#6 Inspire Interview Series – ALICE MAY PURKISS – FREELANCE WRITER & COPPAFEEL TRUSTEE

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Alice May Purkiss, Photo credit: What’sOnDarlington.co.uk

I’m so grateful for some of the interviews I’ve been able to do as part of this Inspire Interview Series – it’s mind-blowing to see the range of different but reeeeeally cooool shizz people can do when they put their minds to it! If you missed any of the previous installments, they’re all collated here on my careers page, so go and check them out!

Today, though, we have an incredibly special Q&A with a phenomenal woman tackling, among other things, proving publishers wrong, writing books, kicking cancer’s ass – in other words, grit and life wisdom from a gorgeous girlboss warrior.

I think  ‘career inspo’ style pieces can end up being very glib, trite, very ‘yeah! postivity woo, follow your dreams!’ and I wanted to make sure I’m sharing real stories, real experiences with breadth and depth and struggle as well as glossy corporate fairytale stories, so today I think this much deeper, harder, more real interview than any featured so far in this series is the most important – it’s definitely affected me the most of the pieces so far, and I hope you all find what you need from it too ❤

Alice May Purkiss (author of Life, Lemons & Melons, out later this year)

While already battling depression, Alice was diagnosed with cancer. Ultimately, she kicked its ass and survived it, and continues to document her journey on social media (@Alicemaypurkiss) and she has written some incredible pieces on her experience and given a range of speeches and workshops. She is now a freelance writer, self-published author, trustee for Cancer Charity CoppaFeel and much, much more.

Upon being told by publishers that her social media following wasn’t big enough to publish her memoir about her experience of cancer, depression, and everything in between, Life, Lemons and Melons, Alice successfully crowdfunded the project, sourced illustrators and singlehandedly proved them wrong (click here to pre-order now!) She now works as a freelance writer and has written for Stylist, Metro, Red Online to name a few.

I wanted to share as much as possible of the insights from this awesome human with you, both life lessons, career and writing, because I think we all struggle with figuring out what we’re doing, where we’re going, career stuff… but this is a girl who did it / is doing it while simultaneously frying much, MUCH bigger fish… so without further ado, let’s go over to Alice.

The lesson is this: depression or no depression, PTSD or no PTSD, cancer or no cancer, any emotions you are feeling are valid. You’re feeling them for a reason. We’re all guilty of shutting ourselves down when we’re experiencing emotions that feel more intense than we’re used to. But they are part of the human experience. They are part of what it is that makes us a human. Without sorrow we cannot know joy. Without loss we cannot know gratitude. I know it sounds trite. I know it sounds a bit airy fairy, a bit wishy washy and probably a bit like I’ve read too many books on feelings but we are consistently told to keep our emotions in check because we are scared of how our feelings will be perceived. But if your emotions are on extra loud, for whatever reason, sit with them for a while. Don’t try to get rid of them. Recognise them. Learn from them. – Alice May Purkiss, Life, Lemons & Melons

B: Please could you give a little intro of your journey of the last few years for anyone who doesn’t know you from social media?

A: Writer. Avid eater of food. Northerner on loan to London. Feminist. Had a run in with breast cancer. Trustee for .

B: You’ve been through an incredibly difficult ordeal and what’s been amazing about following your journey is how you’ve managed to transform some of that into a force for good, with your advocating for women checking their breasts for lumps [#CheckYourChebs], writing your book Life, Lemons and Melons, speaking at various events and sharing your experiences… do you have any advice for people struggling with similar (or different but difficult) situations?

A: Life is tough. We are consistently thrown curve balls that keep us on our toes and these can have long lasting and far reaching effects. But there is nearly always some good to be found in the difficult situations, it’s just about switching your view up so you can see it. And it’s important to remember that while every day might not be good, better days will come. Like the sunrise and the sunset, time is constantly moving and the world is always changing, so you won’t feel like you do now forever.

B: This seems like a stupid question as it must change so much, but how has your journey with breast cancer and everything you have to deal with as a consequence changed you and your perspective on life, looking after yourself, and work?

A: I get asked a lot if being diagnosed with breast cancer has changed me – and the honest answer is I really don’t know. Some days I feel like the same person I was before I got sick, other times I feel like a completely different human. I’m a bit of a contradiction really because sometimes it makes me more cautions and other times it makes me more adventurous. I think the best way to describe it is I’m a bit like a twin of myself – with the same basic DNA (minus the cancery cells) but with tweaks to my personality and my outlook. I’ve always been “work to live” rather than “live to work” and this is SO MUCH WORSE now, which is a blessing in many ways but also means I need to give myself a kick up the arse a lot more than I used to. And in terms of looking after myself, this has become completely crucial to me. My body has been battered and bruised and my brain has taken it’s fair share of a battering too – so things like yoga and meditation have taken a bigger priority in my life than ever before.

B: Can you talk a little bit about your process and experience of writing your book Life, Lemons and Melons?

A: The process of writing Life, Lemons and melons has been a pretty long one. I started my “journey” towards publishing this book about 18 months ago, when I secured an agent and he began talking to publishers about my work. They felt that despite the fact that they loved my idea and my writing, I didn’t have a big enough social media following for them to take a punt on me. So I decided to stick it to the man and do it anyway. I launched a Kickstarter and raised £5000 in 30 days last October and since then I have been knee deep in the writing trenches, driven on by nought but my own perseverance and the 176 investors who chose to believe in me with their hard earned dollar. As the book combines a number of difficult topics, it’s taken me quite a lot of time to geth through the chapters, and it’s really important to me that I am looking after myself while writing, so I’ve taken my time and tried not to put too much pressure on myself to get it done. I also have to be in a very particular place mentally and emotionally to write it so I don’t make my way into a mental nosedive, so I have to be really careful. 

B: You moved from a marketing role to going freelance and writing your book – any tips for people looking to do the same?

A: Take your time – don’t rush. The move doesn’t need to happen immediately. Start putting some feelers out for freelance work before you take the plunge and leave your job. And don’t be scared of the peaks and troughs that come with being a freelancer – there are many and they never get easier but where there are troughs there are always peaks.

B: Can you describe a (working/writing) day in the life of Alice Purkiss?

A: God I’m so bad at sticking to a particular schedule so it varies massively from day to day. I still struggle with fatigue so I don’t usually rush out of bed – even if I’m awake (which I usually am) I don’t get up til about 8.30 or 9, then I’ll get my breakfast, have a wash and start my day at 10am, unless there’s anything in particular that needs to be done first thing (usually dealing with social media clients or responding to emails). Then I usually work for a few hours on whatever projects I have on, whether social media management, writing pieces I have been commissioned for, doing the copywriting work that pays the bills or banging out some words for the book. I usually work til around 2 or 3pm. But this can all change if I have an event to go to, or a meeting to attend, or if I want to go for a swim, to yoga or to another exercise class.

B: What has been the most challenging part of going freelance and working for yourself?

A: Being kind to myself when things are difficult financially. Freelancing is so variable – some months I have lots of work coming in, others I don’t. That’s just the way it is for most freelancers but I have a tendency to tell myself I’m not doing enough, not trying hard enough, should be doing more etc etc. So working on treating myself better and learning to relish the downtime has been a big learning curve.

B: You’ve been very open about your struggles with depression before and during your breast cancer, and the importance of mental health which is so inspiring and I’m sure has helped so many people. What would you say to someone who is suffering and needs help or advice?

A: It’s such a hard question because everyone is so different but I think my number one piece of advice is that the sun will come out again. Better days are coming. You will know lightness again. Just hang in there. Kind of reminds me of this section I wrote in the book:

“There is one key thing I have learnt over the last three years. I think this lesson has partially occurred as a result off my extensive CBT and counselling but partly just as a result of living through a trauma and probably as I approach 30 and develop a bit of hindsight on the life that has gone before me. The lesson is this: depression or no depression, PTSD or no PTSD, cancer or no cancer, any emotions you are feeling are valid. You’re feeling them for a reason. We’re all guilty of shutting ourselves down when we’re experiencing emotions that feel more intense than we’re used to. But they are part of the human experience. They are part of what it is that makes us a human. Without sorrow we cannot know joy. Without loss we cannot know gratitude. I know it sounds trite. I know it sounds a bit airy fairy, a bit wishy washy and probably a bit like I’ve read too many books on feelings but we are consistently told to keep our emotions in check because we are scared of how our feelings will be perceived. But if your emotions are on extra loud, for whatever reason, sit with them for a while. Don’t try to get rid of them. Recognise them. Learn from them. Don’t beat yourself up for not reacting the “right” way to something. There is no “right” way. Remind yourself you’re doing the best you can. And if the intense emotions you’re feeling are horrible or scary, find someone to sit with them with you, someone to hold your hand and remind you that everything’s going to be ok. I think every emotion comes to teach us something. We just have to be open to learning.”

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

A: 1) Living well and making the most of the life I’ve been given and sharing it with people I love

2) Managing to do the above!

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

A: My life’s mission in a nutshell is to do my bit to help stamp out late detection of breast cancer by educating the masses on the signs and symptoms that you should be looking out for when you do your monthly check (that’s why I volunteer with CoppaFeel!). I want people who are struggling with their mental health to know that they are not alone – that they can talk when they are ready and things will get better. I want those people to know that the world is better with them in it. I want to tell stories and go on adventures, to laugh, to be happy and to be healthy for as long as possible

***Quickfire***

Swimming or running?
SWIMMING. Every time.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner?
Dinner (or tea as we call it in the North)

Forests or beaches?
Beaches near forests?!

Nature or nuture?
Nature

Talent or hustle?
Talent

Chocolate or cheese?
Chocolate

Fave self-care ritual?
Yoga

A good book or netflix?
Book

Fave quote:
“Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences” The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Tea or coffee?
Neither. I am a traitor to my Yorkshire kin.

Avocado toast: ridiculous or delicious?

DELICIOUS

Who would attend your dream dinner party (living or dead, fictional or real!)
GOOD ONE. Erm. Margaret Atwood, Bryony Gordon, my Grandma, Zadie Smith, Jon Ronson and Adam Buxton.

The best meal in the world is…
My husband’s mum’s roast ham Sunday dinner with all the trimmings. It’s honestly the best ham I’ve ever tasted. But I also bloody love seafood so anything fishy works for me.

Thanks SO MUCH Alice for sharing all of this, and I can’t wait to read your book!

Check out Alice on social media via the below links, and please do spare a minute to browse the CoppaFeel website and don’t forget to not only #CheckYourChebs but remind all of the lovely ladies in your life to do the same (breast cancer signs and symptoms explained here).

Spend more time with Alice over on her website, instagram, twitter, and read more about Life, Lemons & Melons, out later this year here.

You can also PRE-ORDER her book, Life, Lemons & Melons now for just £10 – click here!

B xoxo

Boobs, cancer, questions, queries…?

If you have any questions or concerns, whether you want to donate or have worries about your own health… have a look at the CoppaFeel website and other relevant charities but please do not hesitate to book a boob check, and speak to a qualified health professional. Other resources include:

Signs & Symptoms of breast cancer – CoppaFeel

Cancer Research UK

Breast Cancer Now – resources

 

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LegallyBooked – TWO MAYA ANGELOU MEMOIRS -Bookclub Pick #3

When thinking about the next bookclub pick, I just couldn’t narrow it down any further than these two, so I chose both… but narrowly Mom & Me & Mom is my favourite, though it’s a tough call.

Maya Angelou is, to steal an almost-quote from one of her own poems, a PHENOMENAL woman. She wasn’t just a writer (poetry, memoirs, essays), she was a singer, dancer, civil rights activist… but she is perhaps best known for her series of seven autobiographies, of which the above two novels are volumes. The first in the series, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells the story of her life up to the age of around 17 and is the book that brought her international acclaim.

Mom & Me & Mom (2013) is the last in the seven-book-series, focussing, unlike the other volumes, on Angelou’s relationship with her mother, Vivian Baxter, who is an incredibly powerful figure. It  revisits many of the same anecdotes she relates in her previous books, with the first part, ‘Mom & Me‘ looking again, like Caged Bird, at Angelou’s early years (pre-17), and documents Angelou’s journey from distrust of her mother and initial resentement to acceptance, love and support – epitomised by Angelou switching from her first name for her mother ‘Lady’, to calling her ‘Mom’ after Baxter assists with the birth of Maya’s son Guy.  Angelou chronicles the intense and unshakeable bond between them and Baxter’s vitality, along with their mutual support for each other, and tells the story of Baxter helping her navigate through single motherhood, work issues, a failed marriage, and career ups and downs.

Both books touch on Angelou’s sexual abuse as a child, and also deal with race, racism, womanhood, identity, family and travel. 

I love Angelou’s writing for its immediacy and authenticity. There’s a frankness, freshness and honesty in everything she writes, and I think her autobiographies are so powerful because although they tell Angelou’s very personal story, for example growing up and living as a black woman in the American South, she connects those experiences to those of all black women, exploring wider themes of racism, sexism, and isolation.

Click here for Penguin Randomhouse suggestions for book club questions on I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

Below are the LitLovers book club question suggestions for Mom & Me & Mom:

1. Maya says her mother was “irrestible.” What makes her so? How would you describe Vivian Baxter? What did you admire most about her? And what did you not admire?

2. How do you view Vivian’s decision to send her children to live with their father at such a young age? Why did it take her so long, even after the divorce, to call her children back to her?

3. Talk about Maya’s resentment of Vivian…and the halting path toward reconciliation that she followed. The Washington Post reviewer believes this process contains some of the best writing in the book. Do you agree…or not?

4. Discuss Maya’s brother Bailey and his easier path into his mother’s orbit. What can explain his later struggles with drugs?

5. What are some of the episodes in Maya’s life that particularly shocked you?

6. Talk about the society in which Maya grew up and the degree to which it was pervaded with racism. How have we changed…or have we?

7. Reviewers talk about the tone of optimism in this book—the fact that Angelou’s prose lacks bitterness. Do you agree? If so, why do you suppose that is? How has she been able to overcome a resentment that many of us would carry with us for years?

8. Mom and Me and Mom is the seventh book in Maya Angelou’s remarkable autobiographical series, starting with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Have you read any other of the books in this series…or any of her books of poetry? If so, how does this book compare with the others? Can you identify elements of poetic writing in the prose style of this work?

 

 

 

#5 Inspire Interview Series – MEL WELLS – AUTHOR, ACTRESS, SPEAKER (+ Health & Food Psychology Coach)

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Photo credit: melwells.com

Welcome back to another Inspire Interview – I’ve loved doing this series soooo much because I love hearing peoples’ stories and insights into the things that really matter – finding things you love doing, drive to work hard, career, balancing health and a personal life and everything between! If you missed the previous installments, you can catch up with the full list here!

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Photo credit: melwells.com

Today we have a very special ‘episode’ – and I say episode because rather than the usual written piece because I have something new for you all…!

Being on camera is not in my comfort zone really at all, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak with the incredible Mel Wells and this super driven woman is all about pushing past your comfort zone! You may know her face from Hollyoaks, or you may know her from her brilliant bestselling book The Goddess Revolution and inspiring instagram feed… Mel has also been featured in Forbes Under 30 and was voted No. 1 Young Female Entrepreneur to Watch in the UK by About Time Magazine.

Mel does truly amazing work empowering women to fight back against diet culture and regain their happiness and health – her brand new book Hungry For More encapsulates everything this Inspire Interview Series has been about so settle down with a cup of tea and prepare to be inspired…

Back in London having lived in Bali, and now with a second book to her name (pre-order Hungry For More now to win free access to a special Masterclass with Mel and a chance to be entered to win one of her retreats in Bali – see her website for details!), Mel and I talked about all the BIG stuff – finding your ‘calling’, how food and your habits and relationship around it are reflective of the wider picture of your life and whether or not you’re fulfiled.

Press play on the video now to hear Mel’s story and epic insights into work, life, balance, spirituality, healing eating disorders, figuring out what you want from life, meditation and tonnes more! Plus the usual quick-fire round at the very end of course!

The interview: Mel Wells on being Hungry for More!

Thanks so much for chatting with me Mel! We look forward to reading your book when it’s out on July 10th!

Where to find Mel

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Photo credit: melwells.com

You can find Mel on instagram here and her website here!

If you’d like to pre-order Hungry For Moreher new book, get over to Amazon baby!

She also has a youtube channel, and you can also check out more on her Goddess retreats (hello Bali!) here.

Want to shop her first book? Get a SIGNED COPY of The Goddess Revolution from her online shop. And if you don’t love a tank that reads ‘green juice now, champagne later’… I don’t even know where to start! 🙂

Thanks for watching and hope you enjoyed the unusual Inspire Interview format! ❤

B xoxo

#4 Inspire Interview Series – FLORA BEVERLEY – SCIENCE MEDIA & PR for Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists & FITNESS INFLUENCER

Welcome back to the fourth installment in the Inspire Interview Series! This installment has the longest title EVER but I didn’t want to short-sell the formidable multi-talent of today’s interviewee…!

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Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

It’s been so exciting to talk to a range of amazing people who are all doing incredible work in varied fields… and naturally a running theme through these interviews is also how they balance their drive to achieve with taking care of themselves physically and mentally. (If you’ve missed any, do check back on Kris Pace, KOBOX brand director, Venetia Falconer, TV Presenter, blogger & influencer and Leyla Cooper, Founder & CEO of Pretty Athletic).

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Photo credit: Flora Beverley – http://www.foodfitnessflora.blog

Today’s Q&A is a pretty cool one because I think it manages to COMPLETELY bust some myths about social media influencers not being smart, and ‘smart’ or academic people not being able to be social media savvy or sporty… plus I found out we shared some work icons which is always fun… so over to the lovely Flora Beverley! (Links to all of her social media channels are down below).

Do what you love ALWAYS, but be sensible. Money is needed to survive, but if your way of money stops you doing what you love, try doing something else. No experience is a wasted experience – I worked in advertising, catering, in a museum, events and social media. All of them have helped me get to where I am today!
Flora Beverley, Science PR & Media at Royal College of Obstetricians, Fitness Blogger & Social Media Influencer

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Photo credit: Flora Beverley, Flora’s Twitter Profile

B: So people may recognise you from your instagram and know you as a fitness blogger – but please can you tell us a bit about your ‘day job’, it sounds like an amazing career that a lot of people don’t even know is out there!

F: I work in Science media at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, so I act as the go-between between scientists and the press. It’s our job to make sure journalists understand the science behind a health story and translate science stories into lay english. We also make sure important research makes its way to the press without being misinterpreted! I also co-run the college’s twitter account so we always have a good online presence.

B: How did you get into science media and discover this was what you wanted to do?

F: I always knew I wanted to do something sciencey that wasn’t just research, as I always loved the arts too. Research is a little dry for me, but science media means I’m always reading the latest research but get to use my creative writing skills to translate it into English. I also obviously love social media, so it’s nice to be able to use my hard-earned social media expertise to advise organisations where social media is not the primary focus but where it is still useful to have. I knew this was the sort of job I wanted from second year at uni, but I didn’t know it actually existed until I applied to and got my first job in science comms!

B: Is it ever a struggle to juggle a full time job with your blogging?

F: I absolutely did over the first 8 months or so. That’s why recently I’ve cut down to 25h a week rather than 35h. I found myself working 8am – 10pm 7 days a week without much rest, which burned me out pretty fast. You can love your jobs all you like, but everyone needs rest! At 25h a week I am able to do 1.5 days extra of blogging. I think I actually work harder on 25h per week and am more productive in both jobs, so it’s definitely a better balance of both. I now also schedule in social media-free days every other week or so, otherwise I’d go mad! It’s hard to take time off when you’re both self-employed and employed by an organisation. [You can also read Flora’s blog post here about staying healthy while working an office job].

B: Do you have any advice for people looking to work in a similar field?

F: I’ve actually written about it on my blog a little. It’s all about showing that you’re interested in science communications and know why it’s so important. A science degree and writing experience are both useful, as a lot of it is translating science jargon to plain English.

B: Can you describe a (working) day in the life of Flora Beverley?!

F: I actually have an entire YouTube video on this! It’s my latest vid 🙂
Tends to go: 7am workout, 8:30am work, 4:30pm work ends, 5:30pm event of some variety. 10pm bed time!

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

F: Keeping on the track of what I think is best for me. There is a lot of ‘advice’ coming from all directions – parents, friends, my agency – but I’ve found that sticking true to what I enjoy, more than anything, has kept me pretty happy!

B: What are your career goals for the next five years?

Whilst I think that doing pretty much everything I’ve enjoyed over the last few years has been wonderful, as I grow in all the fields I’m in, I think there’ll come a point when I have to decide what I want to specialise in. I’ve always been the sort of person who has managed to fit in literally everything I want to do, but I think there’s a point people reach where it’s in their best interest to cut loose various things so instead of doing 10 things not very well, you choose your favourite 3 and do them 110%. That’ll be a really difficult decision for me, but also I don’t think anything is final, and if it doesn’t work out I can always change my mind. That’s the only thing stopping me panic!

B: Any big misconceptions about the work you do, either your blogging and influencer work or your day job?

F: It’s funny actually – when I speak to older people, they seem way more interested in my work in science media. I think they think that I can’t be that clever if I’m a blogger. When I speak to my generation, everyone’s super interested in the work I do as a blogger, and saying I also work in science media seems to turn them off, like working 2 jobsmeans that I’m not good enough to work full time in social media. Maybe not misconceptions, but definitely preconceptions!

B: You’re always super active and super healthy – do you feel like this positively impacts your work?

F: Yes absolutely – when I lapse a little on the health or exercise front I feel my concentration and mood slipping. Exercise keeps me energetic and good food keeps me alert and happy.

B: What advice would you give to someone trying to figure out what they want to do?

F: Do what you love ALWAYS, but be sensible. Money is needed to survive, but if your way of money stops you doing what you love, try doing something else. No experience is a wasted experience – I worked in advertising, catering, in a museum, events and social media. All of them have helped me get to where I am today!

B: Have you made any mistakes along the way to where you are today and what have you learned from them, if so?

For sure, but I look forward to making plenty of mistakes in the future too. I think I’ve learned to always stay true to myself – even if something ends up being a mistake, if you know you did it for the right reasons, that’s not a problem!

B: What does ‘success’ mean to you?

F: Happiness and family. But I think the meaning can change over time. I think I’m successful now, but if I was in the same position in 8 years time, I would think of myself as unsuccessful – it’s a moving target!
B: Best and worst career advice you’ve ever been given?

F: Best: Don’t listen to what others want you to do. You do you. (I’m yet to fully live by this, but I’m moving in the right direction!)

Worst: Get a job that pays well. I’ve got a job that pays, but it hardly pays WELL comparatively. But I love it and I’m happy, and it’s enough for me to live. That’s all you need!

B: Do you have a role model or mentor you look to for career inspiration?
F: My friend had a job that she loved until a staffing change made her miserable. Instead of grinning and bearing it, she got up and left. I like to think that if I stopped enjoying what I did, I’d have the confidence to quit and move on. My boyfriend is a huge inspiration – he’s gone through 3 pretty drastic career changes (drummer to gardener to academic) and has never been happier. I think for me these two people are role models for me as I would never want to be someone stuck doing something I hate and hating on others for enjoying themselves.

B: Who are your fave work and fitness icons?

F: Emma Watson and some journalists, such as Stevie Martin, Dolly Alderton, Pandora Sykes etc – all role models in general!
Fitness icons – anyone who really has a passion and chases it. I like people who do a lot of things! Oenone Forbat, Gemita Samarra and Sophie Hellyer spring to mind!

B: Can you describe your weekly fitness routine? I just have to ask, because your abs though…!!!!

F: Also wrote a blog post on this! I tend to box, run and do HIIT around 5h a week. I don’t overdo it!
***Quickfire Round***

Fave workout?
Boxing! Or horse riding, if you count that 🙂

Nut butter or avocado?
Avo
Brian Cox or Richard Attenborough?
Brian Cox – unless you mean David Attenborough, in which case he always wins.
I did mean David Attenborough haha sorry, I think I had the Santa Claus actor on the brain as I only just learned they were related…?! Fail!

Massage or facial?
Massage

Nature or nurture?
Nurture

Talent or hustle?
Hustle

Chocolate or cheese?
Chocolate

You’re doing cardio: podcast or playlist?
Podcast

Chick flick or thriller?
Thriller

Best brunch spot in London?
The lighterman
It’s your last EVER meal of your life. What do you order/make?
Pad Thai, G&T and cinnamon oatmeal cookies to finish

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Thanks so much for all your insights Flora! If you’re not already, follow her on instagram @foodfitnessflora, facebook here, check out her blog, her twitter, and youtube channel for more! She also has a Personal Q&A video live if there’s anything else you wanna know!

Doing these Q&As has been such a fun process for me as well as people reading and requesting interviews, as I get to learn about jobs I’d never even known about growing up!

Hope you’re all able to check back soon as we have more exciting jobs coming up… it literally makes me want to live several lifetimes so I can try everything!

Until next time…

B xoxo

How to Monday ‘Replenish’ after a weekend of drinking too much

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

We’ve all been there – survived the dodgy hangovers over a weekend (and maybe even the questionable hungover food choices!) – and then dragged ourselves into the office on Monday not feeling fantastic. The hangover is gone, of course (thank goodness!) but you’re left with a kind of buzzy anxious lethargy and a feeling that is just generally less than fresh.

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

As I’ve gotten older, and really optimised my fitness and nutrition, I’ve become more and more aware of my body – and one of the consequences of this is that when I drink, I feel it EVERYWHERE. It changes my mood (alcohol is a depressant, technically – we’ve all heard of ‘hangxiety’ and ‘beer fear’, right?) and makes me on edge for days afterwards, more anxious, more emotional… it makes me feel less energised, depleted, malnourished… after all, if you’ve been sick with a hangover you’ve essentially poisoned your body. Alcohol is a toxin, albeit a socially acceptable (and often delicious!) one.

So here is my diary of a Monday where as much as I’d love to do a wellness retreat and shut off from the world and just do yin yoga in my living room to feel like myself again, I had to come back to the office, as we all eventually must… here’s how I renourish and replenish my neglected body after a weekend of poor decisions and over indulgence!

(This diary is from last week – Monday 18th June!)

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My post-Sunday-hangover routine to replenish on Monday

6.30 am

After sleeping most of Sunday with a hangover after a Summer Drinks thing with friends (great night, but I’m too old for this now!) getting up at 6.30 is PAINFUL. But now I’ve rehydrated (I spent my hangover day drinking all the water and coconut water under the sun!) I know I need to sweat out the anxiety and boost my mood, flush out the last of the rubbish in my system (on an actual hangover day sweating it out is dangerous as you’re already dehydrated! It’s best to leave it until the day post-hangover!)

6.45 am

Dress (sportswear laid out the night before of course!), tongue scrape, clean teeth, splash face 10 times with cold water, drink 1 pint of water and 1 black coffee (I shouldn’t, but I need it to get to my workout!)

7.00 am

Short walk outside in the sun, then on the train into city.

8.15 am

A sweaty KOBOX class gets out all of my nervous energy, boosts my mood (although I notice it’s not quite as good a post-class high as normal – damn hangxiety!)

9.10 am

Class is finished (I have to skip the cool down to make it to work on time!), I’ve had a cold shower where I stretch (rag doll, yogic squat and quad stretches to get the hamstrings, hip flexors and quads since we just did leg day!) while the conditioner is in. I get dressed quickly and leave with wet hair, but not before I’ve downed my fiery ginger shot – ginger, lemon and cayenne pepper.

9.30 am

I start work with a green kiwi, spinach, banana and celery smoothie for breakfast and keep sipping warm water, cold water, green tea and peppermint tea throughout the day.

12.30 pm

A vegetable soup for lunch with some pulses in it replenishes some of those missing nutrients!

2.00 pm

I have an antioxidant and activated charcoal shot (research seems limited on if charcoal has any benefits to be honest, it’s just a health w*nky trend, but I want it for the lemon and the antioxidants!)

Keeping on with that water and green tea and peppermint tea too!

3.30 pm

Carrot sticks and hummus and a bowlful of spinach, rocket, broccoli, watercress and some sunflower and pumpkin seeds top up my micronutrients and phytochemicals, plus adding extra antioxidants.

7.00 pm

I try not to work too late this evening and manage to escape early around 7… yay!

8.30 pm

I arrive home via the shops where I’ve picked up brown rice, fresh vegetables and some chicken. I literally have it all plain – steamed veggies, grilled chicken and boiled brown rice. Very simple, but it actually feels super light and comforting and exactly what my body needs. I’m starting to feel more like myself. I huddle up under a blanked on the sofa to relax and watch TV (nothing stressful or strenuous!) after dinner. A handful of blueberries and some fresh mint leaves make a nice sweet treat for dessert to go with another episode of The Big Bang Theory, plus it doubles as an antioxidant boost!

10.00 pm

10 minutes of yin yoga, a facial including a face massage with my favourite recovery boost cell repair serum from Pretty Athletic, and abhyanga body massage with my favourite Rituals hair and body oil gets me chilled, relaxed and ready for bed.

10.30 pm

In bed to read for 10 minutes and then off to sleep!

& that’s a wrap!

Obviously this is super clean, high veggies and low everything else intake of food for the day, and certainly not something I do every day… this is how I like to try to replenish and bring myself back to life after an OTT weekend when I’m feeling post-alcohol-anxious! It’s probably worth emphasising that this isn’t a guilt thing or a diet thing, it’s literally eating things that make me feel nourished and fresh and energised again, and make my body start to feel good… basically a systems reboot! It’s certainly NOT a punishment. It actually feels amazing!

How do you get yourself back to your glowy, energised self on a Monday after being floored by too many toxins and poor nutrition choices? Any tips? Share below!

B xoxo

 

LegallyBooked – HEART BERRIES -Bookclub Pick #2

35840657.jpgSorry it’s been a while – I’ve been so busy reading I forgot about sharing exactly what I’m reading!

I’ve read a lot of really awesome stuff recently, but I reeeeeaaaaally had to share this one with you next.

Heart Berries, Terese Marie Mailhot

I’ve taken a summary of the book from Goodreads as it’s a pretty good introduction to jump in with:

“Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father―an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist―who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.

Mailhot trusts the reader to understand that memory isn’t exact, but melded to imagination, pain, and what we can bring ourselves to accept. Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story, and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.”

This book is an unusual one but it’s absolutely incredible. I don’t know how well you know Sylvia Plath but there’s a line she writes that ‘the blood jet is poetry’. This book brings that to life because my god, the blood jet really is poetry. Heart Berries is incredibly raw, vivid, almost Plath-ian and ‘confessional’, but its also so refined, carefully crafted and wrought, so the intimacy isn’t just dumped on you or exposed, but painstakingly built into art.

The vivacity, brutality and pure honesty of both language and content is refreshing – sometimes hit-you-in-the-face loud, and sometimes so subtle.

It’s not an easy read but the rhythm of her writing and the way she weaves words and disjointed syntax together is something you eventually fall into. Mailhot pushes the emotion via both content AND craft, into your very bones.

I love the way she writes about life, love, motherhood, mental illness, and she takes genres of abuse narrative and Native American writing and makes them hers, simultaneously defying and transcending claddification. This book shatters any box that could try to contain it.

Mailhot rejects white culture’s exoticised conceptions (a la Said’s Orientalism) of Native American mysticism but doesn’t disown those aspects of her culture – she just strips out the whites’ imposition of romanticism and mystical tropes and crafts her own magic with clarity and authenticity and a very personal, sometimes wavering, poignant yet strong voice.

One of my favourite quotes in the book is:

“In white culture, forgiveness is synonymous with letting go. In my culture, I believe we carry pain until we can reconcile with it through ceremony. Pain is not framed like a problem with a solution. I don’t even know that white people see transcendence the way we do. I’m not sure that their dichotomies apply to me.”

I can’t recommend this read enough! If you’re not already sold, I also recommend reading Roxane Gay’s review of it – it’s brilliant!

“Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot is an astounding memoir in essays. Here, is a wound. Here is need, naked and unapologetic. Here is a mountain woman, towering in words great and small. She writes of motherhood, loss, absence, want, suffering, love, mental illness, betrayal, and survival. She does this without blinking but to say she is fearless would be to miss the point. These essays are too intimate, too absorbing, too beautifully written, but never ever too much. What Mailhot has accomplished in this exquisite book is brilliance both raw and refined, testament.”
Roxane Gay, author – Review of Heart Berries 

B xoxo

Where to find the best avocado in London (your pocket AvoCompass!)

pexels-photo-566566.jpegLike many millenials, when it comes to avocado, I’m basic[AF], and I’m not ashamed. I BLOODY LOVE THEM.

This cheeky ‘lil fruit was a game-changer in my recovery from an eating disorder, helping me finally enjoy food by beginning a new lifetime love affair with brunch. I actually don’t even think that’s an exaggeration! Plus it packs an amazing nutritious punch – in roughly 100g of avocado you get approximately 19g of fat (12g of these tend to be monounsaturated fats, with  only 4g of saturated fat).

Rich in minerals such as iron, copper and potassium and a good source of the B vitamin, folate, avocados also have more soluble fibre than any other fruit (or so I’m told!)

Before I break down the best avocado toast and similar avo-based-brunch spots in all corners of London, here are some cool facts about the avocado.

  1. The word Avocado comes from a Nahuatl Indian (Aztec) word “ahuácatl” meaning pexels-photo-849683.jpegtesticle. It is thought that the reference is either due to the avocado’s shape or the fact that it was considered to possess aphrodisiac qualities by the Aztecs
  2. Avocados were initially marketed by M&S as the ‘avocado pear‘ due to their shape. This had to be stopped, however, when some very wrong folk started serving avocado with custard (that’s one way to put me off!)
  3. Avocados are native to Central and South America, only popping up in the UK in the  mid-1900s. Sadly, our British rain and drizzle and cold means we can’t grow them well here… maybe we should all move to Mexico?!

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West

(let’s start here as it’s currently my local, but I’ve lived in North, East and South London too!)

Café Phillies I ama huge fan of their smashed avo, scrambled egg, smoked salmon and sourdough, but for veggies go for the ricotta and avo sourdough toast (and I always sub the poached egg for scrambled… personal preference!) This place is my all time favourite.

Ivy Brasserie – Kensington They have these all over the place, and I adore their brunch menu, lunch menu and dinner menu!

Darcie & May Green – cute little boat venues of the Aussie gem chain ‘Daisy Green’  near Paddington. So instagrammable.

Farm Girl – this Portobello Road beauty is absolutely gorgeous, and they have very instagram friendly frenchie-latte-art going on. Highly recommend, if you don’t mind a wait for a seat.

The Good Life Eatery – the one in Chelsea is always queue-worthy, so don’t be put off by the wait. Really delicious, super fresh food. Great smoothies and fresh juices too!

Central

The Riding House Cafe – This is such a great place to meet for casual coffees or cocktails but as with everything, brunch is my go-to of choice. Always popular and appropriate for literally whoever you’re meeting, not just health w*nkers 😉

Dalloway Terrace – this place features genuinely some of the BEST avocado toast I’ve ever tasted. Not to be missed. Plus the Bloomsbury group theme is great if you’re a nerdy Virginia Woolf fan like me!

AvoBar – Tucked away in Covent Garden, this place isn’t one I’ve tried I must confess but it’s top of my list and super well-reviewed… and not only can you get your avocado toast fix but it features tonnes of avocado inspired recipes (even desserts!) too!

Scarlett Green– one of many of the lovely Aussie Daisy Green cafes, this gem has just surfaced in Soho. Bottomless brunch is a GO.

The Good Life Eatery – As above, but central!

South

No 32 The Old Town – a very chilled but packed at weekends bar and restaurant, you have to try the avocado and tallegio toastie. I went for one of these every single weekend I lived in Clapham. #sorrynotsorry

Brick & Liquor – if you’re Tooting or Clapham based, this one’s for you! They have an impressive array of cocktails too (just saying!)

The Breakfast Club – if you don’t mind a queue, these are around all over London and the breakfast options abound, as you can imagine! Their pancakes are as good as the avo options too!

East

Palm Vaults – this place has cool Miami vibes with pinky-goldy-jungly decor. Anywhere that lets you pick avo toppings which include kale (*blissfulsigh* healthdreams!) and pomegrante among many others… I’m on side. They also have super health tonic-type lattes like beetroot, which you just gotta do for the ‘gram.

The Breakfast Club – see above

The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs – I LOVE THEIR COFFEE (genuinely some of the best in London!) AND NOW THEY DO AVO TOAST TOO! *dances*

Nude Coffee Roasters – ditto department of coffee and social affairsentry above basically. Not an extensive menu but delish avo toast and epic (but strong!) coffee.

Healthy Stuff – this Dalston baby mashes up their avo gooooood. Served simple with chili flakes and sourdough, with a drizzle of olive oil. Hits the spot.

North

Maison D’Etre – they’ve got your avocado, your bee pollen, your coconut chia pudding, it’s a health instagrammer’s delight. Super light, bright and airy conservatory style space tucked away at the back too. They’re on Canonbury Road for any Northernites.

Granger and Co – they have branches at the other compass points too, but I’ve only seen the Kings Cross one so this is tenuously placed in the North category 😉 Great juices as well as great food (I love the immunity shot!) and your avo comes on rye with lime and coriander… yassss. A good choice for non avo fans too.

Greenberry Cafe – a really nice and extensive healthy breakfast/brunch and lunch menu featuring your safe avo staple on Regent’s Park road.

Happy brunching!

Anywhere I’ve missed?! If you stumble across an epic avocado toast spot drop me a line or a comment below, I literally can’t get enough! Where are your fave places to get your fix?

B xoxox

Top 10 reasons to join the next KOBOX Fight Club: Review & all your q’s answered!

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So I suppose I have to say #sorrynotsorry for the Fight Club spam last week…! (and also a special thanks to the instructors who made my Fight Club INSANE – Miranda, Ian & Jacob THANK YOU FOR AN EPIC WEEK!).

I’ve made no secret of how much I love Kobox – the workout, the incredible instructors (literally never been to any gym or boutique fitness concept where the calibre is as consistently strong but they’re all also consistently pretty freaking awesome humans, with their own personalities!), the convenient city location, the gorgeous Chelsea studio with the ring and chillout area… I could go on, but I won’t because I posted all about how much I love Kobox (and boxing workouts more generally) here.

If you’re new to the idea of KOBOX it’s a boxing workout, but not like any other (the combo of the club inspired studios – epic beats, lights down low, off-the-chain instructors and the innovative exercises for the wall/circuit style portion, you’ll see changes in both your body and mind STAT) . It’s also non contact, don’t worry – you don’t have to take one on the chin girls! (you alternate between punching a heavy ass bag and between doing circuits on the wall). It’s an explosive combo of high intensity cardio, resistance and plyo style moves, but you can find out more here and here.

 

Fight Club – the lowdown

Fight Club is this amazing offer Kobox do (this year so far in February and June).

It’s very simple, super effective, a massive challenge but hell of a lot of fun.

7 classes. 7 days.

It’s that simple. I book mine as one per day, but you could book doubles if you wanted to be super hardcore or knew there was a day when you would need to skip a class.

It’s for the bargain price of £80 so individually the classes work out to be quite a lot cheaper than usual (go to the KOBOX website for details of the regular class packages – costs vary depending how many you want to buy at one time. If you’re gonna go three times a week I recommend the treble [£50 for 3 classes in 7 days] as an economical option! I also buy the packs of 10 to uses as and when, as they last for 6 months)

Why do Fight Club?

Okay, so normally I don’t train 7 days a week and I advocate for 1-2 rest days a week.

But every once in a while a shake-up is GREAT, and a challenge is EVEN BETTER.

These are my top 10 reasons you should do the next fight club

  1. THERE’S NO FEELING LIKE IT.
    Boxing is an empowering workout anyway, but 7 days of it is an INCREDIBLE challenge but there’s no endorphin pump quite like it!
  2. YOUR BODY WILL CHANGE – NO, REALLY!
    You may think 7 days isn’t enough time to see changes in your body but I promise you, both Fight Clubs I’ve done, in combination with staying on track with nutrition have DEFINITELY given me some strength gains, and tightened my quads and glutes which is where I store my body fat most. I felt so much stronger, leaner and more confident after both fight clubs (Feb & June) too.
  3. SET YOUR ABS ON FIRE.
    Even if you think you have a strong core already – 7 days of this training with all the boxing rotations, abs to finish and even core day will take it to the next level. This style of cardio-resistance-plyo-boxing workout torches fat, improves cardiovascular fitness and strength, but one of the other fun benefits is it will really help your abs pop!
  4. CHALLENGE YOURSELF – BOOST YOUR MENTAL DISCIPLINE!
    It’s so much fun to challenge yourself and see results, and stick at something. For my first Fight club I got up at 5.30am every day to make the 7.15 classes in city and I am not a morning person. It boosts your willpower, perseverance, and stamina so much!
  5. THE ENERGY.
    At the risk of sounding super cheesy and American, it’s actually true… the energy, carried by the incredible KOBOX squad of epic instructors is ALWAYS HIGH. Whether you’re with pocket rocket Maciela, primal badass bitch Miranda, mega jokes PT Dunn (Antoine will eat biscuits in front of you, watch out!), the legend that is Ian Streetz, the complete dude Jacob, the kick ass Wayne, and Ollie who may be the lovable #teambrownbear but he WILL make you do burpees… everyone brings their A game EVERY SINGLE CLASS. You get so much motivation from them.
  6. THE SHAKES… MY GOD, THE KOBOX SHAKES.
    I had to add this, I’m sorry haha. So helpful to grab and go for breakfast after a morning class when you’re rushing to the office… There’s a shake loyalty card now too, so you’re practically investing 😉 I highly recommend getting creative, the lovely team are always nice and will adapt – I go for the blueberry brawler (coconut water, blueberries and protein) but swap vanilla protein for chocolate – or the peanut uppercut (but I ask to add coffee, and for the end of fightclub I had an extra scoop of choc protein). One bone to pick though guys… pleeeeeeeease bring back the mocha ali one *begs*
  7. IT HELPS SMASH YOU OUT OF ANY PLATEAUS.
    In a training rut? Not feeling your normal routine? Stopped seeing results? Had a few weeks where you’ve been to busy to train? Been feeling blue and need a kick? Fight Club is your guaranteed fix.
  8. ALL ABILITIES CAN DO IT.
    Yes, it’s tough. Yes, 1 class is a challenge, let alone 7. But tell the instructors if you’re injured, or if you’re a beginner with any concerns. Make modifications (the instructors usually give a range of options and definely will if you let them know about any injuries etc). You can also go at your own pace – you’re in control of your punching and your time on the wall. If you want to slow down and focus on technique and form, you can. If you want to speed up and really fight for that cardio, you can.
  9. IT’S A BARGAIN!
    It’s a cheap offer – if you divide down the amount between individual classes it’s super great value compared with other boutique studios (that aren’t as good!), it’s a great jumping off point for a more energised training regime and you’re investing in your health, your mood and your energy levels… winning.
  10. YOU FIND OUT WHAT YOU’RE MADE OF.
    There’s a little fable… If I told you to get down and give me as many push-ups as you can, maybe you do 5, maybe you do 500. Whatever your fitness level, eventually you tire. You stop. You lie down. Then I say okay look, I need you to do 10 more push-ups. Just 10. You’d do it. It might be pretty tough but you’d do it. That’s what Fight Club is like. You empty your tank – but when the going gets tough you find a little bit more left in there. And you’re always, always made of more than you think. Your mind gives up waaaay before your body does!

FAQs

How much is it?

£80 for 7 classes in 7 days.

What if I miss a class?

You can rebook and reschedule if you do it in advance (I think over 24 hours) otherwise it’s a late cancellation and you lose the credit.

However, if you cancel ahead of time you get the credit back and can reuse it! Then maybe if you still want to use up all 7 you can double up classes one day…

But I need a rest day, 7 in 7 days is too much…?!

If you stretch and eat right you can manage it and take care of your body, but if you definitely need and/or want a rest day or two, then book 2 classes on certain days, so you can complete your 7.

Do I get penalised for not doing all 7?!

Nope. It’s totally your call. Your challenge, your call.

What if I get injured?

You can cancel 24 hours ahead of your class and reschedule, or if it’s a minor injury you feel okay to train with TELL YOUR INSTRUCTOR. They’ll adapt and give you modifications and make sure you’re working out safely.

Basically though you shouldn’t really be getting injured in class – follow the instructors’ tips on form and safe execution of moves, and don’t try to show off – good form is better than any ego, and the safest way to train.

Is it quite cliquey like some other boutiques or boxing gyms?

Not at all. See above haha, but basically the instructors are all absolute f***** gems. Genuinely cool, down to earth people, super knowledgable boxers and trainers, most are amateur/semi-pro or former boxers and stuntmen, all are INCREDIBLE.

What’s the music like?

Depends who you train with!!!! Get an idea for the different instructor vibes here though.

I’ve never done KOBOX before… can I do Fight Club?!

YES! Absolutely. But if you’d rather start slower, there’s a really good 2 classes for £25 beginner offer with a pair of free wraps included.

So… what are you waiting for?!

I think that’s all the questions I’ve had via insta… if you’d like to check out the KOBOX website now and get booking then I’d hiiiiiighly recommend it!

I’m not sure if Fight Club is just twice a year or if there’ll be more so keep an eye out, follow KOBOX on instagram, and in the meantime you might be interested in this careers post in my Inspire Interview Series with KOBOX Brand Director Kris Pace, formerly of Men’s Health. Check it for some major inspo!

B xoxo

My Ayurveda experience

Me… trying Ayurveda?! It’s true!

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Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

So I mentioned on instagram recently I’ve been experimenting with Ayurveda. This may or may not come as a surprise to people who know me – I like to think of myself as a healthily open-minded sceptic – I treat all ideas critically, in a balanced way, and am open to changing my mind if people present evidence. It’s a safe and scientific and logical approach… which conflicts a bit with my arts-degree (I was a literature girl) more free-thinking and creative writing side… but I’ve always been contradictory like that (or as I like to think of it, it’s Keatsian ‘negative capability’ mwahaha).

I’ll explain more about ayurveda shortly, but here’s how I’m approaching it.

I’ve fallen into it via modern practitioners who fuse ancient Ayurvedic philosophies with modern Western life and nutrition knowledge. I do believe that it was created 5,000 years ago (yoga’s sister science) for India 5,000 years ago, therefore it doesn’t have to be followed to the letter – for example, lifestyles change, and my environment and culture is different from that of India 5,000 years ago. For example in Ayurveda you should never eat raw foods. That was true in India then (and much of India now!) – salad could make you ill. It’s not the case in London, so you can tweak it based on where you are and also just modernity.

I also believe that modern medicine and science knows a lot more about many things now, so naturally there are inconsistencies.

However, there are some overlaps – like the body types endomorph, ectomorph and mesomorph, for example, correspond with the Ayurvedic doshas – mesomorphs would be dominant in pitta, ectomorph – vata, and endomorph – kapha (see discussion below). In terms of the mental qualities associated with each dosha (more on what these are below!), you can think of these as metaphorical, emotional or psychological illustrations of personality types if you struggle with the pseudo-scientific nature. Just be open-minded with it, I guess! It’s not a science, it’s a philosophical system of wellness… and it’s 5,000 years old, so take or leave what works for you, and where modern knowledge is proven to contradict, that’s fine, but remember – Western medicine responds to disease and treats symptoms and causes. Ayurveda aims to prevent illness arising.

*quick check on cultural appropriation* I am fascinated by different cultures, and you may or may not have seen a discussion I had on instagram recently around the issues of cultural appropriation around yoga in the West, for example. These practices (yoga and ayurveda) are no doubt growing and evolving – they’re not the same as they once were, but I do want to take a second to say I have the utmost respect for the origins of these philosophies, and I’ve done as much research as I can into the history of the practices. I’d like to make clear and acknowledge that it isn’t part of my own heritage, but it’s something I am interested in exploring and I hope my adoption of some of the modern-fusion ayurveda is sensitive and respectful of anyone who does have deep roots in Ayurvedic and Hindu traditions. I know that ‘my’ version, or Sahara’s (see below) aren’t necessarily authentic, but hopefully we can all share in it respectfully and the last thing I would want is for this to offend anyone. Read more about the tradition here, and the Atharva Veda .

With all of that explanation over with to ‘explain’ and satisfy any fellow sceptics, here is why I have kind of fallen in love with Ayurveda, despite my reservations about all things that tend to be embraced by ‘hippy’ types which undeniably eastern and Indian philosophies have been (having grown up around Glastonbury and seen many families hugely disrupted by drugs, dropping out of school and various consequential issues, hippyisms are not something I tend to be a fan of and I feel should be treated with huge caution! Plus they tend to be unchecked appropriation of other cultures, and used as excuses for outrageous lifestyle choices… Rant over, okay, okay!)

(NB: where it conflicts with modern nutritional and scientific knowledge, I’d go with those things. However, on the mental and emotional side it’s more just like an alternative perspective on things, and one I find helpful!) 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My-urveda

It’s a romantic and almost mythical way of expressing many things that I think modern science and psychology do tell us too.

It feels intuitive, and places emphasis on living a healthy, balanced lifestyle, with diet and digestion as a cornerstone of wellbeing – which we know to be true.

It helps me make sense of my personality, how I emotionally respond to things (and have responded to past trauma), and how to balance myself out.

I’m inclined to agree it’s more helpful from a mental health and balance perspective than it being a medicine system to cure physical ailments – I wouldn’t ever substitute it for qualified medical advice – but it can certainly support, in my opinion.

I’ve always been drawn to ancient cultures the world over and it’s fun to play with… and there’s no harm in playing and being interested!

It just feels intuitive to me and explains my personality. Whether that’s placebo, or whether modern science and psychology aligns with it or not, if it makes you feel good, what’s the harm?!

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda means the ‘knowledge of life’, and is a holistic Ancient Indian system of health and wellbeing. If you google it, the definition you get is:

the traditional Hindu system of medicine (incorporated in Atharva Veda, the last of the four Vedas), which is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing.

I have got into it through modern practitioners like Sahara Rose who has an incredible story and journey to discovering ayurveda, and Jasmine Hemsley (check the ayurveda section of her website here), but this is the most helpful objective overview I’ve found of the subject.

I found Sahara Rose‘s attitude of choosing the parts of the practice that work for you and work in modern life helpful. You can read her article here about why practicing yoga (although amazing!) is only a tiny step in optimising how you feel – and how ayurveda is the ultimate lifestyle compliment (the two systems go hand in hand, after all!)

As a simple introduction, in Ayurveda the idea is we’re born with a unique combination of the three Ayurvedic doshas – kapha, vata and pitta (the combo you’re born with is your prakruti). Diet and lifestyle and other factors can change this – if you were born vata dominant, for example, you could become more pitta. Your present constitution, if different from your prakruti is your vikruti.

In Ayurveda emotional states, mental and physical ailments etc… basically anything that means you’re not ‘well’ is thought to be because of a dosha imbalance in some way. Too much vata, too little kapha… it can be much more complex than this, but this is a simplified explanation, and ayurveda seeks to provide lifestyle choices and practices people can follow to stay physically and mentally balanced. Certain personality types may prefer different things, and need to bear in mind they should balance themselves (for example I’m a pitta – considered to be driven, fiery, highly motivated, prone to loving caffeine and heavy duty workouts – but I need to balance this with more yin yoga, for example, and slowing down, caffeine and alcohol reduction, even if that’s not my instinct!) A lot of it can be considered common sense! Kaphas are thought to be much more grounded, stable, generous, but also potentially prone to lethargy and weight gain if out of balance… and so more vigorous movement is recommended. (These are just some super simplistic illustrations!)

My experience so far

I’ve found that certain ayurvedic practices, including but not limited to an improved morning routine (including tongue scraping, oil pulling, splashing the eyes 10 times with cold water and abhyanga [an ayurvedic form of self-massage with oil]) to be therapeutic and actually quite uplifting.

I’ve also been trying trying a few of the dosha balancing meditations (discover an indication of your dominant dosha here but for truly accurate results see a practitioner), and making some dosha-balancing lifestyle changes (for example, I am very dominantly pitta – in both body and mind – so rather than stick to my go-to agressive coffee consumption and power yoga, I’ve incorporated more deep breathing, some very gentle yin yoga, and calming herb teas).

Studies have shown (I was reading a scientific paper from a journal on the train about exactly this today!) that meditation, yoga (and other activities like reading, qu gong, tai chi) etc. are beneficial for health and mind because they promote the relaxation response which has a positive biological impact – reduced oxygen consumption, blood pressure, heart rate and changes to regions of the brain whose names have escaped me just now! Activities like this positively influence our epigenetics (the parts of our DNA that switch cells on and off essentially – determining which bits of our DNA are used!)  On a similar note, exercise is another lifestyle factor that can alter your DNA (as can nutrition, stress levels, exposure to toxins…) and you can read more on the science of that here.

However, whether or not there are tangible benefits you can derive from ayurveda (and anecdotally there do seem to be, although clearly when people like me try things, we’re not doing a controlled study so it’s hard to establish a reliable causal link), to me, it’s all about how you feel and if it has a positive impact on your life and general wellbeing… and this definitely is for me!

I also just did a quick 8 week short course called Self Care and Ayurvedic Nutrition to learn more, and it has given me some great practices that really help me manage stress and my mood, plus some delicious recipes.

What do you think?!

I’d love to hear your comments on this, and any philosophies or lifestyle changes that you find work for you!

B xoxoxo

Appendix

Sahara Rose Ketabi, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Holistic Health and Sports Nutrition Coach on dosha-sports science parallels:

Sahara Rose Ketabi writes (full article here)

“Ectodermal = Vata

Some of us have increased development of the ectodermal layer, contributing to a more active nervous system and faster catabolism (the breakdown of muscle tissue.)  This makes make us more naturally small-boned, full of thoughts, sensitive to external surroundings and energy, and often cold — exactly like a Vata.

Vata is regulated by Ether and Air energy, regulating the nervous system as well. Vatas are thin-bodied, dry-skinned, bold-bodied, hypersensitive to their surroundings, and imaginative. When they’re off balance, they can become anxious or anemic.  I often compare Vata to the Fall wind — cool, dry, creative, and a little bit  all over the place.

If you are an Ectomorph/ Vata, then I recommend consuming a more warming, grounding foods like soups, stews, and proteins. Avoid too much cold, raw food, which will cool down your already weak digestive fire. Make sure you stretch your body to prevent it from getting stiff and practice strength-training exercises. Practice more mindfulness. 

Mesodermal= Pitta

Others of us have increased development of the mesodermal layer. We’re naturally more muscular, prone to stress, with strong bones and appetites — just like a Pitta.

Pitta is comprised of Fire and Water energy, controlling transformation —  metabolism, digestion, assimilation, and muscle development. Pittas are naturally athletic, high-achieving people with strong work ethics (and appetites). When they’re off balance, they can become impatient, overheated, or agitated. I often compare Pitta to the summer — hot, fiery, and passionate!

If you are a Mesomorph/ Pitta, I recommend consuming more cooling, hydrating foods like fresh fruit and leafy greens. Avoid spicy food, caffeine, and chocolate, which are all too stimulating and heat-inducing for your already hot system. Be careful not to overexert yourself and become overly competitive. Practice yin yoga and meditation regularly.

Endodermal= Kapha

And there are those of us with increased development of the endodermal layer.  We may have slower metabolisms and digestions and are prone towards respiratory issues, exactly like the Kapha Dosha.

Kapha is comprised of Earth and Water energy, regulating structure, body tissue, and bone structure. Kaphas are peaceful, easy-going, good-natured, people. When out of balance, however, they can easily become overweight and lazy, and catch colds frequently. I like to compare Kaphas to the Spring — cool, wet, and dense.

If you’re an Endomorph/ Kapha, I suggest favoring light, stimulating foods like well-spiced quinoa, steamed vegetables and bitter greens. Avoid sweet, cool, and creamy foods like ice cream or pasta, which will make your sluggish digestive system even slower. Make sure you break a sweat every day to prevent yourself from becoming lethargic. Try something new every day.”

Beauty trend on trial… Jade Rollers

altar ancient architecture art
Photo by Fancycrave on Pexels.com

I mentioned my brand new jade roller in an update to my recent Top 5 Skincare Secrets post here but realised I wanted to do a separate post on it because it seems to be having a moment in magazines everywhere… but does it really work?

white and purple petal flower focus photography
Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

A study showed that there may be ‘subjective benefits’ to facial massage for those who partake but also noted that it may not be great for 1/3 of people who may experience breakouts (read more here).

What’s the deal?

I first came across the concept in Harper’s Bazaar and bought a jade roller last week, because I’m a sucker for marketing and particularly when its in good pieces in beautifully put-together magazines…

I personally don’t believe in the alleged powers of crystals (many people believe they have different healing properties), although I am of course always open to being wrong and hearing new evidence, my mind can always be changed if you show me why  – and I really do enjoy learning about other cultures’ beliefs around them. I totally appreciate that science doesn’t understand everything yet, so it would be crazy to be certain about anything. Jury’s out on if jade rollers have scientific benefits, apparently, but they feel damn good.

Where do they come from?

They were part of the beauty rituals of ancient Chinese Princesses throughout history, some claim [this article states that dermatologist David Lorscher, MD,  consulted a colleague from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, who said she’d found ancient textual references to jade being used to even out a spotty complexion].

What do you do with it?

It’s an aid to facial massage, and you literally roll it across your face! There’s a larger end, and a smaller roller for the harder-to-reach under-eye area.

I’ve recently tried it and it’s changed my facial and massage game.

Top tip: pop it in the fridge and use it for a morning ice-cold massage and it feels amazing and does seem to reduce puffiness (supposed to be from the lymphatic drainage benefits!)

Either way, it feels bloody good. I bought mine from Spitalfields market for just £18. This chalkboardmag post tells you how to use one, or this greencreator article!]

What are the benefits?

In all honesty I think there’s a lack of evidence around benefits, but that’s not to say there aren’t any – just that we don’t know the details yet. However, don’t go and buy one thinking results are scientifically guaranteed.

Personally, as a minimum, I find it super relaxing, a really nice mindful and pampering complement to a facial.

However, JadeRollerBeauty.com describes further benefits it may have (quote below), though for obvious reasons the site may not be entirely impartial!

The action of jade rolling increases circulation and rids your skin of toxins via lymphatic drainage. Increased blood flow means your facial muscles will improve in their tone, effectively carving out the cheekbones and jawline. Wrinkles will be smoothed, increased blood flow will act detoxifying to the skin, and lead to more brightness, clarity, and a glowing complexion. Two rollers can be used in tandem during a facial. During a facial you may cool down the jade by placing the roller in the fridge, then use it to effectively reduce dark under-eye circles, or place the jade stones in warm water and roll over any serum to help it penetrate more deeply into the skin! – JadeRollerBeauty.com

“Jade rolling used to be reserved for the elite in ancient china. When we roll on the right side of our face first, it is said to promote prosperity for the client.” – JadeRollerBeauty.com

 Why jade?

Chinese medicine refers to jade as the “Stone of Heaven”. Purported benefits include relaxing the nervous system, and aiding in the removal of toxins… although please note my evidence based caveats earlier in this post!

Symbolising health and wealth, jade also represents longevity, prosperity and wisdom.

It is said that it has been used by the Mayans and African Egyptians as a massage and meditation tool for over 5000 years. – JadeRollerBeauty.com

So what do you think – will you be trying a jade roller any time soon? While I can’t promise guaranteed magical benefits, I really do love mine… and Roald Dahl does say that those who don’t believe in magic will never find it 😉

xoxo