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

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

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

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

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

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

My diet background since my teens (eating disorders aside)

I actually spent 10 years as a pescatarian…

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

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

But then I started eating meat again…

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

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

My diet immediately before going plant-based

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

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

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

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

Valid questions, all!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the animals…

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

For the planet…

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

For health…

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

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

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

For my mental health…

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

For me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you just make the switch quickly?

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

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

So how am I finding it… truthfully?

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

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

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

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

Resources

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

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

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

Documentaries:

Cowspiracy

What the Health

Forks over Knives

Blackfish

Youtubers with good advice on going vegan:

Zanna Van Dijk

GraceFitUK

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

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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.