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

sliced tomato and avocado on white plate
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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.

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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

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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
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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

 

 

The Carnivore Diet Dangers, Anecdotal Evidence & Trolling

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So those of you who orbit in the instagram fitness/nutrition universe along with me may have noted the recent controversy surrounding ‘The Carnivore Diet’.

Yup, that’s right, a diet advocating essentially only eating meat (and possibly eggs).

Now you don’t need to be a genius to work out that ANY DIET advocating extremes of ONLY EATING ONE THING or cutting out other major food groups is problematic.

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The Nerdy Nutrition Science Bit – why eating only meat is ridiculous

Why? Because we humans need a variety of not only the major building blocks for our bodies, macronutrients – protein, healthy fats and carbs, but we also need the smaller stuff in smaller amounts, micronutrients – all the little vitamins, minerals, things like iron or selenium or Vitamin A etc (see books The Food Medic by Hazel Wallace, Jr Doctor or ReNourish by Rhiannon Lambert, nutritionist).

A picture of optimum health involves a balanced plate, as advocated by Harley Street Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert – which means eating a rainbow, the easiest way of achieving your micronutrient goals – focus on different coloured fruits and veggies! – and a balance of the macronutrients – palm size of protein, thumb of healthy fat, firstful of carbs (ideally things like wholegrains – brown rice, quinoa etc).

The carnivore diet cannot provide you with these micronutrients, which include antioxidants and phytochemicals, the stuff in certain fruits and veggies which helps influence your epigenome to avoid cancer and other serious health issues.

The carnivore diet is also not providing people with complex carbohydrates, the main nutrient our brains use for energy, not to mention key to the production of seratonin (tryptophan can’t synthesize to make seratonin without carbs people!), often known as the happy hormone, and often considered to be lacking in people with depression.

The carnivore diet is also missing fibre, key for the internal digestive system and weight management, and a critical part of a healthy diet.

The diet has been widely condemned by nutritionists and health experts. So please, please… don’t jump on this ridiculous bandwagon!!

What’s wrong with believing anecdotal evidence?

“Mrs X tried the carnivore diet and within weeks her cancer was cured!”

“I tried the carnivore diet and my psoriasis cleared right up – nothing worked for years before that!”

“I tried everything to lose weight but only the carnivore diet worked!”

So let’s look at anecdoctal evidence. Someone says something worked for them and people rush out and try it because we all want an easy mircale that provides perfect health – it’s too boring to acknowledge we have it well within our power to exercise, eat balanced meals and control lifestyle factors like stress and sleep!

Anecdotal evidence is an issue because:

  • They cannot positively know what caused the change without having tested it logically and systematically against everything else: this would mean only having one variable, for an experimental period of time, and keeping everything else EXACTLY THE SAME. Then doing the same to test other factors. To establish ONE THING as a root cause / cure, you need to eliminate the confusion of other factors. So if their sleep, stress, diet, job, commute, anything changed within that period, it has the potential to skew results. How do you KNOW the diet changed things? You can’t reliably separate it from other variables. You also ideally need a control group, and a group which has variables tested to see how patterns emerge, and whether correlations exist at all.
  • Even if you do test out variables as systematically as possible using the scientific method, you are a sample size of ONE. This is NOT ENOUGH to establish something as true for the rest of humanity. Sample size is key! 1,2,10, 20… they’re all pretty small groups when you think about it!
  • Additionally, we’re emotionally and cognitively biased towards people we know, so if our best friend says ‘OMG I tried this and it worked for me!’ we’re much more likely to not be questioning and critical and just take things as true, which is an issue!

On a slightly separate note, I find it so frustrating when people say they’ve tried ‘everything’ but just can’t lose weight – this usually means every fad diet, and therefore it’s no wonder! They’re not healthy, they’re not sustainable, they encourage deprivation-binge cycles and disordered approaches to eating, and typically once they’re over people return to their ‘old’ ways without ever wondering if their ‘old’ ways were this issue in the first place! Their version of trying everything doesn’t usually include the unsexy but simple and EFFECTIVE balanced eating, movement, and moderation with treats.

Trolling

The final thing I wanted to touch on in this post is trolling. Rhiannon Lambert is a highly educated, highly qualified professional, and she came out on social media to denounce this diet (quite rightly!) because it’s making dangerous false promises, not to mention encouraging unhealthy eating habits.

The trolling she received was not ‘healthy debate’ or ‘offering an alternative perspective’. It was personal. It was vindictive. It was unnacceptable. I know that ‘keyboard warriors’ are supposedly emboldened by being hidden behind a screen to say things they’d never say to someone’s face, I know technology ‘de-personalises’ things – but that’s no excuse, not in a million years, to troll, attack, bully and dissect an individual, full stop.

Further, in this case Rhiannon was RIGHT and putting forward a highly qualified professional opinion (although note even people who are WRONG deserve to be treated with respect and dignity!) backed up by PLENTYYYYY of scientific evidence.

If you want to debate in a healthy way, don’t shout, don’t troll, don’t attack. Harness legitimate evidence (so in this Carnivore Diet situation, studies – although there aren’t any credible ones that support it, so you’ll have a hard time), reason logically and calmly, and while being adversarial is okay in THEORETICAL terms – argue with VIEWPOINTS, attack VIEWPOINTS, not people.

Plenty of other nutritionists have come out with exactly the same view, but Rhiannon’s public profile makes her a target for abuse and it’s totally unacceptable.

Are we done now…?

I hope this cleared up a few points on the Carnivore Diet, and why I 100% believe you shouldn’t be following ANY fad diets – as ever, I’m not a qualified nutritionist, but I take my views and everything I’ve written above from my nutritionist who is INSANELY qualified, from other nutritionists, from my personal studies and from scientific journals.

I hope this also highlights why you need to be smart about ‘anecdotal evidence’ and recognise it’s actually just a story and doesn’t prove anything!

And finally, it shouldn’t need to be said, but it seems that it really does in today’s day & age – trolling, bullying and harassing people is just not on kids.

be nice

Sending tonnes of love to you all, and to Rhiannon, and here’s hoping that we can share and spread POSITIVITY and arm ourselves with facts and information! Positing new ideas, theories, hypotheses is TOTALLY OKAY but before citing anything as true we need to DO THE RESEARCH!

B xoxoxoxox

 

Live Well With Louise: An Honest Review of the Made In Chelsea star’s new health book

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Photo credit: Live Well with Louise imagery from www.amazon.com

Louise Thompson was initially best known for her role in pseudo-reality TV show, Made in Chelsea, but now arguably she’s equally well known for her abs so impressive you could grate cheese on them! The pocket rocket is also one of the founders of Pocket Sport, a luxe fitness clothing brand.

Louise never looked unhealthy but admits to having all kinds of issues, not least with her relationship with alcohol. Subjected to public scrutiny in the extreme, she ended up suffering with anxiety and having very poor self-image.

Her brand new book Live Well with Louise documents her journey, from struggling with body image and unhealthy habits to transforming her mindset, ditching the booze binges and loving workouts and healthy food.

lou

It also contains recipes, and workout routines (approved by her PT boyfriend Ryan Libbey (also of MIC fame!), of course!)

So… what’s the low-down? Yet another unqualified celebrity book, or worth a read?

The Verdict

What could have been just another celebrity offering diet advice is actually a relatable, down-to-earth account of an unhealthy relationship with health, to a total transformation which yes, while it’s very aesthetic and ‘abs-y’ also conveys the important message that health, taking care of your body, good nutrition and MOVEMENT can be cool… and that binge-drinking and hangxiety are actually not all they’re cracked up to be.

While your average girl or guy can’t relate to being a celeb, I personally relate SO HARD to Louise’s use of alcohol for confidence, and going a bit too hard in my teens to early twenties.

Louise’s transformation from non-stop ‘ragers’ as she calls them where she’d drink so much she’d black out, to a healthier focus on fitness and health with the occassional social red wine with friends and family at dinner parties or with a cracking Sunday roast is something all of us who went to uni, damaged our livers and need a kick up the butt in terms of healthy living can relate and aspire to!

The recipes

Here I was dubious – on opening the book I thought here we go, another book by a non-nutritionist purporting to give dietary advice… But she doesn’t! She openly states she’s not a nutritionist but openly shares what has worked for her. She goes by what I feel is a very simple and similar philosophy to my Harley Street Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert. Louise advocates filling half your plate with veggies (rainbow, variety, you got this!), quarter with complex carbs (ideally without the beneficial fibre stripped out, so rather than white bread and rice go for wholegrains, legumes, brown rice, sweet potato…) and a quarter with lean protein.

YES PEOPLE, LOUISE THOMPSON EATS CARBS AND STILL HAS A STUNNING, LEAN PHYSIQUE. I am so happy to see celebrities endorsing healthy, balanced meals and helping combat the media myth that carbs are bad. (See my stance on carbsand why they’re essential here!)

Louise’s recipes are surprisingly varied, and there are tonnes of them!

It’s not a slim and flimsy book with a couple of dinner ideas – it’s jam-packed with tasty, balanced meals, and YES it includes desserts and dinner party appropriate dishes!

The recipes are easy to follow, and the photography is gorgeous.

The workouts

I did feel this section could have been more extensive, but the circuits are decent with beginner, intermediate and advanced options, and approved by her PT boyf.

Louise breaks down each move for anyone who’s new to exercising, with clear photographs and descriptions of how to execute the movement, and tips for upping the intensity if it gets too easy.

All in all, while there aren’t loads of options, her 11 minute ab blast is great, and then she offers 3 circuits – easy, medium, and hard – which are enough to get you started, and you can always use her book as  a base to create your own.

Best of all, they’re do-able from home, no gym or super-fancy equipment required!

Overall?

Definitely worth it for Louise’s personal story, and the recipes… and I do love her ab routine, so I’d say it’s worth the (affordable and fairly small!) investment.

Hope that helps!

B xoxo

Do you need to stop reading and start DOING?

woman with arms outstretched against blue sky
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I don’t know about you, but I’m an obsessive reader. This applies to fiction for fun, but also non-fiction, articles, blogs…

If I want to learn about something, I trawl through EVERYTHING I can find on the topic. It’s a little bit weird and obsessive, actually…!

And this can be a really useful (if nerdy) habit, especially if you want to learn how to do or achieve something.

I think education and research is so important and it pays to be well informed! But if, for example, your wellness goals are as follows:

  1. Get healthier by exercising 3 times a week and improving my body composition
  2. Meditate or do yoga or something for stress relief.

They’re great goals to have! Doing some reading about nutrition is going to be key, and if you’re new to exercise, you’ll want ideas for what to do, how to train, how to do it safely… and if you want to reduce your stress levels but don’t know how, have always thought meditation and yoga were a bit woo woo until recently til they became in vogue, you’ll want to do some reading around that too… which type of meditation, how do I do it, how do I know if it’s helping, does it really work, where is my nearest yoga class…?

I’m not for a second advocating skipping your due diligence! But there does come a point where people fall into blackholes of reading about their goals instead of getting up off the sofa and doing it!

It’s almost like we think by READING about the best foods to eat, or the BEST ab exercises, that will give us the results.

Sadly, it won’t.

So as I say – be informed, please do! – but know when to stop.

Staring at articles about celebrity diets and training programmes and how to optimise your training and best butt exercises will not make your dream health (and bonus improved body!) goals any better.

Reading about relaxation, fancy breathing and meditation techniques, or fun buzzfeed things on ’10 things you’ll know if you’re a yogi…’ will not make you less stressed.

You need to do the work darlings.

I have fallen into this trap SO MANY TIMES! I spent money on more nutrition programmes and coaches, read EVERYTHING, stalked celebrity height and body weight stats and how they achieved their results, googled everything to do with nutrition and fitness… It wasn’t until I’d fully healed my eating disorders, seen a Harley Street nutritionist, spent some time in therapy and done a whole lot of soul-searching that I stopped obsessing and started focusing on what I was doing.

Stop worrying about the pros, about what is ‘optimal’. Chances are, you’re not an Olympic athlete.

Regular physical activity, and healthy balanced nutrition will get you where you need to be if your goal is fat loss, for example.

People read about bro splits vs full body days vs intermittent fasting… basically, it’s about finding what works for you, and even IF a study says something else is ‘optimal’ if it doesn’t suit you, you won’t stick at it, so it’s not really optimal for you is it?

I hope this makes sense – I just see so many people get either overwhelmed with information, or get sucked into this idea of perfection by reading everything under the sun rather than making small, sustainable changes.

Just start!

PS. if your goals are fitness and health based, these are the essentials on this site to browse, and from there just get going!

My transformation story – from eating disorders & bingedrinking, to excess bodyfat, to healthy, strong, recovered & BALANCED: how I did it

Motivation 101 – how to get it & keep it!

Emotional vs. Physical hunger and how to train yourself to eat intuitively, without missing out on treats!

The Truth About Carbs!

Workout inspiration

B xoxo

How to stop mindless snacking! EMOTIONAL hunger vs PHYSICAL hunger

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I doubt there’s anyone out there who hasn’t experienced that 3pm ‘must have a snack’ feeling, or who has had [insert meal here] but then absolutely *must* have something sweet to finish the meal… you catch my drift!

What NOT to do

Now I am 100% not for crash diets and depriving yourself. You guys know what I’m about by now. But for optimum health (and the side-effect bonus you get with that – aesthetic goals!), you need to get back in touch with your body: more specifically, learn to better read your hunger signals.

I am not about tracking macros or calories (I get that some people, especially competitors, find this okay, but personally as an ex-ED sufferer, it’s not good for me, and also for many people I’d argue it takes the joy out of food – but you do you!)

I am not about prescribing set cookie-cutter advice, e.g. “everyone should intermittent fast!”, “everyone should go keto!”, “everyone should go paleo!”

In general, I think that stuff is absolute bullsh*t. Different things work for different people, but personally, I’ve been my healthiest and happiest following my Harley Street nutritionist‘s holistic approach of being balanced! It’s that simple! All the major food groups – lean protein, healthy fats and YES, CARBS! (read more here about why they’re not the devil and how eating more can help you stay leaner!) and lots of fruit and veggies…

No ‘cutting out’ sugar.

No ‘cutting out’ carbs.

No ‘quitting’ X, Y, or Z.

Simply following the 80/20, or 90/10 % rule. The majority? Foods which are as WHOLE and natural as possible (i.e. not processed, in their natural form – this way their chemical compounds and nutritional value is optimal for utilisation by the body, in general terms), and for that other cheeky 20%-10%? Don’t worry, be happy. Have a little bit of what you fancy. My 10-20% tends to be pizza, champagne, and occassionally a chocolate brownie (maybe with some rum, salted caramel or hazelnut icecream involved!)

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Learn the ideal portion sizes

Generally speaking, with a little give and take because, y’know… life (!), each of your 3 daily meals should consist of:

  • 1 fistful of complex carbs (think grains – these are great! But white potato, sweet potato, brown rice are all absolutely fine!)
  • 1 palm-size of lean protein (chicken, red meat [ideally only once a week!], tuna, prawns, cod, turkey, you name it!)
  • 1 thumb size of healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts, fish oils like salmon)

This is your baseline. It’s not something to panic over, but it is a guideline that if you follow broadly, will help you ditch diets and embrace not only healthier living, but a better, more energised body (and over time, if you are carrying excess body fat, if you stick to this and move a moderate amount, you’ll lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way!)

Read more about this in ReNourish.

spinach chicken pomegranate salad
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Snacking – should I eat?

My approach here is very simple.

Am I hungry?

Physical Hunger

What kind of hunger am I feeling? Is it in my stomach? That kind of growling, urgent, physical feeling, that’s a bodily sensation and not attached to the idea of a specific food? Then yes, I should probably eat something.

Emotional Hunger

Am I craving something specific i.e. ‘ooh I really fancy a biscuit!’? Was I hungry before I saw that office email about cake in the kitchen? Am I assuming I’m hungry because it’s a particular time of day (e.g. 3pm, so therefore I just assume I’m having an afternoon slump despite the lack of any physical symptoms)? Is there ANY SENSATION AT ALL in my stomach? No? It sounds like this is mental or emotional hunger. I don’t really need to eat.

If you’re still not sure, ask yourself this:

Would I just as willingly eat an apple/some carrot sticks/ some celery?

If you’re physically hungry, these things will sound fine! If you’re emotionally hungry, chances are you only want a bit of cake, or something “nice”…

In these instances, I think it’s beneficial to avoid snacking. To be clear: there is NOTHING WRONG with eating when you’re TRULY HUNGRY. But one step to optimising our nutrition is avoiding those emotional hunger snacks which are usually sugar-laden-processed-not-that-great-for-us-pick-me-ups.

Is there an alternative to never eating when I’m emotionally hungry?

Of course! You can do whatever you want! Sometimes, if you really fancy it and someone’s brought a rainbow Hummingbird Cake into the office, as long as you don’t do it on a weekly basis, just eat it and enjoy! Life’s too short. This isn’t about a ‘punishing’ or restrictive regime. This is about sustainable solutions and tuning in with your body.

If you’re really struggling mentally and want to snack, replace it. Some great options are:

  • Carrot sticks and hummus
  • Celery and almond butter
  • 2 ryvita with cream cheese & a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • A handful of nuts, a handful of sunflower/pumpkin seeds & a handful of blueberries sprinkled with cinnamon
  • A bio-live yoghurt with added raspberries, blueberries or goji berries
  • A green vegetable smoothie
  • Banana and peanut butter
  • 1/2 banana, a few dates & some greek yoghurt
  • Avocado sourdough / rye toast
  • A small fresh fruit salad with greek yoghurt

How to make the switch

So you’re feeling emotionally hungry… how do you ‘overcome’ the craving?

I like to go through the questions above as a mental checklist. Be really honest with yourself. It’s totally okay if to begin with you struggle to recognise if it’s physical or emotional hungry – after years of eating disorders and alcohol binges it took me years to get back in touch with my body and properly re-set!

Think about the food you’re craving – cheesecake, or whatever it may be. Decide now if this is when you want to use your 20% treats. IT IS NO BAD THING IF YOU DO! THERE IS NO GUILT HERE! Just be honest with yourself if now is truly a mindful treat time, or if you’d rather have a glass of wine, or pizza, or brownie with friends at the weekend, or tomorrow on a solo lunch break with your favourite magazine when you can enjoy it.

If it’s mindful treat time, ENJOY IT. Eat it mindfully. Savour it. Don’t scarf it down at your desk and barely notice it!

However, if you decide this ISN’T one of those 20% treat times and you don’t actually need it…  If you are truly hungry, try swapping it for one of the ideas above, or your own healthier upgrade. Imagine how you’ll feel after eating something that nourishes your body rather than spiking your blood sugar.

If it’s emotional hunger, sit with the feeling for a moment. Identify how you’re recognising it. Identify your reasons. Either say it aloud if you can, or if you share an office and don’t want to sound mad (!), write it down.

“I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because I’m bored”

I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because I’m stressed”

I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because I’ve gotten into the habit of always wanting chocolate with my coffee at 3pm”

“I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because someone just emailed that there’s birthday cake in the kitchen and now I just have to go and see what type it is…!”

I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because I don’t want to be hungry later!” (my fave excuse!)

Once you’ve identified your why, sit with the feeling. Breathe deeply into your belly. Try and wait for the impulse to pass. (This gets easier and happens more quickly with time! I literally rarely have to exert willpower here now, it’s just a habit!)

If you’re still struggling, think about the healthy alternatives listed. Think about their positive impact on the body – maybe the antioxidants in the blueberries which help fight free radicals, reducing your likelihood of getting cancer. And think about how good they taste with cinnamon. Focus on how great healthy food can taste – and eat a half snack serving, as we’re trying to train ourselves out of eating for the sake of it, but it’s totally cool if the reflex takes a while to beat.

Intuitive eating

I hope some of these tips help you re-tune your brain into your body… we’ve been so conditioned by the media and our pesky emotions that often, especially in our culture, food becomes something we scoff mindlessly for the hell of it, and we’re usually not chowing down on kale…!

The key is to address our habits by recognising them, and what drives them, to ensure we don’t obssess and still treat ourselves (remember – 80/20 or 90/10%!) and to adapt accordingly.

No-one is perfect. Literally, nobody. But we can all feel our best if we take care of ourselves, and this is a maybe controversial tool, but a super helpful one to get to a point where we can eat what we want, when we want because we’re eating intuitively – in tune with our bodies’ actual needs, rather than steered by media messaging and emotional binge-prompts.

If you’d like more help with this, the amazing Mel Wells has written two incredible books (one is The Goddess Revolution which helps you ditch diet culture for good and fuel your body and nix your addictions with ease and sass, and one is Hungry For More which delves further into the psychology of food and WHY we turn to food for more than just fuel – read my interview with Mel Wells here!)

*As ever, the usual disclaimer applies – I’m not a nutritionist, please remember there’s no one-size-fits-all and consult a medical health professional and ACTUAL nutritionist for personalised, tailored advice. Do your own research, don’t mindlessly believe cowboys (or girls in my case haha!) on the internet – anyone with a computer can blither on about something… be safe and street-smart, and don’t trust stuff without question – even best-intentioned pieces (like this one!) can make mistakes. But I am essentially adapting advice I’ve received from my nutritionist, with my own spin on what works in my experience, and I am studying a Professional Diploma in Nutritional Therapy, so while I won’t become a nutritionist, I’ll have a qualification enabling me to better advise in a more official capacity.*

Hope you found this useful!

B xoxo

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

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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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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

 

The Secret to Meghan Markle’s Pre-Wedding Glow…?

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So this week an email landed in my inbox from Rhiannon Lambert (her Rhitrition newsletter has all kinds of interesting nutrition nerdy news and tips so do subscribe!) linking me to an article in The Independent about Meghan Markle’s favourite smoothie. But the article misses out another favourite recipe of Meghan’s that she mentions in an interview with The Chalkboard, so scroll down to unearth this extra little royal gem!

It’s no secret that this gorgeous, smart, soon-to-be-royal was a fan of all things wellness before she took up with the Prince… and all fairytales need to feature magic and potions somewhere, right?!

Rhiannon Lambert, as I’m sure you all already know if you’ve been around this blog/insta a while, is an amazing Harley Street nutritionist (info on her book here) and in the article mentioned above, she breaks down the health benefits of the ingredients to Meghan’s go-to smoothie. The recipe Meghan claimed she uses can also be found in this article in Hello Magazine, but Rhiannon highlights how the protein powder could be improved to a healthier one, so I’m going to share a take on the smoothie that’s more in line with these Harley Street guidelines ❤

Meghan’s love of health was formerly shared with fans on her now-defunct lifestyle website, The Tig, but you can find some more goss about her healthy living and lifestyle philosophy in this Living Well With… Meghan Markle interview by The Chalkboard.

With the Royal Wedding coming up, I thought I’d experiment and give you a recipe made with these ingredients that you can blend up in time for the celebrations along with the bonus extra the Independent missed out… who knows, maybe we’ll get Meghan’s glow if we drink enough of it 😉

The Meghan Markle Classicbackground-berries-berry-blackberries-87818.jpeg

  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein – Neat is a fave of mine, but see Rhiannon Lambert Harley Street nutritionist recommendations here!
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsps chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • *Blend all ingredients*… & then:
  • Top with some unsweetened dessicated coconut, 3 blueberries and a mint leaf or two!

 

A Duchess Honeymoon [Bonus recipe] (adapted from this interview) pexels-photo-1024992.jpeg

  • 1 frozen mango
  • Squeeze of fresh lime
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • (optional: 1/2 banana or 1 Satsuma and 1 small handful of spinach)
  • *Blend all ingredients*… & then:
  • Serve with a little pineapple and/or a cherry, and voila!
  • (Also optional to serve: small wedge of lime/lemon)

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There you have it – two royally delicious smoothies fit for a princess!

If you liked having a little nose at this, you may also enjoy this piece by Best Health Meghan Markle: The Beauty of Balance for a Future Princess where Meghan discusses her yoga practice.

xoxo

What I eat (& how I workout!) in a week

salmon-dish-food-meal-46239.jpegI’ve had a few questions lately about juggling work and workouts – obviously office life isn’t super active (!) and so I totally get it – I wrote a post recently about keeping motivation and fitting in workouts with your office job here!

On my recent insta poll a lot of you said you want to hear about my full weekly routine, so here it is (extended to 10 days for better insight)… but first:

Pleeeease note that I am NOT a nutritionist, doctor or dietician and so can’t advise you on your diet. Please don’t copy what I eat because we’re all individual, and advice must come from qualified professionals. This is for inspo and curiosity only! Nothing here is sponsored – all stuff I’m buying or using!  I haven’t included guess-timated weights of food or macros as I tend to eat intuitively. I thought about recording them for you but I don’t think it’s helpful as it just encourages people to copy another person’s diet, which as we’ve discussed is not good!

Monday:

WORKOUT: 4.6k run outdoors (casual pace, not working for speed, distance or time. Find me on Strava!)

Breakfastsome granola from the office (medium serving) and water

The water isn’t a ‘health’ thing, it’s just that I can’t stomach milk, and don’t like alternatives particularly… sometimes I’ll include oat or coconut milk in a shake, but otherwise I just go with water for porridge etc! Sounds weird but I prefer it.

Lunch cooked salmon, quinoa and cucumber

Dinner spicy Mexican rice with 4 heck chicken Italia sausages* & spinach and rocket salad

*I hate all meat sausages except these – they’re super lean, 70kcals for 2, and so easy!

Tuesday:

WORKOUT: none. My calf is tight from Sunday’s 7k and yesterday’s gentle run, and I’m not feeling it so I opt for a rest day.

Breakfast Smashed avocado on two slices of sourdough with chilli and a black filter coffee from Nude – my fave!

Lunch the vegan naked burrito bowl from Vita Mojo

Dinner goats cheese & mixed salad (quinoa, butterbeans, black olives, mixed leaves, peppers, broccoli, green beans)

Wednesday:

WORKOUT: Grace Fit Home Guide (although I did it at the gym!) lower body day, approx. 26 mins. Sounds easy – but actually super sweaty!

Breakfast: Rachel’s organic bio live raspberry yoghurt & a pack of Coconut & macadamia protein balls by The Protein Ball Co.

Lunch: plaice with courgette and red rice & quinoa mix

Dinner: tuna and green pesto with wholegrain brown rice, sprinkling of cheese. Cocoa orange nakd bar for dessert.

Confession booth: I had some very stressful family stuff happening in the evening, and so ended up having a vodka and soda water which isn’t great to do when you’re stressed, but I made myself calm down first and then had it as a little treat. Then the Boy brought me home a mini bottle of prosecco (approx. 2 glasses) as a treat as he knew I was upset so I had that too! Oops! Normally this wouldn’t be a ‘confession’ type thing – moderation is fine, but as I’m on a cut it’s a bit of a deviation, and alcohol messes up your body metabolising fat and affects nutrient absorption so it’s not great… but these things happen, hey ho! Tomorrow is another day.

Thursday:

WORKOUT: Kobox – core, 50 mins.

I know I’m working until at least 9pm tonight and I’m not sure how the day will go &  can’t count on lunchtime, so I set my alarm for 6.15, 6.20, 6.30am and get myself up and into city for a Kobox class. They’re 50 minutes, pretty ‘HIIT’ in style. Today was a core workout with Jacob and it was AMAZING. [There’s a full review of Kobox here if you’re keen!]

Breakfast: Blueberry Brawler Shake made of blueberries, coconut water, choc vegan protein.

I‘m in a rush to make it from class ending at 9.10 to work for 9.30 so I grab a Kobox shake (any excuse!) which they have ready and waiting for me when class is over… winner! I opt for the ‘Blueberry brawler’ – blueberries, coconut water and usually it’s vanilla protein but I request they swap this for chocolate vegan… try it, it’ll change your life!

Lunch: Hake with broccoli, kale, mango and a small serving of white rice.

I’m spoilt because work has fantastic healthy options at lunch time, so you can eat well and cheaply. In fairness though, this is the kind of thing I’d make at home too and it’s so quick to prep and pop in a lunchbox.

Snack: Leftover broccoli from lunch (the portion  of veggies was huge!) + 1 deliciously ella cacao and almond energy ball  + a strong black filter coffee

I’m not a big snacker to be honest and on my summer shred my standard position is to eliminate snacking, but today I have to do some pro bono legal work in the evening until approx. 9pm so I know I won’t get dinner until I’m home around 10pm… so I’m keen for something to tide me over!

Dinner: turkey steaks, mashed [white] potato, sugar snap peas and four bean salad with sweetcorn.  Cocoa orange nakd bar for desert.

I actually finish work earlier than planned so am home by 21:10, and I decided to cook this kind of ‘bro-food’ ish meal with a twist.

Friday:

WORKOUT: none. I have coffee with a friend before work, a work thing at lunch and then have to leave for Somerset to see family this evening so there genuinely is no time. Plus I’m super sore from Grace’s lower body workout (see above!) earlier in the week so I’m letting my poor glutes and hamstrings recover!

Breakfast: Rachel’s organic bio live strawberry yoghurt & a pack of Coconut & macadamia protein balls by The Protein Ball Co.

(I’d tried to have avo on sourdough this morning but Curator’s Coffee Gallery (love this place!) on Margaret Street were out of avo, so after two of their INCREDIBLE black filter coffees with a friend, I had to rush to the city and grab something quick at work that wouldn’t take too long to eat. Don’t like strawberry yoghurt but they were out of raspberry and I’d planned to get a fruit salad but protein balls were just quicker. Next time though!)

Lunch: beef burger in a bun with green salad leaves. Followed by a double espresso over ice with added cold water for ‘dessert’

I’m having lunch with a colleague today who wants to try the office terrace BBQ… and once outside I just can’t opt for a veggie skewer, I want the beef! While I say yes to the bun (bread isn’t the devil, people!) I don’t like sauces or dressings anyway so I skip those, and I don’t have cous-cous salad or potatoes with it as the bread is enough for white carbs, although with hindsight I’d have preferred a naked burger with cous-cous as the bread isn’t great quality. But in general… what do you know, cut friendly and indulgent… you can still do this and not miss out! Pouring a double espresso over ice is a nice way to have an iced coffee without the milk (which I hate anyway!) or the added sugars and syrups which I not only don’t like but are unnecessary for my cut. Bonus! (I add cold water to make it a long drink though… it’s a hot day, don’t want to dehydrate!)

Dinner: Mexican-style spicy chicken, aubergine and mixed peppers, smashed avo & brown rice

Slip-up!: 1 vodka soda water, 1 prosecco

I was determined not to drink alcohol tonight but the weather is SO SUNNY and I don’t have to leave for Somerset for an hour or so after work as we drive down late to avoid traffic (don’t worry I wasn’t driving!) so I cave in and spend an hour on the terrace in the sun with colleagues… and a couple of cheeky drinks.

Saturday:

WORKOUT: just a dog-walk with the family.

We’re in Somerset for the day to see family (approx. 3 hours drive from London) so while I’d brought my kit to go for a run up Glastonbury Tor, I decide to spend all the time we have with family rather than disappear off for a workout. We manage to see The Boy’s mum, my dad, and my mum (all of whom live in different bits of Somerset at least 30 mins apart each) before driving back to London that evening so it’s a lot to fit in!

Breakfast: 2 slices of fruit bread toast

One of the hard things about staying with family is less control over what you eat, especially if you don’t want to make a big deal about a cut. Often I plead not hungry, but obviously you don’t want to not eat at all! So sometimes you gotta roll with it. Don’t stress. S’all good! This is where #balance and a healthy mindset is important… once I’d have obsessed but now although it niggles initially, I shrug it off and enjoy.

Lunch: Tomato, spinach, rocket, watercress and stilton salad with a couple of pieces of hot wholemeal baguette + Slice of apple & cinnamon cake made by my -mama-in-law

Luckily the Glastonbury family lunches like this are always perfect, although I do accept a slice of cake The Boy’s mama has made… because it looks amazing, because their European influence means they’re kind of feeders hehe, but also she’s health conscious too so I know it’s all natural and made with love, so why not? Treats like this are far more worth it than a mindless chocolate binge at 3pm at work because everyone else is doing it! The cake is epic btw.

Dinner: Halloumi-courgette-mint cakes with broccoli & spinach. I steal 4 of The Boy’s skinny fries too, haha!

We decide to have dinner out so before we head back to London we swing by The Red Lion, Babcary for where I waitressed in my youth from pre-A-Levels to university summers (and had many a lock-in party and woke up hungover on the sofa the next day far too often…!) The food is some of the best in the South West pub scene (more actual gastro/restaurant style though – fab quality, menu is better now than it was when I worked there for sure!), but it has lost a bit of it’s charm as it used to be more of a local and now they have the B&B guesthouses and things it feels a bit more like a resort. Beautiful village though and the food is fantastic. Also if you’re having a break but feeling nostalgic for the city, they do serve cocktails and espresso martinis worthy of London 😉

Sunday:

WORKOUT: 6km outdoor run in 36 mins (early afternoon) & a gentle walk with The Boy in the evening for some LISS + an at-home 20 minute yoga, stretch & foam roll session.

I was aiming for a faster 5k but it was so hot and the pavements and parks were so busy I had to weave a lot. Also strava (the app I use to track my runs) doesn’t update you through headphones how far you’re running so unless you keep looking it’s easy to overshoot distance (I may go back to Nike run… thoughts?!)

Breakfast: veggie-packed pizza omelette, but mozzarella swapped for blue cheese (recipe in the book ReNourish by Rhiannon Lambert)

The Boy has his chest day at the gym while I’m still sleeping and gets home craving protein so he generously whips up enough of this for me too. He improvises this as we’ve made it quite a few times so it doesn’t match the book to the letter, but even he is a convert to this recipe book (review here) and as it’s by the Harley Street nutritionist who looks after his fave snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan, I think he’s more willing to listen haha! #celebrityendorsement (you can buy ReNourish here)

Lunch: roast beef, 1 Yorkshire pudding, greens (spinach, dark green cabbage & kale), carrots, parsnips, 3 white roast potatoes (NO GRAVY BECAUSE I HATE IT!)

Snack: 1 paleo bar [coconut & macadamia nut]

Dinner: stir fried prawns and mixed veg, dash of soy sauce.

Evening treat: 1 gin & slimline tonic (it’s so sunny and it’s the weekend so I indulge, despite being conscious that I’ve been a bit lax with the alcohol recently. Considering an 8 week alcohol break for the duration of the rest of the cut… but we’ll deal with that on Monday! Tomorrow starts another week…!)

Monday:

WORKOUT: Grace Fit Uk’s Home Guide (although I do it at the gym as it saves faffing with a tonne of equipment!) full body workout, approx. 38 minutes. Extra abs (ab bikes, leg raises, plank, commandos, Russian twists, weighted sit-ups) + 3 sets of x10 burpees to finish.

Now the weather is nicer I also add on a 30 min walk daily Mon-Fri by not taking the train near me and walking 15 mins in the morning to the tube and 15 mins home at night from an earlier tube stop for extra steps.

Breakfast: 1 slice sourdough, 1/2 smashed avocado, chili flakes, drizzle of olive oil

Lunch: salmon, broccoli, kale, a few chickpeas and sprinkling of mango

Dinner: tempeh with honey blossom dressing, sliced beetroot, kombucha (work café served this, I’m not that good a chef!) + 1 paleo bar [coconut & macadamia nut] for dessert.

Tuesday:

WORKOUT: fast (for me!) 5k [treadmill]- I get a PB of 26 mins 31 secs & the daily commute walk I mentioned above – 30 mins total (15 before work, 15 after)

For short distance treadmill runs I try to always run just above my comfort zone (comfortable level for me treadmill wise is approx. 10-10.5k/h). So I start at 12k/h (a mind game I play haha to make the push pace feel easier!) for about 1km and then settle into 11k/h. I increase to 11.5k/h for my power track, then gradually up to 12, then 12.5k/h, 13k/h which is really working me hard…! And I finish the last 1/2km on 13.5k/h and am grateful when I hit 5km distance to be able to press the ‘stop’ button!!!!

Breakfast: same as yesterday – 1 slice sourdough, 1/2 smashed avocado, chili flakes, drizzle of olive oil

Lunch: vegan salad (rocket, quinoa, sweetcorn, spinach & mixed leaves, black olives, kidney beans, grated carrot, red pepper, sprinkle of walnuts and coriander, red pepper, celery, samphire)… plus a pack of Coconut & macadamia protein balls (not vegan – contain whey) by The Protein Ball Co.

Dinner: my fave quick brown rice Bolognese – its basically 5% fat lean beef mince, small serve of brown rice, 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, lots of spinach, dash of Worcestershire sauce & paprika, pink Himalayan rock salt & black pepper (the Worcestershire & spices are the key secret ingredients that make all the difference!) + 1 paleo bar [coconut & macadamia nut] for dessert/snack as I’m weirdly still hungry an hour later and know I have fasted kobox in the morning…

Wednesday:

WORKOUT: Kobox – lower body, 50 mins. Plus the extra 30 min LISS commute walk as per yesterday.

I’ve waxed lyrical about Kobox before and above, but just to say – Jacob has now been added to my list of fave instructors haha, think he has the best playlists in the place! Today the workout was fun but felt hard, because my legs were DOMSy from Monday and yesterday’s workouts… it was good to be challenged, but tomorrow is definitely going to be a rest day to let my muscles recover 🙂 As I mentioned before, now it’s spring/summery I walk 15 mins to a further train stop in the morning and 15 mins back in the evening – brisk pace to ensure extra LISS. It’s a nice way to warm up and wind down for the day!

Breakfast: Peanut Uppercut Shake made of chocolate protein (I ask to add an extra scoop today!), almond milk, banana and peanut butter.

Lunch: Mackerel with courgette, yellow peppers, tomato salsa and spinach & mixed leaf salad 

Snack: 1 pack of sea salt popchips

By late afternoon I’m STARVING – haven’t had a hunger pang like this in a while! I wonder if it’s because I’ve not had many carbs today looking back at breakfast and lunch, or just because my workouts have been relatively intense… either way, I decide to eat but I need to be quick and don’t have anything prepared, so a bag of popchips it is! Not super nutritious but a fairly low kcal and so theoretically cut friendly option!

Dinner: (White) jacket potato with tuna, stilton and sun-dried tomato (no mayo because I hate it!), spinach & rocket.

I get home and I’m pretty knackered and sore from the last 3 days worth of workouts, and I just want to lie on the sofa so I want the quickest possible meal (and one I can leave out for The Boy to reheat for himself because he’s working much later than me this evening!) I recommend, if you’re a cheese lover, using blue cheese rather than cheddar as you don’t need as large a serving and you actually get more flavour, so you can avoidaccidentally over-indulging on the fat (fat isn’t bad per se but cheese isn’t full of the ‘good fats like salmon, nuts and avo – bear in mind dairy has a lot of benefits though!) I also state ‘white’ potato here for clarity because a few years ago I was obsessed that white potato is bad and sweet potato was fine – NOT SO! My nutritionist explained to me they both have benefits and neither is better or worse, the profiles are just slightly different (sweet potato has more vitamin A for example!)

And that was 10 days of my workouts and meals!

I don’t typically make it a practice to weigh myself but I have been documenting it for the cut, and at the end of the 10 days I am down just over 2lbs, just over 1kg.

My abs are starting to peek back through, especially for ‘morning abs’ which is fun – while aesthetics aren’t the sole or even main reason I train, obviously cutting is designed to tweak your aesthetic and as long as you don’t fixate, it’s fine to play around – just make sure you’re healthy and check in with your doctor and ideally see a nutritionist!

Disclaimer: I started my summer shred recently, inspired by Grace, so please note my nutrition is going to be either a little more on point than it would if I was cruising at maintenance, and/or a little more critical of my ‘treats’ and slip-ups than I normally would be! (For healthy fat loss tips see this post, and feel free to follow and join me on #gettingshreddyforsummer on instagram here!)

While I mention that I have a nutritionist in this post, I say it in a loose sense – I don’t go regularly, I have the occasional check up. This isn’t a meal plan she’s given me or anything!

A note on my daily drinks whether I’m cutting or bulking or maintaining, I don’t drink anything during the day other than tonnes of tap water, lots of peppermint tea, a couple of green teas, 1-2 black coffees a day. I only drink water based drinks really! And then there’s the alcohol which is all openly declared above… *sigh* Always the toughie to resist, especially in nice weather!

What I learned from this week

It’s so interesting for me to write all this down and actually look at my picture for the

pexels-photo-196640.jpeg
This is not me but work has been busy this week so forgive the use of stock photography 😉

week instead of viewing it daily. It makes me realise maybe I’m too dependent on protein balls or nakd bars or similar for a quick fix haha (although they’re an all natural company, I feel like real food where possible is always good rather than faster options!) I can see I eat quite a bit of seafood which is good and I’m happy with, and occasionally get caught off-guard if I’m rushing, so maybe some fresh fruit and nuts saved in the office for emergencies would help… Also you can see my diary commentary increases as the week goes on but then resets on the second Monday when I’ve relaxed over the weekend and feel refreshed and ready for a stronger start – obviously I get busier as the week progresses so I have to think more about my choices, whereas earlier in the week it’s just simple logs of what I eat, no muss no fuss. Just noticed as well that Friday was a bad day with 4 servings of caffeinated coffee, although it’s calorie free broadly as I don’t add anything to it, for health reasons I shouldn’t be stressing my body with so many stimulants so I need to watch the cheeky pre-work coffees and maybe just take a single espresso over ice with extra water for a treat. Plus the alcohol thing… would be best relegated to just 1 or 2 over Saturday and Sunday, not just for cut reasons but for general health reasons as alcohol isn’t fabulous for you in addition to being packed with nutritionally-empty calories! The best alcoholic drink from a cut perspective is something like vodka soda, with soda water being calorie free, vodka being 50kcal (compared with diet tonic which contains approx. 15g carbs per 200ml). While I don’t advocate calorie counting for food (NUTRIENTS NOT NUMBERS woop woop!) it’s important to be aware of it with alcohol as your body basically derives no nutritional benefit from it – genuinely empty calories (not saying have zero unless you want to teetotal – it’s fine to have treats, but I’m just talking about being aware as it’s easy to drink a few days worth of your recommended food intake if you’re not careful!)

Anyway – overall, a useful exercise for me!

It’s interesting to contrast this with what I ate in a day 2 years ago,  when I was doing #bbg by Kayla Itsines to lose my post bulimia (and alcohol driven) weight gain, but much less savvy about nutrition and wary of carbs! Yes I ate well and lots of homemade whole food, but my attitude is much better now, I’m getting the balance for my body right whereas back then I was probably undereating slightly. I’m so glad I’m eating more now to fuel my workouts and get the right nourishment. See my post An Apology for why I’m sad it took me so long to educate myself and to share better, evidence-based info with you all.

So guys, hope that answers the questions! I’ll do a similar post if people find it helpful for when I’m not cutting / #gettingshreddyforsummer so you can see what that’s like.

I’ve been 100% honest above and recorded my alcohol/extra snack slip ups even though I didn’t want any on my shred and certainly not during the week – all to show you that WE ALL DO IT and it’s fine, it won’t totally derail you, just get back on the bandwagon the next day! Also visiting family in Somerset with family meant I didn’t have as much control over food, so this is a good illustration of attempting to stay on a cut and dealing with family meals, but also sometimes saying you know what – eat the damn cake & hang out with family instead of going for a workout, life’s too short.

B xoxo

Clean eating: the good, the bad & the ‘dirty’?

pexels-photo-988865.jpegClean eating is something which has come under fire over the last year or so in wellness circles, and has more recently drawn attention from the wider public, originally picked up by Tatler (who published a report on the ‘trend’ sweeping society schools) and also reported in this Daily Mail article on clean eating in boarding schools.

Diet culture needs tackling. Where ‘clean eating’ feeds this – it’s a problem. Individuals need to be educated and supported. Perhaps the lesson here is all viral fads are unlikely to ever be holistic (when things go viral they’re not joined by the scientific papers and research are they?!) and so are potentially always dangerous because a fad, even if it sounds saintly and perfect and #wellness, is still a fad and the lifestyle that follows from it is unlikely to be as tailored, balanced and healthy as it needs to be if it comes from a buzzword, be it ‘clean eating’ or ‘Atkins’. – B, @legallygymliving

pexels-photo-461428.jpegClean eating: what is it?

The way I and many other fitness and nutrition enthusiasts understand it is the idea that certain foods are, for want of a better word, ‘cleaner’ than others… i.e. not processed, as close as possible to their natural state… Essentially from nature. I heard phrases when I first got into clean eating like: ‘if it didn’t die or grow in the ground, avoid it’.

And what’s the harm, right? We all need to be encouraged away from eating so much processed, junk and massively added sugar-laden food don’t we?

Well… to an extent. I personally believe the ‘movement’ started with these good intentions – to encourage eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods as much as possible, to try and ‘re-set’ what people regard as go-to foods to a healthier place. For example, James Duigan’s Clean, Lean cookbooks (he founded Bodyism and coached celebs like Elle McPherson).

But increasingly there’s been a backlash against the movement as it grew – let’s talk about why.

Clean eating: the backlash

Semantically, the opposite of clean is dirty, right? So the backlash can be summarised in a nutshell like this.

People begin dividing foods into ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’. It spirals out of control. Orthorexia rises (an eating disorder where people become obsessed with only eating ‘clean’), presumably triggered by the cultural prevalence of a movement that seems healthy but encourages binary thinking about food as GOOD vs BAD. Instead of being a balanced, encouraging tagline, the term essentially seems to encourage an either/or mindset and this catches on beyond the pockets of health bloggers and fitness professionals via instagram, and grows and grows into a clean eating frenzy – so we’re basically back to demonising certain foods on a fairly wide scale, because they’re not clean, and worrying about whether we can eat stuff – is it ‘clean and lean’ or is it ‘dirty’ or ‘bad for me’. It’s like the 80s and 90s fad diets all over again, but dressed up as balance and health. pexels-photo-236147.jpeg

This is pretty much how and why the backlash happened.

And I agree it needs to be discussed – it’s dangerous, particularly for impressionable young girls, boys and even adults who glean all their nutritional information from the media – to become brainwashed and let this kind of mindset spiral out of control.

Influencers like Alice Liveing realised the movement was having unintentional negative consequences, and distanced themselves – Alice famously changed her instagram username from @cleaneatingalice to @aliveliveing partially for this reason.

A nutritionist’s take

Read the Daily Mail article for Rhiannon Lambert’s (a Harley Street nutritionist) comments on this, as I think it’s key to read what actual nutritionists are saying about these issues!

pexels-photo-296879.jpegMy two cents: clean eating, orthorexia, & foodie language words have power, but also have (& need) context!

I am not a nutritionist, so I’m not qualified, I can’t advise, this is just my personal view! I am a nutrition and fitness enthusiast and I followed the clean eating trend as it rose, and fell. I see both sides of the coin. It didn’t trigger orthorexia in me, despite being an ex-eating-disorder sufferer (of bulimia and body dysmorphia). It has clearly triggered an increase in orthorexia, or at least been problematic for ED suffers and this really needs to be addressed.

I think we need to be so careful about how we talk about food and ensure we’re not promoting things that can make it easier for eating disorders to be triggered. But remember – they are eating disorders and it’s a mental and physical health issue. Describing food as clean isn’t a single cause, and the movement was initially, I believe, well-intentioned and an attempt to educate.

It’s hard to know what language to use because there’s no getting away from the fact that some foods ARE nutritionally more beneficial than others. The problem is, a description of food can’t be taken in isolation (and neither can a meal or a snack!) We need to look at the whole picture.

Yes, labelling foods as just clean or dirty is damaging in isolation.

You can have cake, burgers, pizza, nachos etc. in MODERATION and still be healthy (and lose fat if that’s your goal).

Just like you can eat a caloric surplus of ‘clean’ foods – nuts, rice, sweet potato, chicken, broccoli and gain weight.

Ultimately, it’s about the wider culture, and your wider nutritional intake, self-image, body confidence, the whole shebang. We can’t lie to ourselves and say pizza or chocolate are as great for our bodies gram for gram as broccoli, mixed veggies, potato and lean protein! I appreciate ‘dirty’ is a loaded word but we do need to be aware of the additives in our food.

So I think it’s all about context, balance, and trying to avoid saying ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ around food as much as possible, but sometimes I do say ‘clean’ and I think providing the context is there, it’s totally OKAY. The problem is the way people are educated about their diet in general, the way certain body types are idolised or vilified, the tearing apart of celeb bodies in the media (constant comments particularly with women in the gossip mags!) and the fact it’s ASSUMED all women WANT to lose weight… to name a few!

Diet culture needs tackling. Where ‘clean eating’ feeds this – it’s a problem. Individuals need to be educated and supported. Perhaps the lesson here is all viral fads are unlikely to ever be holistic (when things go viral they’re not joined by the scientific papers and research are they?!) and so are potentially always dangerous because fad, even if it sounds saintly and perfect and #wellness, is still a fad and the lifestyle that follows from it is unlikely to be as tailored, balanced and healthy as it needs to be if it comes from a buzzword, be it ‘clean eating’ or ‘Atkins’.

Where describing foods as clean can be helpful and is done in context, I think that’s fine.

What are your thoughts around these issues? It’s such a complicated topic! Let me know in the comments.

Ooh, and I also published a post a while ago you might like to read if you’re interested in this area (see ‘An Apology’ here)  in which I dealt with how I now feel about past bits of my fitness and health ‘journey’ (cringe), where I did promote clean eating and various things that at the time I loved but now don’t feel comfortable about…

B xoxox

Are you affected by anything in this post?

If you suffer with an eating disorder, think you do, or are struggling with your relationship with food or your body, please contact your GP and a nutritionist (and ideally therapist).

Some of the organisations below may help:

Beat, an eating disorders charity. (They have a helpline too!)

NHS UK Eating Disorders Page

Rhiannon Lambert BSc, MSc, ANtr – an ED specialist nutritionist

Laura Phelan – an ED Recovery specialist

Mind, a mental health charity.