Easy steps to clearer skin: Green Beauty & Organic Skincare tips

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You may or may not have noticed, if you’re with me on Instagram, that I’m loving all things Tara Mackey at the moment (music, books, you name it…! If you haven’t read Cured by Nature or WILD Habits, you totally should, and I’ll post about them separately as they’re totally life-changing!) Her new single ‘Level Up’ is literally on repeat in my earphones 24/7 at the moment. Her message of how to cure all kinds of ailments, and make all kinds of great beauty choices, the green, natural, eco and ethical way is a pretty cool one… and something I’ve been starting to explore.

Sick with stress

I’ve been ill with stress recently, and for only the second time in my life it’s taken its toll on me physically (as in literally my body is reacting weirdly AF) – dermatitis on my scalp and eyebrows and palms of my hands, stomach pain (not as bad as the end of last year when I had chronic gastritis with stress, but still enough to make me do a double take!) and even vomiting. I knew whatever I was already doing (diet, exercise, not enough meditation) to manage stress clearly wasn’t enough, because I was actually getting sick. Medical advice was to reduce stress, which is about as helpful as saying ‘just get better!’

Treating your skin (& stress!) the natural way

At just the right time, I turned back to two books on my shelf that I read and loved a year ago by the gorgeous goddess that is Tara Mackey, founder and CEO of her own organic skincare company, activist, blogger at The Organic Life, musician and best-selling author (oh, and she does loads of work with orphanages and under-privileged children too!). Using her meditations and taking some natural plant-based supplements that she talked about in her book that are great from everything to overall health, reducing inflammation, and nature’s antidotes to depression and anxiety (always consult your doctor or a nutrition professional to be safe – I did extensive research before dabbling) I feel like a new woman (no word of exaggeration!)

Finally feeling better and full of new energy, I wanted to carry through some of the nature-based living into my beauty routine. An advocate of natural, green and ethical options, I love Tara’s style and have been interested in trying to clean up my beauty products for a long time now, but, frankly, just too lazy to do it. The one problem – most of her lovely recommendations are US-based, and I’m over here in the UK.

Get the green glow

I am a firm believer that every little helps, so I’ve done a little research, and am ready to go green! I’m not throwing out old products as that will just cause waste, but as they run out, I’m hoping I can track down cleaner, greener alternatives and I’m always on the look out so hit me up with recommendations!

For now, though, I just wanted to share some of my favourites that I’ve found, because I’m so so excited about these – each one has been so worth it!

Swapping all the nasty chemicals out for clean, natural products has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my skin. Not only did it clear up my stress-induced skin issues, but my skin is the glowiest-dewiest-softest it’s ever been… I’ve discovered my new regime just in time for my upcoming Winter Wedding!

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Clean, green brands you can find in the UK

The Body Shop was an obvious one to try, known for not-testing on animals and great nature-based products, I thought I’d try them out, although I have to admit I was dubious about whether their makeup would be as good – oh my god was I crazy to be skeptical! Their lipstick is one of my firm favourites (just the right amount of moisturizing and staying power, and they have great colours) [I have this Colour Crush Lipstick in Corbodona Petunia and I adoooooore ittttt], and their eyeshadow palettes are GORGEOUS (this Own Your Naturals palette is my absolute fave, the colours are great). They also have some lovely skin-care products (I’m now using their camomile waterproof eye and lip makeup remover and loving it because it actually works but is so much gentler and more soothing for my skin!) Their Matt Lip Liquid in California Rose is also my new ‘feel-good-pick-me-up’ go-to when I need some cheeky Cali/LA vibes, I’m obsessed.

Then I went to Planet Organic and picked up this natural shampoo by Jason Natural Hair Care which completely solved my stress-triggered horrific scalp issues in a matter of days without any of the nasty chemicals or coal tar normally in these types of shampoos, along with bathing in warm water with added lavender and geranium oil, which I also picked up from Planet Organic.

Plus a favourite skincare brand of mine for a while now since I discovered it maybe a year ago is Pretty Athletic, as its formulated specially for active women whose skin needs that extra care, it’s natural, vegan and not tested on animals (plus they’re the best working skincare products ever – the cooling gel cleanser is a daily staple for me, as is a face massage with their Recovery Boost Cell Repair Serum! This delicious serum is actually my number one skincare product that I absolutely couldn’t live without!)

While we’re talking about natural and ethical products, I’d also be letting you all down if I didn’t share my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE part of my bath rituals – Lush Cosmetics Intergalactic bath bombs. They’re absolute HEAVEN. And while I stopped off to pick up a couple of others (for a really nice girly pamper beauty ritual style bath, I love their Goddess and Sakura bath bombs too!) I made a cheeky impulse buy at the counter… their lip balm in Rose Lollipop might be pricey at £7.50 a pop but MY GOD is it the most delicious, hydrating, moisturizing, magical product I have ever put on my face maybe ever. It literally smells divine… I can’t stop putting it on! And it’s all natural, not animal tested, all that amazing clean green jazz so you can feel like you’re doing good things for the planet as well as your face! I literally feel happy every time I put it on haha (no exaggeration!)

Get your glow[-up] on!

Here are my top tips for skin health and feeling glowy inside and out:

  1. Source natural, organic products as much as possible, for cosmetics as well as skincare. I felt almost an immediate different (and the planet will too!)
  2. Cleanse, tone, leave it alone! Don’t over do it. A mask or exfoliate of a weekend is fine, but a simple, sustainable routine is better.
  3. Swap moisturisers for natural face oils and self-massage. This is great for stimulating circulation and lymphatic drainage to keep your skin looking young.
  4. Reduce or cut out caffeine and alcohol. Sorry girls, but it’s the best anti-ageing tip there is!
  5. Drink loads of water! Hydration, hydration, hydration!
  6. Get your vitamins and minerals, especially B, C, D, E and the omega / fish oils! A well balanced diet with fresh veggies is best, but supplements can be used where needed (consult a professional!)
  7. Tara Mackey’s book Cured by Nature has been a game changer for me – I’d highly recommend checking it out!

What are your favourites? Do you have any green and clean beauty recommendations? I’d love to hear from you.

B xoxox

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6 natural ways to manage anxiety & mood (that aren’t meditation!)

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It’s no secret that pretty much the entire world is over-tired, undernourished, bombarded by stressful technology, media, internet, work requests 24/7… or even if not, anxiety is actually nothing new, we just live in a world which makes it more of an epidemic than ever because we’re so disconnected from the natural way of living our lives.

I’ve previously taken anti-anxiety medication, but I’m happy to say today I’m able to manage it entirely pharmaceutical free! Here are my top 6 tips for managing anxiety entirely au naturel! And I know some people get sick of always hearing meditate, meditate, meditate… so as big a meditation advocate as I am (I regard it as essential to my wellbeing and happiness!) this will not appear on my list of top tips… you’re welcome 😉

1. Your new (natural!) make-your-own-medicine

No need to pop pills – chamomile tea (available at any good supermarket or corner shop!) and 3-4 drops of Valerian tincture (available via this link at Planet Organic, and most good health stores) and you’re good to go! This works at least as well as if not better the drugs I was once prescribed (and took!) for anxiety… without any nasty side effects. It’s a life saver. I keep the tincture on my desk. You can add it to water or any herbal tea, but chamomile has calming properties and I find they work best together.

2. Movement – the right kind

Notice I didn’t say ‘exercise’ or ‘train hard’. If you’re stressed and anxious, hardcore workouts release quite a bit of cortisol (normally this is an okay dose and your body deals and it’s actually beneficial, but if you’re already frazzled it can be cortisol OD! Not good!) So I recommend mindful movement – 30 minutes of outdoor walking near as much greenery as possible per day (no excuses Londoners – Hyde Park, Holland Park, Victoria Park, Clapham Common, Hampstead heath, or even a leafy neighbourhood are great…!), things like yoga, pilates, cycling and swimming can all be nice, mindful, meditative and importantly they get your blood pumping and endorphins flowing without too much stress on the body.

3. Vitamin meeeeeee

Make sure you’re eating a diet rich in vegetables (all the colours of the rainbow, and don’t forget the leafy greens!) but if in doubt you may want to speak to a doctor or nutritionist and consider supplementing. Some mood-boosting (and general health boosting!) supplements I researched extensively and incorporate now include vitamins C, E, B12, Co-Q10, ashwagandha, ginseng, and olive leaf extract. I came across nature’s amazing pharmacy via the amazing book Cured by Nature by Tara Mackey (but always remember professional advice is key when supplementing! Don’t take my word for it. your body could be different, and always double check if you’re pregnant or on any medication with your GP if there are any issues with you supplementing). Most pharmacies and health food stores will stock all the ones I’ve listed above. Probiotics are also great (the gut brain strongly affects mood!) and you can get these good live cultures from kombucha, kimchi, or supplements.

4. Caffeine and alcohol (sorry folks!)

Cutting these out is good for your health anyway, but if you’re anxious and stressed, it’s super important. They’re dehydrating, they’ll make anxiety and mood issues worse (caffeine is a stimulant, and alcohol is a depressant) and so in difficult times, these are best avoided. They also disrupt your gut microbiome and so its no wonder they’re detrimental for mood, anxiety and stress! Try swapping for herbal teas – the calming ones are a much healthier swap for the over-anxious (peppermint, chamomile etc. and you can find all kinds of de-stress blends to help!) and if you’re missing alcohol, pop some kombucha (which feeds your microbiome the good gut bacteria and boosts your mood in the process!) in a wine glass – voila! No-one will know it’s not champagne!

5. Turmeric… gold dust!

Apparently studies show this can be as effective as some anti-depressants for mood (source: Cured by Nature). Even if not, it’s been used since ancient times for food-medicine for all sorts of things, and is a key spice in Ayurveda (an ancient Indian holistic health system). I drink it in the Yogi Tea Turmeric Chai herbal tea blend and add it to soups and salads. You can also mix it into juices, smoothies, sprinkle it on veggies or whatever meal you have, season meat, fish or veggie alternatives with it… and you can also buy it in capsule form online or from health food stores. It’s anti-inflammatory, and whether or not it works like magic, it’s placebo, or whatever… it’s great for your health, it’s the colour of sunshine and some studies do support its benefits so I’m totally in! No bad can come of incorporating this sun-dust into your diet.

6. Clary sage – so underrated! (lavender’s so last season…)

Everyone’s favourite essential oil for relaxation is lavender, and yes, it works… but if you’re anything like me, it reminds you of sleep. If you’re in the office and anxious in the middle of the day, you might like to sniff something else. I find clary sage oil to be the best calm remedy. Sniff straight from the bottle, or pop a few drops on a tissue and breathe in as needed. It’s calming, but less sleep-inducing than lavender. I’d also recommend uplifting scents like orange and lemon for a little energy boost!

I hope some of these help a little bit, or give you something to think about. There are so many more (I promised I wouldn’t say meditation or deep breathing, but those are great, but also reading, creativity, trying new things, journaling, finding inspiring podcasts and blogs, dancing… there are a million options we have to better manage our stress and anxiety!) Let me know some of your favourites if they’re not listed here 🙂 ❤

B xoxox

 

10 simple ways be kinder to the planet – Eco-Fitness & Sustainability

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Sustainability and eco-friendly everything have finally started becoming part of mainstream conversation, probably with many thanks to social media and influencers promoting these topics.

Some people have come under fire for this (I’ve seen a well known fitness blogger get attacked for suddenly becoming a sustainability activist!) but I don’t really understand why – making a difference surely depends on ALL of us making small, incremental changes, hopefully leading to bigger and bigger changes, and pressures on companies and governments to do and be better… it’s all about us as individuals taking the small steps we can. Lots of us doing it imperfectly is better than very few people being flawless (which in today’s world is hard to achieve! Let’s face it, modern society is built for convenience, at the expense of our planet, and these things have become part of the fabric of our every day lives so unless we all go and live in a rainforest and roam free, we’re probably not living as consciously and sustainably as we could be!)

I’m not perfect. I’m ashamed to say I used to be too lazy to recycle and because I’d been put off growing up near Glastonbury by crazy hippies, I was actually relatively hostile to conversations about the planet until the last few years, where Boy and I have watched documentaries and been so saddened to see wildlife dying out, where I’ve learned from influencers like @VenetiaFalconer, @ZannaVanDijk and @HannahRoseCluley about all kinds of things from more sustainable diets to fast fashion to animal testing in the cosmetics industry.

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So I’m trying to be better… and while I’m not claiming to be any kind of beacon or example, I just want to share some simple steps that I’ve found easy to implement, and you might like to try some of them!

  1. Sustainable eating – I’m far from perfect, but I lived 10 years of my life as a pescatarian, I tried veganism for a couple of months, and now I’m predominantly pescatarian – I try to be ‘plant focussed’ and base meals around that where possible. I’m not saying give up meat or go vegan, although if you want to, do so by all means! But I am saying our health as well as the planet’s benefits from reducing our meat consumption, so have a little watch of some Netflix documentaries and consider trying #MeatFreeMonday, trying to buy loose not plastic-packed veggies, and eat as seasonally as possible.
  2. Nix the new fitness clothing hauls and fast fashion! As if you’re following me you probably love working out as much as me, I know this can be a hard one. For years I’ve been seduced by new fitness clothing line launches! And I also realized my wardrobe basically IS Zara and H&M. But Venetia Falconer has done a lot of work to promote sustainable fashion recently and the idea of buying fewer clothes is so simple! Stop shopping for the sake of it! I also listened to some great podcasts featuring Livia Firth from Eco-Age with some great tips. Essentially, reduce your buying, try to invest in sustainable brands where you can, and make sure you buy clothes and keep them for a long time. OUTFIT REPEATING IS GOOD FOR THE PLANET! And give vintage a go or try up-cycling old outfits.
  3. Invest in sustainable and cruelty free products, and donate to charities who do work in this area. This is a very simple but powerful one, and while I know it’s hard to be 100% ethical here, do your research and make some simple swaps!
  4. Pledge to give up the takeout coffee cups! I struggled so much and I’m not 100% perfect now, but I’m getting better. I remember my keep cup 80% of the time now, and keep one at work too. Our office has also gotten rid of plastic takeout boxes and cups and provides keep cups and Tupperware in our canteen – why not suggest your workplace does the same? I haven’t figured out what to ask gyms like Kobox etc. to do yet instead of plastic protein shake takeaway cups but if you have ideas, let me know!
  5. Educate yourself. Documentaries on Netflix like ‘Chasing Coral’, ‘Blackfish’, ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘Forks over Knives’ are great but so are the Planet Earth series – anything that makes you see how amazing this planet is and what we should be doing to take care of it. Also following people on Instagram who promote sustainability and eco-friendly brands is a great way to learn and show support. I’d recommend @ecoage, @VenetiaFalconer and @ZannaVanDijk to get started!
  6. DON’T WASTE FOOD! I argue about this with Boy a lot as he often forgets Tupperware in the fridge, and we’re trying super hard to not waste as much food. Did you know that 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK every year? This isn’t just a huge waste of food and money, it adds to the amount of CO2 being created in landfills. So there’s our incentive. No excuses!
  7. Fitness and bro food fiends rejoice – USE YOUR MICROWAVE! Apparently they’re much more energy efficient compared with conventional ovens.
  8. TURN IT OFF! Turn off lights. Skip the electric treadmill and run outside. Don’t leave the TV on all day for the dog. It’s honestly fine without it.
  9. Change your bathroom habits (and pick up gorgeous products in the process!) When it comes to keeping shiny and clean, there are several things you need to be careful to avoid for a truly eco-friendly lifestyle. The most damaging of these is microbeads, which are basically tiny bits of solid plastic which aren’t biodegradable and make their way into watercourses and ultimately end up damaging the environment by entering the food chain. They can be found in body wash, toothpaste, face masks etc. so make sure you double check your products… In addition to this, avoiding chemicals and opting for natural cleaning products  like those sold by Lush means you get their AMAZING almost edible (but don’t eat them) delicious products and keep the environment clean too!
  10. Remember: don’t let ‘perfect’ be the enemy of progress. Lots of small steps by lots of people slowly but surely make an impact. If we all throw our hands up and say ‘f*** it, it’s too hard, what’s the point, I won’t make any difference anyway’ we’re defeating ourselves (and the planet!) before we even begin. Do your best. Make mini changes. Make a few more. Try to see what works for you and what you can keep up. It’s worth it! ❤

What are your top tips for trying to be more eco-friendly? Do you have any fave fitness or beauty (or other!) brands that help you do it? How do you recommend reducing plastic? Let me know!

B xoxo

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The new wellness craze… spirituality?

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Spirituality is slowly seeping more and more into the instagram wellbeing bubble – I’ve recently heard spiritual wellness coaches like Jody Shield speak at events alongside fitness and nutrition professionals, showing people that spirituality can combine with modern life and isn’t just for hippies in a field dancing naked wearing hemp and sandals.

Former ‘fitness only’ influencers have moved across into yoga, astrology and crystals (quite a few instagrammers, for example) and then there are the public figures like Mel Wells who has moved from food coaching into more of a ‘spiritual wellness’ space having launched her new membership product, The Goddess Collective… Figures like Jasmine Hemsley combine nutrition and Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science)…

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a new wellness craze! But none of these things and ideas are particularly new, it just seems they’re reaching a new market and being taken on by a new ‘generation’ almost…

Wellness and lifestyle bloggers are expanding the areas of content they cover from fitness, fashion, nutrition and health into the spiritual. And I guess that can be quite polarizing for some people, who maybe don’t agree with their ideas, or odd for others who haven’t encountered these ideas yet.

The Big Questions

Religion and myth have been a part of humanity for as long as we’ve been conscious – humans naturally crave explanations for things they don’t understand and the mysteries of the universe.

I’ve been asked recently in a Q&A I did on instagram if I’m religious, and if I think religion and spirituality can help mental health. I didn’t answer it on IG as it needed a fuller post to be honest, it’s a huge topic! So here goes!

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My two cents…

Let’s just get it clear that all of these things are deeply personal and we all have to respect that people won’t always agree…!

I am an atheist. I’ve never believed in a creator god, and still don’t. I was made to go to Christian Sunday school as a kid for a bit, but my parents aren’t really Christians either (my grandmother and former stepmum are) but I never believed in it.

I grew up near Glastonbury and so as a teen discovered paganism and Wicca and dabbled for a while for fun, but never seriously believed in it. Yes, I did a couple of Witchy Rituals following Fiona Horne’s books. It’s funny looking back on it now 🙂 However I did learn loads about the pagan tradition, gods and goddesses in all kinds of different traditions, crystals and new age philosophy, and all that jazz. I first started learning to meditate as a teen but stopped and didn’t come back to it til later in life.

I’ve also, with my other half, rejected a lot of the Glastonbury naval gazing and hippyisms as we’ve witnessed first hand how the lack of responsibility and drug culture can mess up peoples’ lives (particularly kids).

At university through literary criticism I discovered philosophy and found myself to be an existentialist. I don’t believe life has inherent meaning, I believe we create it, and have to work to create it and find meaning in things.

I went to Cambodia and Thailand in one of my uni summers and was OBSESSED with exploring the gorgeous temples of Angkor Wat.

I’ve always been interested in world religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism (and my mum was interest in Buddhism too so I read loads on it as a teenager). I’m fascinated by ancient cultures and indigenous peoples, and love to hear about myths in, for example, Aztec and Mayan traditions, and Japanese and Chinese beliefs.

I got diagnosed with depression in my 20s although I’ve had it my whole life. I remain an atheist and existentialist, but after years of work combining fitness, nutrition, medication and meditation to manage the condition, I started looking wider.

I’ve (in the last year or two) dabbled in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian holistic wellness system (and even did a mini course), I’ve read more widely on meditation, spirituality, Buddhism and mindfulness, and I’ve been part of wellness groups which incorporate spirituality (originally Jody Shield’s Tribe Tonic, which I left, and now Mel Well’s The Goddess Collective which at the time of writing I’m still in).

I’m also fascinated by the commonalities between religions, and the ways in which conquering religions like Christianity used existing Pagan holidays to persuade people to adopt their practices more easily.

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So where are you now? Do you believe in god or a creator? How does it work with your rational logical side? Does it help your mental wellbeing?

I’m still an atheist.

I’m still an existentialist.

I’m also a Scorpio with Capricorn rising…!

Do I rationally and logically believe in astrology? No. Do I match everything my chart says about being a Scorpio with Capricorn rising? Hell yes! Do I enjoy it intuitively? Yes. Is that a bit of a paradox? Probably, yeah! Whatever!

In Ayurveda, I’m very strongly the pitta dosha. Do I believe this is biologically, scientifically a thing? No… but I can still relate to it, enjoy it, use it to derive meaning and adopt self-care practices…

Not everything, for me, now, has to make clinical sense. At one point I’d have rejected all this. But I think it’s totally fine to do your own personal thing.

If I had to be labeled, I’d be nearer a Buddhist as they don’t believe in an active being, or creator.

I think you can create meaning and fun however you want. I enjoy hearing about different cultures’ believes, I enjoy astrology, I may not rationally believe in tarot but why the fuck not if you like that kinda thing?

Keats was a poet who wrote about ‘negative capability’ – the ability to hold two conflicting thoughts and beliefs at the same time, so why not do that?!

I think generally religion is two things – a source of comfort and guidance to people (nothing wrong with that!) and an attempt to explain things that science has not yet been able to. If you want to enjoy the fictions to bring meaning to life – why not?!!

Given that I don’t believe in a god, I don’t exactly have a being I feel comforted by, or ask for guidance from. But my foraging into meditation and Buddhism has definitely helped me get a grip on my brain and managing my thoughts, emotions and moods.

What are your thoughts?

Let me know what you think about how spirituality is really kicking off in the wellness field, and share your beliefs and practices if you feel comfortable!

B x

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The end result of my vegan trial… (flexitarian-ism!)

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So in this post I told you alllllll about how I had watched all these documentaries and for both environmental and ethical-animal-based reasons, I wanted to try being plant-based.

I committed not to the full vegan lifestyle, but to being as plant-based as possible.

It was amazing initially – read the original post for the energy and endurance boost I felt. Then I had a couple of odd symptoms (not the ones you’d expect funnily enough!) and then it was fine again.

I managed to last a couple of months, before landing back at officially flexitarian (eating some meat, some fish, some dairy but aiming to be as plant-based as possible – so I tend to have at least 2 vegan meals a day generally).

Why did I ‘stop’?

The blunt honest truth is I do still agree with the ethics and environmental arguments, but I had to stop for my mental health.

As an ex-ED sufferer, I was aware ‘restrictive’ ways of eating need to be handled with care. I really didn’t think I’d be affected. But I was. I started to get anxious, obsessively check labels, feel sick and jittery around meal times, and obsess about what I could and couldn’t eat. If I had to go out, I’d worry about if I’d be able to eat anything or not.

And while maybe it’s possible to work through these things, given my history, and my on-going story with depression, I decided I didn’t have to be perfect.

I can still aim to eat as little animal produce as possible. To choose clean, ethical beauty and makeup products as much as possible. To help promote healthy plant-based options. I’ve swapped my shakes to vegan protein, converted Boy to almond milk in his lattes, we’re making changes…

But I’m not perfect. I’m not fully vegan. And while I’m sorry I can’t be fully consistent with the fact that I think it’s ideal to be vegan, I feel the need to be selfish and take care of myself on this one.

I hope I’m not letting anyone down, but I wanted to tell it like it is!

Positive lasting effects

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I now do eat pretty much 2 meals a day that are vegan now, we’ve made some permanent swaps, and I’m more aware than I ever was before of the impact of my lifestyle choices.

It also made me make WAY more effort with fruit and veg variation, and getting more colour in my diet definitely felt like it gave my skin, mental clarity and energy levels a boost.

I feel better educated about animal welfare than before, and so I am trying to make more conscious decisions. While I’m not perfect, I’m working to reduce my impact and avoid supporting animal products as much as possible.

I care more about the impact of my lifestyle in other areas and make more effort to reduce plastic and recycle too.

It’s taught me loaaaads of tasty brand new plant-based recipes, and learning about plant-based protein sources has been great nutrition knowledge.

So there have definitely been some positives!

Fundamental philosophy

As my nutritionist and the lovely human being Rhiannon Lambert says, we don’t have to label our food choices.

I firmly believe this. But if I had to technically put a label on it to sum it up for you, I guess you could call me flexitarian.

However, ultimately, you are unique and need to do what works for your mind, body, ethics, all that good stuff. So don’t stress! Let’s support each other in making incrementally better choices for the planet, but also support good physical and mental health in others, whatever that may look like, and try not to judge others’ diets.

What about you guys, how do you try to live consciously while balancing your own physical and mental health?

B x

#8 Inspire Interview Series – REBECCA KING – Lawyer (Associate at one of the Biggest American Firms in London)

Sorry it’s been a little while since the last Inspire Interview… today’s is completely different to the careers we’ve spoken about before, which is why I love doing this series so much… there are so many amazing people doing cool jobs in all kinds of different industries, and talking to everyone about it is great just for me to be nosey, let alone share with you!

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I know law is something I get asked about a lot – how do I fit fitness around life as a trainee, for example, so I thought I’d go right to the source and give you a fully qualified lawyer on how she balances all things work, life, workouts and play!

Today’s interview is with the kick ass Rebecca King, who I actually met through our mutual obsession with KOBOX. She very kindly answered some questions on life as a lawyer in one of the biggest US firms in London, and busts some myths about lawyer life, not least that you have to do law at uni  – she did THE COOLEST undergrad degree ever… so without further ado –

B: Can you tell us a little bit about the area of law you work in…

R: I work in Debt Capital Markets on bond issuances (for corporates, banks and sometimes sovereigns).

B: What made you become a lawyer? How did you get there – did you do undergrad law or convert later?

R: To be honest, I just thought I’d be quite good at it! I didn’t study it as an undergrad, as I wasn’t 100% decided and knew I had the option of converting later. I studied a subject I loved but doesn’t have much in the way of traditional job applications outside academia – Archaeology and Anthropology. I focused on Biological Anthropology, the study of how humans evolved – I even met Jane Goodall once when she gave us a primatology lecture. I also took papers in Ancient Egyptian Religion, which I’ve always been fascinated by, although I chose not to make Egyptology my main focus because I’ve never been great at languages. If you think French is hard – try hieroglyphics! (I did. I was crap.)

I combined that with some legal work experience and vacation schemes, and I was offered a training contract with my current firm just before I graduated from Cambridge – they then sponsored me through law school.

B: Can you describe a (working) day in the life of RK?

R: As you know, hours and work can be so varied! Officially our working hours are 9.30 till 6 and recently my department has been relatively quiet so that’s been about when I get in and out. I’m about to head to lunch, and today so far I’ve sorted out some postclosing matters for a deal that closed last week, had a kick-off call for a pro-bono matter, reviewed and updated our internal memo on listing procedures for the London Stock Exchange and attended our department quarterly meeting. A pretty average morning!

B: What advice would you give someone looking to become a lawyer? Any advice you were given en route that was helpful?

R: I’d say that the subject of your undergraduate degree doesn’t really matter but your grades and outside interests really do. If you’re a non-law undergrad like I was, you’ll need to prove you’re serious about law even though you actively chose not to study it for your degree, which can be tricky! Definitely get involved with your university law society early on and attend recruitment fairs and law firm presentations, and apply for vacation schemes or open days as soon as you’re eligible – once you’ve attended one, it’s easier to tick that “genuinely interested” box and be accepted for more.

Also – and I think this is true of any industry, not just law – it’s infinitely better to just submit five job applications that you’ve really thought about and tailored to that particular firm than fire off fifty identical cover letters and CVs. Believe me, these firms receive thousands and thousands of identikit applications and anything they think you’ve copied and pasted will be promptly set aside.

B: What are the biggest misconceptions about being a lawyer that you think are out there? Any myths you want to bust (or confirm!)

R: That all lawyers go to court! My sister is at a different firm that specialises in arbitration, and goes all the time. I’ve never set foot in a courtroom outside of a school trip aged 15. I work on deals, not cases!

B: Best and worst bits of the job? Biggest challenges?

R: I work with some great people! Almost all the lawyers I’ve ever worked with have been really clever, fun and interesting people. There’s definitely a certain drive and perfectionism we all have in common but my department is a great place to be and I met some of my absolute best friends through work.

I think the biggest challenge for me personally is the variability of hours. As I’m in a transactional area, I can have two weeks of past-midnight finishes followed by two weeks where I barely bill any time at all. When your bonuses and performance reviews put a lot of emphasis on whether you hit an hours target, slow weeks can be really demoralising and on the flip side busy weeks can mean cancelling really important plans. People tend to be very understanding but ultimately the client calls the shots, and if there’s work to be done and no one else can do it, you just have to put plans aside.

B: I’ve found that people really stress about training contracts (and I know the numbers are tough!) but personally I found being a trainee waaaaay tougher than the application process… any thoughts on coping with the journey to working in law, since it can be super long, super competitive, and of course isn’t always peachy when you’re on a very late deal…?

R: Personally, it’s easy for me to finish a tough week and just flop on the sofa for six hours straight on Saturday and binge watch a show because I’m tired. If you’re like me – my advice is to try not to do that too often, as I’ll then get to Sunday evening and feel like the weekend was wasted. I always try and spend some time with friends, do a workout class, book an event or, if I am sitting in front of the TV, I’ll work on one of my costume projects at the same time – it’s a creative outlet and making something gives me a sense of achievement, even if I did it while watching Netflix! It’s different for everyone but basically my advice is – if you don’t have much time off, really make sure that the time you get to yourself you’re putting towards something or someone you love, rather than just spinning wheels waiting for the next work email to come in or Monday to start.

B: How do you relax and wind down outside of work, and look after yourself generally? Anything that particularly helps you stay balanced?

R: I have a lot of hobbies and interests, and making time for those is really important to me. I love reading – history, true crime (I stayed up till two last night reading the Ted Bundy biography “The Stranger Beside Me” and barely slept a wink!), trashy regency romance novels, fantasy and sci-fi. I’m also listening to podcasts at the moment on my commute – my favourites include “You Must Remember This” (on the forgotten scandals of Hollywood), “My Favourite Murder” and “The Soundtrack Show” (which analyses film soundtracks). TV-wise I love Westworld, Game of Thrones and anything David Attenborough.

I’m also a huge Star Wars geek and in the last couple of years have got into cosplay, so I love researching and making props and costumes in my spare time and attending comic conventions, and I even take lessons in lightsaber fighting! It’s basically a fusion of kung fu and tai chi, except instead of wooden practice swords we use plastic ones that light up. Other sports and activities I love are Kobox (obviously!), skiing, diving, yoga, pilates, hiking and golf. Some weeks I’m busier than others, but for me balance is when I’m happily busy at work but with time for my interests and seeing friends and family.

B: Best and worst career advice you’ve ever been given?

R: Best: people don’t dwell nearly as much on the criticism they give you as you do. I think particularly in law, we’re such perfectionists that any negative feedback can really knock us. Take it, learn from it and try and move on – because the chances are that the person who said it hasn’t thought about it since they did!

Worst: “You can’t wear dangly earrings to work!!” My mum was an incredibly badass accountant-turned-banker in the 80’s when the City really WAS a man’s world, and any sign of femininity was seen as distracting or a weakness – this classic quote was from my first day at work when I was going to wear drop earrings. I don’t think she realised when I started my TC in 2015 how much the world, and corporate dress code in particular, has changed from “her day”. The fact our firm has casual Fridays continues to amaze her, as does the fact I never wear suits (stretchy jersey dresses for the win!)

B: Do you feel like workouts impact how productive you are at work?

R: 100%. I always try to work out in the mornings. It wakes you up, it gets your metabolism going, it clears your head, and ultimately I think it’s great to start the day with a bit of me-time – whether it’s yoga, running or, in my case, punching the hell out of something heavy to some really loud music.

B: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be and why?

I honestly don’t know! I always have loved writing and secretly wanted to be a novelist, but I realised early on I wasn’t suited temperament-wise to such a solitary and unpredictable job. I also occasionally daydream of being a guide at a safari camp! Spending all day in the bush and then the evening round the fire with a glass of Amarula listening to the sounds of the wild and chatting to guests from all over the world sounds pretty fun to me. Having said that, I’d probably make it about three weeks without internet access before hotfooting it back to London.

B: Any role models career-wise (whether in law or not)?

R: My mum! She was the first in her family to go to university and then trained as an accountant as one of five women in a class of over 100. She then went into banking and made way more money than my dad for the first 10-15 years of their marriage (which was very unusual then). She ended up giving up work completely to look after me and my sister about the time I started school, but my parents were married for 10 years before they had kids, so she fit in a pretty incredible career before deciding to make that change. People are always shocked to find out my parents’ house is in her name! She’s incredibly driven and hard-working and is an example I try (and fail, a lot of the time!) to live up to.

B: Fave restaurant in City – any great places to take clients you’d recommend people?

R: I go to the Ned a lot and really like their restaurants, but if I’m not eating there I’ll usually head back towards Chelsea to have dinner. Mossimann’s, which is a dining club set in a gorgeous converted church in Belgravia, is the ultimate favourite – unfortunately I can’t go without my dad, as he’s the member, but I always beg to go there on my birthday! I love Rabbit, on the King’s Road, which does incredible seasonal British food tapas-style, and nearly died of happiness when they opened a Sticks ‘n’ Sushi less than two minutes walk from me!

B: And finally, what does ‘success’ mean to you?

It’s kind of abstract but that little fist-pump moment you get when you’ve absolutely nailed something. Whether it’s at work or not, the aim for me is for life to have more fist-pump moments than “d’oh” or “loo cry” moments.

**Quickfire Round**

Fave KOBOX combo – I know you go a lot 😉

Uppercuts. When I hit the bag hard enough that it jumps up, it makes me feel like Captain Marvel.

Pancakes or full english?

Full English for sure, I’m a savoury girl!

Burpee or bear crawl?

Oh Christ. Is Miranda reading this? Bear crawl! Definitely bear crawl!

Nature or nurture?

You can’t ask a former anthropology student that question, she’ll spend three weeks agonizing and then give you a 12-page essay that doesn’t even answer it! Like any true-crime aficionado, I’d probably say mostly nurture. But as a cat owner, nature certainly can’t be discounted.

Martini or cosmopolitan?

Martini – I like a citrusy, dry one with a grapefruit twist. But I’d choose a good margarita over either!

Talent or hustle?

Hustle.

Fave latin phrase from law-school?

In vino veritas – definitely learned during law school, although not actually during lectures…

Chocolate or cheese?

CHEESE.

Louboutin or Jimmy Choo?

Louboutin, as long as I’m not walking far.

Fave legal drama?

Does Judge Judy count?! Funnily enough for a lawyer I’ve never watched Suits or The Good Wife or anything like that. But my mum always has Judge Judy on somewhere in our house so I have a soft spot for her.

You have to hug, marry and water-balloon 3 kobox instructors – which ones do you choose?! 

Marry Miranda, obviously. Hug Joe or Jesse. Water-balloon Jacob (This is 100% revenge and I reserve the right to revise this when he’s back on the timetable permanently!)

Fave movie?

Hot Fuzz!

It’s your last EVER meal of your life. What do you go for?

Christmas lunch followed by my mum’s EXTREMELY boozy raspberry trifle! With wine. Lots of wine.

Hope that was a useful insight into lawyer life – Bekky is definitely the coolest lawyer I know. Catch her at KOBOX in City most weekdays 😉

B xoxo

 

Going plant-based – MY HONEST REASONS & Body’s reaction | Not just Veganuary

sliced tomato and avocado on white plate
Photo by Artem Bulbfish on Pexels.com

I hear some of the meat-eaters sighing already – another person who has a fitness instagram jumping on the plant-based bandwagon.

I wanted to share with you my thinking behind going plant-based (& a disclaimer that while I strive to introduce as many plant-based, vegan foods and focuses into my daily routine, I’m still technically a vegetarian I guess), my motivation and what has ultimately influenced me, and a bit about my history with meat etc. before this just as background.

I am not sharing this to be preachy, or to copy all the #plantbased fitness influencers out there. And I am not sharing this as a spontaneous New Year’s resolution.

So let’s talk. First, winding back the clocks…

My diet background since my teens (eating disorders aside)

I actually spent 10 years as a pescatarian…

Pescatarians still eat dairy and fish, just not meat. I started this in Zambia when given some dodgy quality meat, and kept it up for a decade, plus or minus one slip with some chicken.

But I’d always reassure people it wasn’t for moral reasons, I just didn’t want meat.

But then I started eating meat again…

As I got into training (initially weightlifting, then boxing) more, I thought I needed more protein and got sucked into the chicken, broccoli, sweet potato bro-food thing, although I still wouldn’t eat lamb or pork or processed meat.

I did try a week vegan as an experiment because I saw so many people doing it, but I decided I’d miss cheese too much, and my motivation wasn’t really strong enough. Needless to say, it didn’t last.

My diet immediately before going plant-based

To be honest my diet over the last 6 months has been increasingly plant-based as I became more aware of micronutrients, phytochemicals and overall health via influencers like The Food Medic and my nutrionist Rhiannon Lambert, both of whom encourage lots of veggies and fruit, and healthy whole-foods, but equally don’t prescribe veganism or vegetarianism… I was eating probably about 20% plant-based, 60-70% vegetarian and 10-20% organic lean meats like chicken or seafood.

So I was phasing in more and more plant-focussed eating.

I haven’t touched dairy milk for like 6-7 years though – I woke up one day and just found it disgusting and didn’t want it anymore, so that’s an easy one for me.

Why did you make the jump to committing to being ‘plant-based’? Are you vegan, or vegetarian? What’s the difference?

Valid questions, all!

So plant-based is where you try to follow a diet that is powered by plants i.e. avoiding animal products.

Veganism is the all-encompassing lifestyle where you ONLY eat plant-based foods and do NOT eat any animal-derived products (e.g. honey, cheese, milk, eggs, meat, fish) and you don’t wear anything animal-derived (e.g. leather, fur), you only purchase products which are cruelty free and not tested on animals etc. etc. It touches every aspect of your life, and you avoid all animal-derived products.

Vegetarians don’t eat meat or fish, but do eat eggs and dairy.

Pescatarians don’t eat meat, but eat seafood, eggs and dairy.

I went plant-based ultimately for a combination of ethical and environmental reasons, some health factors, and therefore I aspire to be as vegan as possible.

However, I acknowledge that I may not be perfect – I do still own leather items, for example, or I may eat an egg from the chickens in my dad’s back garden every now and then, or have a little bit of non-vegan chocolate. I’m trying to cut this out as much as possible, I know the dairy and egg industries are very problematic, but I don’t want to lie and pretend I’m perfect or that the vegan transition is an easy one, and I know it would piss off a lot of very strongly devoted vegans for me to say I was vegan, if I was eating honey or whatever, which I may do…

I totally agree with veganism from an animal rights and environmental perspective though, hence why I want to do what I can.

Like Rhiannon Lambert, I don’t believe I need to label my diet per se, but I guess militant vegans would call me a vegetarian who tries not to touch animal products but occasionally has a bit of cheese. Vegan-curious. Whatever. I’m going with the aim to be plant-based as that seems to be socially-media-lly acceptable and offend the fewest people.

duckling on black soil during daytime
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But WHY go plant-based now? What influenced it?

I’ve listened to more and more people talk about going plant-based recently. I followed Flora Beverley aka Food Fitness Flora, Grace Beverley, and Zanna Van Dijk and Steph Elswood since way before they were vegan, and watched their journeys with interest.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Venetia Falconer and her podcast Talking Tastebuds, and have become increasingly more intrigued and experimental with plant-based recipes.

However, I always said I ‘admired’ vegans but couldn’t commit myself. I said I couldn’t cope without cheese. I called it ‘joyless’ food. I agreed with the arguments against animal cruelty but was still too scared to watch Cowspiracy. I tried to push it out of my mind. I also figured, well I buy free range eggs, that doesn’t hurt animals. Cows have to be milked… (I discovered I was wrong on both counts, as you’ll see in a sec).

Then Venetia’s episode of Talking Tastebuds with Lucy Watson got me thinking that I should own up to my choices and not shy away. I should fully educate myself and then if I could still stomach meat etc, so be it.

I watched the following documentaries over the course of two days:

  • Cowspiracy
  • What the Health* (*take this one with a pinch of salt, much seems accurate on deeper research but some isn’t – eggs are NOT as bad for you as cigarettes!)
  • Forks over Knives
  • Blackfish

I then read the book ‘Eating Animals’ by Jonathan Safran Foer.

I realized I couldn’t just ignore things anymore and had to change by diet. I totally agree with all the arguments for veganism and aspire to remove animal-products from my diet as much as possible.

I watched this amazing talk by Earthling Ed that really helps summarise everything too.

For the animals…

Suffice it to say, animals, even allegedly ‘free range’ ones are not being treated well. Factory farming is a horrific industry – slaughterhouse conditions are shocking. Cows are kept perpetually pregnant to keep them producing milk. So many male chicks who aren’t layers are killed horrifically. Chickens are kept in horrific conditions to keep them artificially laying more and more eggs per year instead of just spring. This is just a sample as I’m not here to preach or shock, I just want to give a flavour of some of the things I either knew and ignored, or didn’t know at all… now I can’t ignore any of it.

For the planet…

Then there’s the environmental stuff – the vast quantities of land destroyed for meat farming, the water wastage, the CO2 footprint, the cow’s fart methane thing which is actually a huge problem, the oceans being destroyed because trawling for tuna kills hundreds of thousands of other sealife too including seahorses and other species.

For health…

Then there’s the health side. Hormones and antibiotics and unsanitary, shit filled conditions in slaughter houses. The fact that in the US, the dairy and meat industries lobby so hard they affect government health guidelines, and are the producers of fact sheets so even the Diabetes and Cancer bodies won’t openly admit how much processed meat and dairy can be bad for you.

Milk is baby cow growth fluid, full of hormones, to make a little calf get to the size of a big cow ASAP.

All of this stuff, that once I’d seen it, I couldn’t unsee.

For my mental health…

I read a couple of studies which implied a plant-based diet could help depression, which as many of you will know I’ve been in a 2 decade + battle with. I need to track down the actual journal articles to fully assess credibility, but feel it’s worth the experiment.

For me…

It just feels like the right thing to do, but in some circumstances there are reasons not to go vegan (especially if you’ve suffered from anorexia or overly-restrictive disordered eating – always consult a doctor and nutritionist).

The animal thing and the environment thing are pretty big for me. Blackfish is actually about killer whales at Seaworld, and when the baby was separated from its mother and she just floated shaking at the corner of a pool wailing in grief was just heart-breaking.

I guess I knew this all on some level before, but by distancing myself from it and not properly educating myself I could act like it was ok. But now, I don’t think momentary pleasure from eating something is worth all of that. It’s too sad. Not to mention not sustainable.

Q: How do you know if someone is vegan/plant-based? A: They’ll tell you!

I have fulfilled this already by posting in this much detail, but I wanted to explain my reasoning and make clear YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN TO BE HEALTHY.

Up your plant-based eating as much as you can for health reasons but you don’t have to entirely quit meat and dairy and seafood. Those are things you can make decisions about based on ethics and sustainability – you do you.

I don’t wanna preach, but I do think the reasons are worth stating, and I feel like I do have a very little platform to do good things, so hopefully this resonates to some degree and encourages you to consume a little more consciously, even if it’s just #MeatFreeMonday!

Can you just make the switch quickly?

People do, I think, but I’ve gradually become more and more plant-based over the last few months anyway.

I’ve also read a lot of articles and watched a lot of youtube videos by people with tips for going vegan, and things they wish they’d known, so I think the best thing, personally, is to do it gradually, to let your body adjust to the increased fibre.

So how am I finding it… truthfully?

I’ve been doing this since before Christmas, so a couple of weeks now. Have I slipped and had a non-vegan product? Yes.

But I’ve stuck to my plant-based-vegetarian philosophy, focused on consuming fresh, whole foods and plant-based recipes. I found AMAZING vegan cheese (hey violife!) and vegan pizza (Waitrose and Pizza Express!) for when I need those things in my life… and all in all it’s going really well.

  • I have been feeling:
    • More energetic
    • Less lethargic
    • Endurance during workouts has improved
    • Fewer ‘cravings’
    • More connected to the planet and animals etc – sounds woo woo I know, but it’s soooo nice to not just be thinking about myself and trying to eat well in a way that is nourishing for the environment as well as me!
    • Happier!
  • My body has
    • Not really reacted to the change so far, because I guess I’d gradually been becoming more plant-based so I’ve not found any of the bloating/digestition issues a lot of people report*
  • ‘Confession box’
    • I had a bit of blue cheese over xmas that DEFINITELY wasn’t vegan.
    • I also had a bit of non-vegan chocolate.
    • It’s a process! While some may disagree, as far as I’m concerned this is about a sustainable lifestyle change and REDUCING ANIMAL PRODUCTS as MUCH AS POSSIBLE for the LONG TERM, and so a few slips overall may happen but won’t throw me off the wagon!
  • Negatives?
    • Friends who react saying they don’t give a f*** about animals, and I’m ridiculous not to eat meat etc. etc. I don’t have any plans to preach or convert anyone, but I’d like my lifestyle choices to be MINE ❤

[*Post publication edit (3rd Jan 17:55): literally the before day this post was scheduled to go live, so yesterday, I started noticing afternoon headaches, which have continued today (the day of publication) – so like, maybe negative symptoms a couple of weeks into this? I’m also feeling very nauseaous. This MAY OR MAY NOT BE CONNTECTED to my diet change – I am diarising what I’m eating, and tracking it to test it. According to Google, these aren’t unusual things to experience while your body adjusts. Of greater concern to me was something happened last night that has never happened to me before except when I’ve had a severe fever – night sweats. So I need to monitor this, and check in with my doctor and nutritionist at the earliest opportunity. Remember there is no substitute for qualified advice!]

Resources

All of the things I’ve watched, been inspired by etc. in this decision are linked below and above throughout this post. Watch/read/listen for curiosity’s sake if nothing else – you don’t have to change how you eat at all, but being informed is always nice!

Make sure if you do this, you check in with professionals and ensure you’re looking at supplementation in the right way – protein believe it or not is super easy to get from plants (you just need to know your complete proteins from your non-completes, and how to combine different sources to get all the essential amino acids!) but Vitamin B12 and iodine are super important too.

Check out this e-book by Harley Street Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert, ‘A Simple Way to Eat Plant-Based‘ which tells you all you need to know!

Documentaries:

Cowspiracy

What the Health

Forks over Knives

Blackfish

Youtubers with good advice on going vegan:

Zanna Van Dijk

GraceFitUK

#7: Inspire Interview Series – MICHELLE KEILL, NOVELIST

I have LOVED working on the Inspire Interview Series this year (catch up with any you missed here!) and getting to chat to so many amazing people about the cool stuff they’ve done with their lives. To round off 2018, I wanted to share with you a really special one.

1409DC03-D1AD-4569-897C-F37D4E88C22ELast year I was quite stressed out and disillusioned and needed a break and some inspiration, so I disappeared off to Paris for a weekend as it’s my favourite city in the world. Outside the bookshop (my spiritual home!) Shakespeare and Company, I discovered a book on a bench that had been left as part of a BookFairy Drop (where people leave books all around major cities and towns for others to discover)… and I was hooked. That was how I first connected with Michelle – through her gorgeous, haunting novel The Four Women (available here), and its characters, and I suppose above all – Paris.

Michelle Keill is a beautiful writer and novelist, and has kindly taken the time to answer a few of my Inspire Interview questions… so here’s hoping this kickstarts your New Year with a little creativity.

Writers are some of my favourite people because I’m fascinated by what they create, I get so excited when I get to talk to them – so without further ado, let’s chat to Michelle about her awesome work!

B: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

M: I’m not sure it was something I wanted to ‘be’, but it’s something I’ve always done. One of my earliest memories is of sitting at the kitchen table in my parents’ house writing stories with a crayon (in those days I also illustrated – badly, but more competently than I would do now).

B: What is the best thing, and what is the most difficult thing about being a writer?

M: The best thing, apart from the excuse to drink tea to excess and buy lots of pretty notebooks, is the opportunity to take myself out of reality and create a new one. Also, the potential to provide an escape for people: hearing from readers who’ve connected with the book is wonderful. As for the most difficult thing, any form of creative expression makes you vulnerable, and that feeling is hard to get used to. I find writing the first draft is the easiest part of the process – from there it gets harder, with all the rewriting and editing.

B: Can you give a little teaser about your novel The Four Women for anyone who hasn’t read it?

M: The book is about a young woman living in Paris whose world is drastically transformed by four women who enter her life, seemingly from nowhere, and introduce her to a reclusive and enigmatic tutor whom, they promise, can teach her French. On meeting him, she discovers that although he is indeed as brilliant as they described, he may not have the best of intentions. It’s a love story, but a dark one, and explores the theme of how much of our lives is predetermined, and what is simply chance. If I could give my characters one piece of advice it would be to be careful what you wish for, and to follow your instincts and stay true to yourself. Advice I try to keep in mind myself, actually.

B: What are you currently working on at the moment?

M: A collection of short stories, which should be published in 2019. I also have a romantic comedy and another Paris novel in the works.

B: Any tips for aspiring writers?

M: Write what enthrals and engages you, rather than what is popular or selling well at the moment (unless that is what enthrals and engages you!). You’re in charge of what you put on the page, so be sure it’s a genre or story that you feel passionate about. And read a lot. But, mostly, just write. 

B: Can you describe a writing day in the life of Michelle Keill?

M: Despite not being a morning person, my best time to write is first thing, so I try to make an early start. Then I’ll keep going until about two in the afternoon, which is usually when I feel my creative energy fading. I might push on into the evening if I’m working on a key scene or if I’m really in flow, but I find my mind is clearer earlier in the day. I need to be free of distractions (i.e. no phone), but I need music on when I write, otherwise it’s not happening.

B: What has been the most challenging part of getting to where you are today?

M: I developed a serious illness in 2014, which struck without warning and came close to getting the better of me. I ended up having emergency surgery to save my lung, which was frightening. From there it was a long road back to health. I wrote ‘The Four Women’ as I was recovering: while my body was restoring itself, my creativity was resetting too. I look back and I’m amazed that something good came from such a harrowing experience.

B: What does 1) ‘happiness’ and 2) ‘success’ mean to you?

M: Happiness for me can be as simple as spending a rainy day indoors lying on the sofa with a book and a cuppa. Same for success: if one person reads my book and enjoys it, then I consider that a win.

B: Best life advice you’ve ever been given?

M: Treat other people as you’d want to be treated yourself. And, from my mum, always make sure you have a decent mascara.

B: Best career advice you’ve ever been given?

M: Treat everyone you encounter at work, no matter what their role, with equal courtesy. The person at the bottom today may be at the top tomorrow. I think that came from my mum too.

B: Do you have a role model or mentor you look to for career inspiration?

M: My friends inspire me with their kindness, loyalty, and courage. Also, if I’m in a tricky situation, I often think, ‘What would Michelle Obama do?’ That always gets me on the right track.

B: What does ‘balance’ mean to you?

M: It means leaving a bit of energy in the tank and not pushing too hard (I’m still learning how to do this!). It means pausing and not always rushing to the finish line. Sometimes you have to slow down in order to speed up.

B: What’s your life’s mission in a nutshell?

M: To make a positive contribution to the world.

B: What inspires you to write?

M: People, faces, and places. Or sometimes just a line in a song. 

B: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be in another life?

M: Perhaps a doctor, if I could make the grade.

B: If you had to spend the rest of your life with one fictional character, who would it be?

M: Ross from ‘Friends’. He’s intelligent, sensitive, musical (!), and enjoys lounging around on sofas drinking hot beverages.

B: How do you take care of yourself and make sure you get the right ‘work life balance’, if there is such a thing?

M: Following my illness, I’ve learned to listen to my body (not quite sure I’ve mastered it yet). If you’re working too hard, or not getting enough sleep or eating properly, your body will usually drop a few subtle hints to let you know. I make sure I pay attention to those early warning signs, and try to take it a bit easier when I feel I need to.

Quickfire

Physical books or ebooks?

Physical, definitely. I love to see rows of bulging bookshelves.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner?

Dinner.

Forests or beaches?

Forests. Bonus points if there are squirrels.

Walking or running?

Walking.

Favourite place?

Paris, Washington D.C., and my bed.

Dancing or yoga?

Dancing.

Nature or nurture?

Nurture.

Talent or hustle?

Talent.

Chocolate or cheese?

Cheese. I’m all about the cheese.

Fave self-care ritual?

A hot bath, a book, and a cup of Earl Grey.

A good book or Netflix?

A good book, but I can’t pretend I could function without Netflix.

Fave quote:

Not a quote as such, but JFK’s ‘we choose to go the moon’ speech always gives me a boost when I’m feeling overwhelmed, incapable, or my courage is failing me.

Top 3 books?

Hard to choose just three, but …

1. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

2. Misery by Stephen King

3. Tampa by Alyssa Nutting

Tea or coffee?

Tea, all day long. With plenty of milk.

Who would attend your dream dinner party (living or dead, fictional or real!)

Frank-N-Furter, Oprah Winfrey, Juliette Binoche, Romesh Ranganathan, Don Lemon, Charlie Brooker, Stephen Colbert, and Freddie Mercury (I’d have to invite my mum too if Freddie was there).

If you had a ‘death row dinner’ – a last meal that could be anything you want, favourites, whatever… what would it be?

Pizza, followed by homemade apple crumble (custard mandatory). All followed, of course, by a large cup of tea.

Thanks so much for sharing your insights Michelle, I am so excited to read more of your work as I still get shivers thinking about The Four Women!

Hope you all enjoyed hearing more about life as a novelist, and if you’d like to connect further, you can find Michelle on Goodreads here, Instagram here and Amazon here.

B xoxo

Dealing with anxiety & stress over Christmas

Christmas is coming…!

So everyone loves a bit of Christmas, right? Mulled wine, fairy lights, chocolate everywhere, epic roast dinners… but it also is the time of year where you’re expected to see EVERYBODY before the New Year, party every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then the day itself can be a political hotbed of family in-fighting!

macro shot photography of tea candles
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Or may you have to do a lot of travelling. Or see relations you’re not hugely cool with. Or maybe you have eating issues, or social anxiety and the pressure is just too much.

I get it – our family is craaaaaaaay and this year we’ve opted to hole up at home in London, just me and the Boy and not do the big stressful family tour thing!

I also used to have an eating disorder as many of you know, and now I’m doing #100DaysSober I have had to turn down a LOT of alcohol at client drinks and office and general Christmas parties over this period.

Top tips for staying sane…!

Read on to discover my fave mental and physical wellbeing tips for the festive season, including mental health, food, fitness, alcohol, eating disorders, office parties, and family politics…

Just say ‘no’ to FOMO.

You don’t have to go to every party. Or if you do, you don’t have to stay until 2am. No-one has a gun to your head. Prioritise what YOU want. It’s hard at first, but when you get used to it, it’s empowering.

If you don’t want to go to something, apologise and suggest meeting up at a time more convenient for you (be it Jan, Feb, March, whatever!)

You can be polite and still take care of yourself. And remember: you are responsible for your actions, but not for anyone else’s reactions. That’s on them.

A therapist told me that once and it’s changed my life.

Make some time for you

Remember to schedule in some down time to treat yourself, be it some time to have a long bath, or lie-in, or read alone… whatever you need to re-charge so you don’t feel totally frazzled.

You do you, no explanation needed

If you don’t want to drink alcohol, or eat something, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. A smile and ‘no thank you, I’m fine,’ should suffice. If people push, you can firmly say you don’t want to talk about it.

If you’re hosting parties, take note:

  • Don’t ask people why they’re not drinking alcohol. It’s not your business.
  • Don’t ask people why they’re eating / not eating something, or make comments about them being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘treating themselves’ or ‘behaving’ or ‘staying on track’. It’s not your business, and if people do have eating disorders / disordered eating, this is supremely unhelpful.

Meditaaaaaaaate, meditate, meditate

It doesn’t have to be hippy-dippy. Even 5-10 minutes a day on an app like Calm, Headspace, Buddhify or Happy Not Perfect can help you reset, destress and relax. Breathing deeply taps into your parasympathetic nervous system (your ‘rest and digest’) system.

Take the pressure off

Remember, perfection is impossible. There’s no such thing as a perfect Christmas. People may not always get on 100% of the time. Things go wrong, turkeys burn, dogs eat the Christmas cake… c’est la vie.

Try to enjoy spending time with family, time off work, time eating amazing food, and stop expecting a chocolate box picture perfect Victorian Christmas with angels singing, family looking angelic and not annoying each other… don’t set impossible standards for it to live up to.

Eat mindfully

Christmas is a time to enjoy food. Enjoy it for what it is and don’t stress about weight. The trick is to try and eat when you’re hungry and not gorge when you’re full, or keep picking at quality street.

Savour your food. Focus on the smell, taste and texture. Have whatever you like – but just take it slow, chew it, enjoy it, and stop when you’re full – you can have more when you’re hungry again! This ‘naughty’ mentality means people binge because they feel Christmas is a free pass to be bad, but in reality there’s no good and bad – you just need to listen to your body and appetite, and not go overboard.

Over Christmas, yes there’ll be more off types of food you’d usually try to moderate better – chocolate and cake etc. That’s okay. Don’t sweat it. Just try to eat as mindfully as possible, and focus on getting those vitamins and minerals in as well – lots of veggies with that roast!

Alcohol… *mistletoe and wine*

If you drink alcohol, try to make sure you’re drinking mindfully and enjoying it, not downing the bottle…! And fundamentally, keep hydrating with water as much as possible.

Ideally I guess don’t drink, or limit it to very small amounts, as studies now show there’s technically no ‘safe’ amount of alcohol, but realistically people will drink, and life is for living and enjoying so just drink in moderation, stay hydrated and be safe!

Just remember, alcohol can make you more jittery and anxious, so consume with caution!

Move!

I’m not saying you need to rigorously gym over Christmas, but regular walking and a home workout or two (use this site, or apps like Sweat with Kayla, or free youtube videos!) can get rid of that stress and/or lethargy that can accompany the Christmas period. A crisp, Christmassy walk outside in the cold can really clear the head!

Movement is super important for stress, anxiety, depression and mood disorders as endorphins are nature’s happy pill!

Take a deep breath and walk away from family politics

Christmas gatherings aren’t the best place to thrash out serious issues*. Try to smile it out and not engage. Leave the room if you need to. If it’s normal family annoyances and feuds, breathe deeply, go and meditate or walk for a while and move on. You can argue later when you’re calmer, and not in front of all of your relations and likely to upset yourself and multiple others. (Unless it’s very serious: see below!)

*Obviously some things are intolerable, whatever the time of year. So equally take care of yourself, be safe, and you can and should just leave or walk away if something is dangerous or damaging. It’s okay to put yourself first.

Practice gratitude

Christmas should be a time to reflect on the year and all you’ve accomplished and everything amazing that’s happened, and to enjoy time with family and friends.

(I’m not religious so that’s it for me anyway! If you’re religious I guess it’s extra special!)

Be grateful – for family, friends, presents, food, a roof over your head, an income, a job, your body, the clothes on your back… when you’re truly feeling grateful it’s hard to be properly stressed, and there are people out there far worse off than us. Perspective is all it takes. There’s a lovely meditation called ‘The Universe’ on the app Buddhify, which helps put everything in perspective.

Lots of love & merry Christmas!

B

xoxo

 

 

How 1 year of KOBOX changed my body and brain!

I actually can’t believe that I had my first ever Kobox class in October last year. If you happen to have stumbled across my instagram, you’ll know it’s an essential part of my week – and most days! I wrote this post after a few months of Kobox, and everything I said is still true. (I also had a chat with the Kobox Brand Director here, if you fancy nosing around the careers section of this site!)

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It’s worth reiterating that nothing I’ve ever written about Kobox has been sponsored or in exchange for free classes. Although full disclosure Ollie did give me a pair of Team Brown Bear wraps, but that’s just because he’s a babe. True – I bang on about Kobox A LOT but that’s because I CHOOSE TO and I personally pay for the privilege!

New KOBOX Marylebone studio

Today, they’re launching a brand new studio in Marylebone (COME TO THE LAUNCH PARTY AT 7PM! Check their instagram here for details! And classes begin on Saturday) and I attended a Chelsea class this morning, my 94th every class… nearly at that 100 milestone!

And I wanted to write this post because I’m not the kind of person you’d imagine boxing. People are always surprised I even watch it on TV too. But that’s the beauty of Kobox – they’re a studio that opens boxing up beyond just blokes with balls big enough to hop into a ring and get punching no questions asked, and guarantees EVERYONE can have a great time and get results, regardless of your background or experience – fancy-ass pro or boxing newbie.

What makes KOBOX so good?

The trainers are all super knowledgable and passionate but most importantly they’re just f*cking great human beings. No massive egos. No intimidation. Just people who give 110% energy every time, and will chat with you after a class over a shake, dunk biscuits in their tea in the middle of class occasionally (OK so that was just Antoine aka. @PTDunn!) or take the piss out of you on instagram… literally, the best, most down to earth bunch you can find… but they’re the bloody BEST at what they do.

So if you’re nervous about trying it, really, really don’t be. It might be the best thing you ever do! It’s absolutely changed my relationship with my body and brain – I can’t even imagine life without it.

How KOBOX changed my body… and brain!

(& I’ll share a transformation pic once I’ve completed my 100th class!)

Finally found my fitness peak

I’m now the fittest and strongest I’ve ever been thanks to full on beastings that target all areas of the body.

New skills & strength

I can do things I couldn’t even do before like push ups on my toes (literally I used to not even be able to do ONE!), wall handstands and planks (my arms would’ve given out before!) and crazy primal sequences that get the body doing what it’s designed to do (if you go to Miranda’s #fuckedupFridays – you KNOW!)

Transformed into a morning person (the IMPOSSIBLE happened!)

I’ve gone from being someone who could never get up in the mornings to VOLUNTARILY getting up at 6.30am to get my Kobox fix!

Improved mental health

I also now use it as a big part of managing my depression (which I’ve suffered with for over 20 years!) and I genuinely think it makes as much of a difference as medication. But wherever you’re at with mental health, I guarantee battering a bag ALWAYS makes you feel better!

Best relationship with my body

And for the first time in my life, after a long time of eating disorders and generally just a bad relationship with my body, I now love it for what it can do, and am completely comfortable in my skin. I don’t give a f*ck about weight anymore.

Boosted motivation and drive

It has also transformed the way I train and my motivation levels – I now WANT to go harder, or do more reps than I could before, and I’m so much more disciplined and able to push myself to the next level.

How can you join?

Check out their website here and get yourself booked into a class. They have studios in Chelsea, City and Marylebone. There’s a great offer of £25 for 2 classes and free hand wraps, or you can try a city single class for £10 at weekends (in City only).

The trainers also do one to ones and I was lucky enough to win a session on the pads with the legend Ian Streetz in Jan which was amaaaaaazing and I’d 100% recommend it – check out his website here.

PS…

They’re doing a really cool Halloween FRIGHT CLUB that I can’t make it to, but you 100% should because it sounds awesome and I’m just gonna have to live vicariously through you guys… check their insta @kobox and website for more details.

man wearing black and blue mask costume
Photo by Stephan Müller on Pexels.com

B xox