn’t a single cause, and the movement was initially, I believe, well-intentioned and an attempt to educate.
It’s hard to know what language to use because there’s no getting away from the fact that some foods ARE nutritionally more beneficial than others. The problem is, a description of food can’t be taken in isolation (and neither can a meal or a snack!) We need to look at the whole picture.
Yes, labelling foods as just clean or dirty is damaging in isolation.
You can have cake, burgers, pizza, nachos etc. in MODERATION and still be healthy (and lose fat if that’s your goal).
Just like you can eat a caloric surplus of ‘clean’ foods – nuts, rice, sweet potato, chicken, broccoli and gain weight.
Ultimately, it’s about the wider culture, and your wider nutritional intake, self-image, body confidence, the whole shebang. We can’t lie to ourselves and say pizza or chocolate are as great for our bodies gram for gram as broccoli, mixed veggies, potato and lean protein! I appreciate ‘dirty’ is a loaded word but we do need to be aware of the additives in our food.
So I think it’s all about context, balance, and trying to avoid saying ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ around food as much as possible, but sometimes I do say ‘clean’ and I think providing the context is there, it’s totally OKAY. The problem is the way people are educated about their diet in general, the way certain body types are idolised or vilified, the tearing apart of celeb bodies in the media (constant comments particularly with women in the gossip mags!) and the fact it’s ASSUMED all women WANT to lose weight… to name a few!
Diet culture needs tackling. Where ‘clean eating’ feeds this – it’s a problem. Individuals need to be educated and supported. Perhaps the lesson here is all viral fads are unlikely to ever be holistic (when things go viral they’re not joined by the scientific papers and research are they?!) and so are potentially always dangerous because fad, even if it sounds saintly and perfect and #wellness, is still a fad and the lifestyle that follows from it is unlikely to be as tailored, balanced and healthy as it needs to be if it comes from a buzzword, be it ‘clean eating’ or ‘Atkins’.
Where describing foods as clean can be helpful and is done in context, I think that’s fine.
What are your thoughts around these issues? It’s such a complicated topic! Let me know in the comments.
Ooh, and I also published a post a while ago you might like to read if you’re interested in this area (see ‘An Apology’ here) in which I dealt with how I now feel about past bits of my fitness and health ‘journey’ (cringe), where I did promote clean eating and various things that at the time I loved but now don’t feel comfortable about…
Are you affected by anything in this post?
If you suffer with an eating disorder, think you do, or are struggling with your relationship with food or your body, please contact your GP and a nutritionist (and ideally therapist).
Tired of those generic ‘how to stay fit & healthy and juggle your office job’ posts which say things like ‘meal prep’ and ‘plan’ and ‘tupperware’ and ‘get off the bus or tube one stop earlier?’
I’ve seen loads of them, and although having worked in various jobs (post-graduation office jobs I’ve juggled with my fitness interest have included account management for an online start up that IPOd, marketing for a real estate (mostly) company The Crown Estate, and paralegalling at a city firm, now trainee at another city firm… blah blah blah, but basically I’ve done a mix and various hours and environments and office cultures!) I feel pretty au fait with managing my time – I am almost 27, I’ve had a while to nail this – but I’m ALWAYS keen to learn more, get new tips and see how other people do it.
However, I’m usually disappointed. Telling me to invest in Tupperware isn’t my definition of helpful.
So I figured, what can I write that contributes in a concrete way? There are some generic tips I’ve kind of dismissed above that anyone can give, and to be fair they’re always worth stating. But I think I have a few more I can add in the context of my fitness journey, so apologies in advance for the long post, but I hope some of it is vaguely helpful!
This post is long but covers:
Resisting office treat temptation
Finding motivation when you’re busy
Top tips to make it easier on yourself
Maintaining a healthy mindset
So grab a cup of tea and have a scroll!
Assess the time you have available
If you work a 9-5 or 6ish job, you have significantly larger chunks of time than those in, say, certain aspects of finance who might work beyond 10pm most nights.
This isn’t a judgement thing – however many ‘free’ hours we have in a day, it never feels enough. I get it. I’ve done 9-5s, 9-7s, 7-10+s in various contexts… and then if you have kids, god bless you I don’t know how you do juggle them with a job, so I appreciate that’s a multiplier of a million in terms of toughness and finding a slot to workout.
But ultimately, you need to be honest with yourself.
Where can you carve out the time that is REALISTIC?
If, like me, you hate mornings, you might be able to squeeze in the odd morning session (I managed to get up at 5.30am for a week to go to Kobox but I had just started my new job so didn’t have late nights at the office and after that week, I wasn’t gonna carry on doing that!) but you won’t stick to it long term.
If you can rarely leave the office before 9pm and have an hour commute home, you probably won’t be an evening exerciser either.
If you have a job where the culture dictates your desk presence during the day, or clients do, you may not be able to do a lunch session. If you have flexibility with work not picking up til the afternoon or your manager/supervisor/colleagues not minding, then maybe there’s your window.
It’s not easy. I appreciate that. But if you’re feeling screwed for all of the above reasons, then I think, personally, the solution is to do workouts for an hour on both Saturday and Sunday, and then snatch a couple more 40 minute workouts where you can during the week (even if you only manage one – that’s 3 workouts across your whole week, which I think should be a healthy minimum!) – force yourself up for one or two mornings, or snatch a lunch time here or take advantage of the one day you can leave work at 7.30pm.
I like to workout about 4 times during the average week – I’m lucky that I can usually squeeze in an evening one (my fiancé works long hours too so it’s fine to be super late home) but usually at least once a week I’ll do a morning one.
That frees me up to either fully rest at the weekend or if I’m on a roll or fancy it I can do 2 more workouts Sat and Sun taking my total to 6.
On a fabulously motivated week where I manage the time then sure, I’ll do 6 workouts a week because I love to. Some weeks I only manage 3 and if I’m particularly slammed, I drop to 2. I tend to feel I don’t have time but I MAKE THEM A PRIORITY. There is no way you can’t carve out a little time for 2 workouts if it matters to you. If it doesn’t… that’s totally okay, don’t do them! Family stresses, serious work crises, bereavements, there are so many legit reasons for the gym to be shunted off your priority list. But I assume you’re reading this to try and fit more in, so that’s why I’m hammering home the point about planning and prioritising and making time. But…
YOU DON’T NEED TO WORKOUT 6 TIMES A WEEK TO BE HEALTHY. I’d say 2 minimum, 3 ideal and any more than that do it because you love it.
My number varies according to my busy-ness, work, laziness, illness, social comittments… but I feel 2 is the absolute minimum as I have a desk job. We need to MOVE to be healthy and while a week of no workouts won’t kill, I think habits are key. Which brings us to…
Let’s talk about habits…
If you can have a habitual routine (workouts Mon, Weds, Fri mornings) it makes life easier as it feels less negotiable – you can just do it. This isn’t always possible but a baseline default habit can be SO HELPFUL! Deviate when essential, but if you can have a routine that you stick to automatically, it simplifies things SO MUCH. One to strive for, but also not beat yourself up about if you can’t quite manage it – some jobs are so erratic (or babies or toddlers!) that you’ll just have to seize the moment when it presents itself. Not much you can do. But if you’re 20 something, child free and only working 40 hours a week… no excuses!
Don’t drink diet drinks, fizzy drinks or juices when thirsty – always go for water, herbal tea, and only have these as a TREAT.
Don’t take sugar in tea/coffee – not because it’s ‘bad’ but because it’s added to so many things – save it for a REAL nice sweet treat – that Sunday slice of cheesecake or that Friday champagne cocktail or that flapjack on your department’s weekly bake-off day.
Make it a habit to always take the stairs, and to at the very least go for an hour’s walk at weekends (take the kids or the partner, no excuses!)
Try to at least, if you can’t do that because of work/kids/travel, form some sensible habits that lay groundwork… make it feel compulsory to workout twice a week (unless injured).
These are all pretty generic but I guess the key is re-programming your defaults to a healthier setting. Nothing is BANNED. It’s just about ENJOYING indulgence and recognising it for what it is – indulgence – rather than accidentally consuming excess sugar, empty calories, and skipping workouts because you’re in one of *those* spirals…
The BIGGEST TOP TIP I can give on habits is this one too – sounds cheesy but it’s critical. WE ALL HAVE DAYS EVEN IF WE LOOOOOVE FITNESS where after work we’re like fuck it, CBA to workout. Have a Person (I can’t say buddy, sorry) you can speak to. Mine is my fiancé. I’ll call him (best) or whatsapp if he’s too busy at work and be like I can’t be bothered. He knows me well enough to tell if I’ve trained too much or too little, if work stress would be best alleviated by a workout or a rest day, and so can encourage me to train where it’s best, or let me off the hook where relevant so if I do rest, it’s guilt free.
Because while this is about how to fit in training and healthy eating, it’s not healthy to obsess about it and push yourself too hard. Exercise releases cortisol so adds stress to the body, in addition to all its health benefits, so some days rest may be what you need. Don’t get sucked into the marketing speak of ‘go hard or go home’ ‘never miss a Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday…’
Admittedly, if your partner isn’t super into fitness or wouldn’t be very good at that, then they’re not the best choice. Try a friend. Or get on instagram and join the fitness community there and find a buddy. I’m happy to do it for you (only if I don’t get too many requests!) although the only thing there is someone you know well in your daily life is best for the reasons I describe above with my fiancé.
Some communities you can join on insta are #bbg or #kaylasarmy (where I first got into the fitness community online), #GFG, #tiu / #ToneItUp, or #queenteam.
Planning Planning Planning & Booking classes… should I pay & schedule to force myself to go?
Not always, but I’ve found this to be a fab method at times. The key is to know if it will force you to go when you’re feeling a bit bleh, which is good… or if you might have an unforeseen work crisis that prevents you going and makes you feel unfit AND rubbish AND you’ve just lost your money/credits for booking into the bargain.
Your body adapts to what you do, so while variety is good to keep it interesting and jolt yourself out of plateaus, if you’re looking for set results you need to be consistent over time. (Does that make sense? Basically, there’s a time and a place for changing things up, sure… but you need to stick to something first to get the results, give your body a chance to make the adaptations). So try (for example) 12 weeks of something before you switch, if that makes sense (that’s not a set in stone number, just a suggestion of an extended period where you might be able to commit to a programme and get results)
The other thing about variety is it’s all well and good but it’s wise to know what you’re doing when you get to the gym. Don’t go and improvise – if I ever do this I have mediocre workouts at best as I feel a bit aimless. Have a plan. Even if you draw it up in notes on your phone en route!
And then some mini motivation tips:
These (above) are the big ‘lifestyle’ things that can sound a bit tough to implement but I really recommend trying to get these down for a month or two and it will get easier as it stops being something to try to do and starts being something you do automatically (although don’t beat yourself up for low motivation days – they happen to all of us! That’s what the Person under tip 2 is for).
I think if you can really think about and master some of the above, you’re well on your way to making fitness and health a priority that holds its own against the competing demands of your life. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t smash it every week. But equally the idea of creating the habits and mindsets above is to help you set a fairly constant standard… you’re allowed peaks and troughs like any human being, but that’s your baseline!
Now here are some smaller things that may or may not help you fine tune this regime!
Outfit planning: I like to lay out my fave lulus and choose pretty sports bras etc. the night before, especially if I know I’ve been struggling to feel excited about gym. Sounds stupid, but it helps me.
THEJUSTDOITMETHOD: if all else fails, I swear by a power lip (usually red – fave lipsticks are chanel, dior and Charlotte Tilbury), shot an espresso, put your hair in a messy bun, blast out some gangster rap and JUST GO. You won’t regret it*
(*subject to the usual exceptions – injury etc. Be sensible. Don’t force yourself if its clearly unhealthy!)
The controversial insta scroll: I have a policy of only following people on insta who make me feel empowered and motivated, so a cheeky scroll usually does wonders for my motivation. However, I know social increasingly gets linked with poor mental health. If you feel bad about yourself for going on it, I’d suggest unfollowing anyone who makes you feel that way, and/or considering deleting it altogether.
Make it a date: with friends, the bf/gf, culture is weirdly centred around pub dates, coffee dates and wine bar dates. Find some likeminded friends (see community recommendations above for ways to find some on social media if you don’t have any) and go to a class together then have a smoothie to catch up, instead of necking ten G&Ts in the pub…! Or go for a run in your neighbourhood together. Or drive out of the city and hike together. I love and fairly regularly do all of these options.
Just 20 mins: If you really can’t face it, tell yourself you’ll just do 20 mins. That’s all you have to do. Chances are, 15 mins in you’ll have broken through the block an really enjoy it, and stay for 30, or 40, or 45, or an hour. (I love 40-55 min workouts. I rarely do a full hour these days!)
If in doubt, sweat at home: If making the gym is proving impossible, there are tonnes of workouts online, on youtube, on fitness blender, on this site where you can get a sweat on quickly at home! Any movement is better than none and it doesn’t take loads of fancy equipment. I prefer to go to the gym or a class but if I really really can’t, then 100 burpees, 50 press ups, and playing with my kettlebell at home will get my heart rate going rather than lying like a vegetable on the sofa…!
Resisting office temptation: This is a tough one right? Sweets, cake, doughnuts abound – team birthdays, celebrations… how to stay on track?
My policy is simple. I mindfully assess whether I really want it. 9/10 times my body actually doesn’t want the sugar bombs! Do I really want it? No. Then I say no as a matter of policy. A simple ‘no thanks I’m not hungry’ will do.
Do I want it? Maybe 1/10 times there’s a little sliver of red velvet cake… and maybe I do want it. So I have it!
It’s about working out if you’re eating for the sake of it, boredom, or to appease someone else – those aren’t reasons to indulge! But if it will actually SATISFY YOU then do it! Remember, a simple 80/20 rule. It’s not ‘bad’ to have a treat… unless you’re overindulging and damaging your health by doing it daily!
Read this post if you want comfort food but need some healthy swap suggestions as stress eating isn’t good for anyone!
Lunch habits: a protein and fibre rich lunch will keep you fuller for longer and stop you snacking mindlessly! Include complex carbs, lean protein and lots of veggies. Meal prep can help with this, or check out salad bars like Vital Ingredient for good options. Obviously you can vary things and you don’t need to worry about it too much – but making mindful lunch choices can stop that 3pm slump which half the time is because we’re not nourishing ourselves properly, and half the time is a psychosomatic myth so people have an excuse to grab a daily Twix and tell themselves they need it!
Working out should be because you want to take care of yourself, not to punish yourself or burn off food or force yourself into a certain body shape. We all have aesthetic goals and preferences, sure, but try to view food and exercise as fuel and training, not dieting and it’s unnecessarily hard-work twin!
Also, I get that its tough in this day and age – we’re all so busy! But unless you’re super gross, you always clean your teeth without fail, or shower. They’re non-negotiables for health and hygiene.
You need to view some degree of movement as a non-negotiable like this too, for your health and wellbeing. Magazines have done a good job of making us feel you only do it to lose weight. I really want to kick against this, and make people see it’s a critical component of a healthy lifestyle, one of the most underutilised tools for avoiding all kinds of illnesses, both mental and physical. So EDUCATE YOURSELF and change your mindset – I’m so glad I have!
Shredded by science – for the actual facts (fully backed up scientific study-based nerdery here!) about training and nutrition
Chessie King – influencer and body confidence activist @chessiekingg
Zanna Van Dijk – PT, environmental guru, fitness influencer @zannavandijk
Tally Rye – PT tackling diet culture and looking to change the fitness industry @tallyrye
These are just some examples of sources of good quality information above, and inspiration below (obviously there’s a crossover there, but in terms of science, evidence and qualification, the top 3 are amazing). The other three are just great, healthy, inspiring girls who won’t give you body hangups and are changing diet culture and helping women across the world.
So, sorry for the essay, but I hope that helps! I’ve tried to address all the things I find help me, all the stuff I’ve learned over my “fitness journey” (cringe!) and answer all the questions I get on the regular.
Over the course of, for want of a better phrase (!), my ‘health and fitness journey’ *mini cringe*, my outlook has changed a lot.
Ironically, I discovered that the influence slogans were true – trust the process, fall in love with the process, and you’ll get better aesthetic results.
I didn’t believe it when I first started either.
However, as I have become happier with my body, fitter, stronger, admittedly my goals have shifted towards process-driven ones (to be able to do an unassisted pull up, to improve my boxing technique, to be able to do plyo push-ups) which is a much healthier place to be instead of obsessing over body size.
I’m glad to be in a healthy physical and mental space, and to be trying to share that message more, instead of feeding the ‘must get skinny’ toxicity that still runs through society in a big way.
HOWEVER it does mean that talking about fat loss for me is difficult. How do I do it without promoting orthorexia (we can’t say clean eating anymore) or implying that fat is bad?
A poll on my Instagram lately indicated that loads of you are still super interested in fat
loss so I wanted to address it as a topic in a healthy, balanced, sustainable way. Because I think it is possible (though perhaps tough!) to change your body composition and lose some fat in a body positive way… it all depends on your mindset.
As always, bear in mind that while I’ve had a successful weight loss journey to a place where I’m happy, that followed times of being underweight and bulimia before my excessive weight gain, and while I’m recovered and I have been active in the online wellness and health community for over 5 years, I am not a nutritionist or doctor. The only qualification I’ve done is a group exercise instructor REPS level 2 course where the nutrition content is minimal. My knowledge is from personal interest and research only, and so you can use it as a jumping off point to conduct research yourself, but you can’t rely on me for personal advice. Ok? 🙂
Fat Loss: how do we do it healthily?
You may or may not have heard the saying ‘you can’t out train a bad diet.’
This is totally true.
So if you really want to alter your body composition (i.e. lose some fat) then you need to address your nutrition first and foremost.
This can be a bit of a minefield as I think it is CRITICAL that you do this in a way that isn’t detrimental to your health (which is where so many people go wrong – fad diets encouraging cutting food groups, for example, are not sustainable long term and deprive your body of vital nutrients).
The way I have approached fat loss that I feel is most physically AND mentally beneficial is:
NO CALORIE OR MACRO COUNTING (however I know some people without ED backgrounds can count numbers and not obsess, and I acknowledge that maybe the reason I can eat healthily and intuitively is because I know a lot about the nutritional contents of food because I HAVE calorie counted and macro counted in the past!)
But DO address portion sizes! If you’re sedentary in your day job like me, you don’t need insane plates of food! I like to make 2/3 – 1/2 of my plate veggies (mostly greens!) and then a palm size of lean protein and hand-size of complex carbohydrates.
Spend a week (or ideally two) keeping a food diary which includes WHAT you ate, but also how you feel mood-wise (before and after eating. It can help you learn the difference between ACTUAL physical hunger, emotional hunger and psychological hunger, and assists you in cutting out ‘mindless’ eating.
Give up alcohol for a while. I think this gives you the mental space to assess your relationship with food and your body and confidence, as well as being an easy way to trim out non-nutritious food. I had a 6 month period without alcohol because its essentially of no nutritional benefit, it’s a depressant, and it makes you less aware of the choices you’re making. I’m not suggesting you quit for half a year! I’d say do a 2 week break and then introduce it back in a mindful way – have a drink as an indulgent treat, but stick to one or two and savour them.
Once you’ve mastered streamlining what goes into your body (think 80-90% foods that are top quality fuel – nutrient dense, natural, whole foods, try to limit processed food as much as possible and avoid additives – extra sugar and all kinds of stuff gets added in to things you’d least expect! – and 20-10% treats, because this is about sustainability long term – no food is bad, no food is out of bounds, but you need to get out of a binge-restrict mindset).
Mentally reset: leaning down safely
Once you’ve worked on your dietary approach, you need to check in with yourself about how and why you’re losing weight. You shouldn’t embark on any regime without consulting a GP or medical health professional, particularly if your goal is solely aesthetic – there are a range of health problems that can come from being underweight including loss of bone density, osteoporosis and infertility as well as heart problems, so have a think about why you want to lose weight.
Regularly mentally check yourself that you still love and appreciate your body for what it is and can do NOW.
Realise that losing weight isn’t inherently good or bad; it won’t ‘fix’ your life, and if you have self-esteem issues, for example, a perfect physique (what is perfect anyway?!) won’t solve those problems.
Every time you’re thinking about fat loss, try to tune in to how you feel emotionally. Are you anxious, stressed, self-loathing? These might be signs you need to take a break from this goal and talk to someone. Or are you happy, enjoying being full of energy, with a nice bonus of preferring some of your aesthetic changes, without obsessing about it? Then you’re in a good place.
The fat loss formula
Essentially, to assist your nutritional changes, you want to up your energy expenditure.
DON’T FALL INTO THE TRAP of thinking you need to ‘burn off’ eating food.
DO try to find physical activity you enjoy, and build up slowly.
Low intensity steady state training (brisk incline walking, swimming, cycling) may burn fewer calories overall but its technically most effective for fat loss as to use fat stores as fuel rather than stored glycogen in the body, you need oxygen available to do this. So while anaerobic exercise like HIIT burns more calories in the same time technically, less of this will come from stored fat.
When thinking about a workout schedule, here are some key tips:
Be realistic. Don’t aim to train 6 days a week for an hour if you hate the gym and have a mad work schedule. 6 days is overkill even if you love training, probably… overtraining can be counterproductive.
Try to pick exercise you enjoy. Basically, consistency is key. Don’t think about ‘I have to just do this for 10 weeks to get my dream body then I can stop woohoo!’ We’re talking LIFESTYLE CHANGES people, because otherwise once you hit your goal, you won’t stay there for long.
Variety helps you stop getting bored. It can also be used if after 6 months of training you hit a plateau and need to re-set and boost results.
SET PROCESS DRIVEN GOALS TO USE AS A FOCUS INSTEAD OF FAT LOSS. It will help you melt the fat off anyway! Examples might be to be able to do your first high box jump or pull up, to do 20 on your toes press ups, to run 2k, 5k, 10k, to go to a boxing class and not feel like death at the end…! Anything that means you’re working on something outside of the fat loss thing. Think about strength, agility, flexibility.
So what kind of training is optimum for fat loss?
The goal here is to lose fat without exercising solely thinking about that, right? I’d say DON’T WORRY TOO MUCH ABOUT THIS BECAUSE IF YOU HATE THAT KIND OF TRAINING, YOU WON’T STICK TO IT. And if you can’t stick to it (i.e. see yourself being happy to do something similar for pretty much the rest of your life, obviously amounts will vary, but still…) then the benefits won’t stick.
Personally, I think balanced training is the way to go.
Increase your Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). This is energy you burn while not ‘exercising’, so taking the stairs, extra walking, that kind of thing, falls into this category. Do as much of this as possible – for health reasons as much as anything! I ALWAYS take the escalator at a walk / jog, climb stairs if I have the option, and add a 45 minute walk in to my weekend.
HIIT is a great way to exercise if you’re time poor. They say it’s great for revving the metabolism and torching calories in a short session. Just be careful not to overtrain in this way as it’s touch on joints where it’s super high impact and the central nervous system. If you’re a beginner I’d do some simple weight lifting first instead to make sure you’ve got the form and stability.
Plyometrics – often used with HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) uses explosive, often jump-type movements, really rocking those fast-twich muscle fibres. As above with HIIT, while this is super effective and efficient, it can be tough on the body so don’t over do it.
LISS (low intensity steady state) – the bread and butter that you should try to get in as much of as you sensibly can.
How do I train these days? I’m not saying copy this, but this schedule works for me:
Most of my LISS is NEAT to be fair – weekend walks, climbing stairs. Sometimes I’ll do rowing, cycling or a high incline walk at the gym once a week.
HIIT / plyometrics – for my biggest weightloss period I used Kayla Itsines BBG programme which is basically this which involved 28 mins of this three times a week. Now I do boxing style workouts with my PT or at Kobox 1-3 times a week for 50 minutes.
Don’t start at max capacity. If you currently do nothing, schedule 1 high intensity and 2 low intensity sessions a week.
If you do some, up it a little.
But all of this goes hand in hand with checking in with yourself mentally (how do you feel? Are you feeling drained, stressed, desperate to lose some fat? You may need to stop, reassess and do some work on your mindset. I’d recommend Mel Well’s The Goddess Revolution here. Or are you feeling empowered and starting to enjoy the process more and care less about the fat? That’s the ideal!)
Consistency is key
This is probably the most important thing to remember. Consistency with both nutrition and training is the way you see changes in your body. Slow, steady progress means your results are likely healthier, and sustainable long-term.
Structure can be super helpful if you’re a beginner. I guide my own training now, but following Kayla’s programme in the past was perfect as it was basically three 28 minute workouts that fit around work.
I hope this dive into trying to do fat loss in a body positive way was helpful.
As I said, I’m just a former group exercise instructor and fitness fangirl who loves to connect with people who have similar health and wellness interest. My tips aren’t a substitute for qualified advice.
Just try to remember that our bodies are here for the long haul (our whole lives!) in fact. Don’t sacrifice health and happiness to weigh 5% less people.
However, that said, you don’t need to feel bad for having aesthetic goals. While it’s not why I train now, I LOVED feeling on top form training hard last summer and seeing my abs and myself get leaner (although not my leanest!) whilst also getting stronger.
I’m looking at further study soon because I want to feel more able to advise and share information from a place that’s safe and sensible to do so. If you might be interested in coaching in future if this becomes available, let me know.