So in this post I told you alllllll about how I had watched all these documentaries and for both environmental and ethical-animal-based reasons, I wanted to try being plant-based.
I committed not to the full vegan lifestyle, but to being as plant-based as possible.
It was amazing initially – read the original post for the energy and endurance boost I felt. Then I had a couple of odd symptoms (not the ones you’d expect funnily enough!) and then it was fine again.
I managed to last a couple of months, before landing back at officially flexitarian (eating some meat, some fish, some dairy but aiming to be as plant-based as possible – so I tend to have at least 2 vegan meals a day generally).
Why did I ‘stop’?
The blunt honest truth is I do still agree with the ethics and environmental arguments, but I had to stop for my mental health.
As an ex-ED sufferer, I was aware ‘restrictive’ ways of eating need to be handled with care. I really didn’t think I’d be affected. But I was. I started to get anxious, obsessively check labels, feel sick and jittery around meal times, and obsess about what I could and couldn’t eat. If I had to go out, I’d worry about if I’d be able to eat anything or not.
And while maybe it’s possible to work through these things, given my history, and my on-going story with depression, I decided I didn’t have to be perfect.
I can still aim to eat as little animal produce as possible. To choose clean, ethical beauty and makeup products as much as possible. To help promote healthy plant-based options. I’ve swapped my shakes to vegan protein, converted Boy to almond milk in his lattes, we’re making changes…
But I’m not perfect. I’m not fully vegan. And while I’m sorry I can’t be fully consistent with the fact that I think it’s ideal to be vegan, I feel the need to be selfish and take care of myself on this one.
I hope I’m not letting anyone down, but I wanted to tell it like it is!
Positive lasting effects
I now do eat pretty much 2 meals a day that are vegan now, we’ve made some permanent swaps, and I’m more aware than I ever was before of the impact of my lifestyle choices.
It also made me make WAY more effort with fruit and veg variation, and getting more colour in my diet definitely felt like it gave my skin, mental clarity and energy levels a boost.
I feel better educated about animal welfare than before, and so I am trying to make more conscious decisions. While I’m not perfect, I’m working to reduce my impact and avoid supporting animal products as much as possible.
I care more about the impact of my lifestyle in other areas and make more effort to reduce plastic and recycle too.
It’s taught me loaaaads of tasty brand new plant-based recipes, and learning about plant-based protein sources has been great nutrition knowledge.
So there have definitely been some positives!
As my nutritionist and the lovely human being Rhiannon Lambert says, we don’t have to label our food choices.
I firmly believe this. But if I had to technically put a label on it to sum it up for you, I guess you could call me flexitarian.
However, ultimately, you are unique and need to do what works for your mind, body, ethics, all that good stuff. So don’t stress! Let’s support each other in making incrementally better choices for the planet, but also support good physical and mental health in others, whatever that may look like, and try not to judge others’ diets.
What about you guys, how do you try to live consciously while balancing your own physical and mental health?
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.
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:
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!)
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.
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.
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:
Endurance during workouts has improved
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!
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*
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!
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!]
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!”
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!)
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!)
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.
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
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.
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.
*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.*
Welcome back to another Inspire Interview – I’ve loved doing this series soooo much because I love hearing peoples’ stories and insights into the things that really matter – finding things you love doing, drive to work hard, career, balancing health and a personal life and everything between! If you missed the previous installments, you can catch up with the full list here!
Today we have a very special ‘episode’ – and I say episode because rather than the usual written piece because I have something new for you all…!
Being on camera is not in my comfort zone really at all, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak with the incredible Mel Wellsand this super driven woman is all about pushing past your comfort zone! You may know her face from Hollyoaks, or you may know her from her brilliant bestselling book The Goddess Revolutionand inspiring instagram feed… Mel has also been featured in Forbes Under 30 and was voted No. 1 Young Female Entrepreneur to Watch in the UK by About Time Magazine.
Mel does truly amazing work empowering women to fight back against diet culture and regain their happiness and health – her brand new book Hungry For More encapsulates everything this Inspire Interview Series has been about so settle down with a cup of tea and prepare to be inspired…
Back in London having lived in Bali, and now with a second book to her name (pre-order Hungry For More now to win free access to a special Masterclass with Mel and a chance to be entered to win one of her retreats in Bali – see her website for details!), Mel and I talked about all the BIG stuff – finding your ‘calling’, how food and your habits and relationship around it are reflective of the wider picture of your life and whether or not you’re fulfiled.
Press play on the video now to hear Mel’s story and epic insights into work, life, balance, spirituality, healing eating disorders, figuring out what you want from life, meditation and tonnes more! Plus the usual quick-fire round at the very end of course!
The interview: Mel Wells on being Hungry for More!
Thanks so much for chatting with me Mel! We look forward to reading your book when it’s out on July 10th!
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.
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!)
My post-Sunday-hangover routine to replenish on Monday
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!)
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!)
Short walk outside in the sun, then on the train into city.
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!)
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.
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.
A vegetable soup for lunch with some pulses in it replenishes some of those missing nutrients!
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!
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.
I try not to work too late this evening and manage to escape early around 7… yay!
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!
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!
So I mentioned on instagram recently I’ve been experimenting with Ayurveda. This may or may not come as a surprise to people who know me – I like to think of myself as a healthily open-minded sceptic – I treat all ideas critically, in a balanced way, and am open to changing my mind if people present evidence. It’s a safe and scientific and logical approach… which conflicts a bit with my arts-degree (I was a literature girl) more free-thinking and creative writing side… but I’ve always been contradictory like that (or as I like to think of it, it’s Keatsian ‘negative capability’ mwahaha).
I’ll explain more about ayurveda shortly, but here’s how I’m approaching it.
I’ve fallen into it via modern practitioners who fuse ancient Ayurvedic philosophies with modern Western life and nutrition knowledge. I do believe that it was created 5,000 years ago (yoga’s sister science) for India 5,000 years ago, therefore it doesn’t have to be followed to the letter – for example, lifestyles change, and my environment and culture is different from that of India 5,000 years ago. For example in Ayurveda you should never eat raw foods. That was true in India then (and much of India now!) – salad could make you ill. It’s not the case in London, so you can tweak it based on where you are and also just modernity.
I also believe that modern medicine and science knows a lot more about many things now, so naturally there are inconsistencies.
However, there are some overlaps – like the body types endomorph, ectomorph and mesomorph, for example, correspond with the Ayurvedic doshas – mesomorphs would be dominant in pitta, ectomorph – vata, and endomorph – kapha (see discussion below). In terms of the mental qualities associated with each dosha (more on what these are below!), you can think of these as metaphorical, emotional or psychological illustrations of personality types if you struggle with the pseudo-scientific nature. Just be open-minded with it, I guess! It’s not a science, it’s a philosophical system of wellness… and it’s 5,000 years old, so take or leave what works for you, and where modern knowledge is proven to contradict, that’s fine, but remember – Western medicine responds to disease and treats symptoms and causes. Ayurveda aims to prevent illness arising.
*quick check on cultural appropriation* I am fascinated by different cultures, and you may or may not have seen a discussion I had on instagram recently around the issues of cultural appropriation around yoga in the West, for example. These practices (yoga and ayurveda) are no doubt growing and evolving – they’re not the same as they once were, but I do want to take a second to say I have the utmost respect for the origins of these philosophies, and I’ve done as much research as I can into the history of the practices. I’d like to make clear and acknowledge that it isn’t part of my own heritage, but it’s something I am interested in exploring and I hope my adoption of some of the modern-fusion ayurveda is sensitive and respectful of anyone who does have deep roots in Ayurvedic and Hindu traditions. I know that ‘my’ version, or Sahara’s (see below) aren’t necessarily authentic, but hopefully we can all share in it respectfully and the last thing I would want is for this to offend anyone. Read more about the tradition here, and the Atharva Veda .
With all of that explanation over with to ‘explain’ and satisfy any fellow sceptics, here is why I have kind of fallen in love with Ayurveda, despite my reservations about all things that tend to be embraced by ‘hippy’ types which undeniably eastern and Indian philosophies have been (having grown up around Glastonbury and seen many families hugely disrupted by drugs, dropping out of school and various consequential issues, hippyisms are not something I tend to be a fan of and I feel should be treated with huge caution! Plus they tend to be unchecked appropriation of other cultures, and used as excuses for outrageous lifestyle choices… Rant over, okay, okay!)
(NB: where it conflicts with modern nutritional and scientific knowledge, I’d go with those things. However, on the mental and emotional side it’s more just like an alternative perspective on things, and one I find helpful!)
It’s a romantic and almost mythical way of expressing many things that I think modern science and psychology do tell us too.
It feels intuitive, and places emphasis on living a healthy, balanced lifestyle, with diet and digestion as a cornerstone of wellbeing – which we know to be true.
It helps me make sense of my personality, how I emotionally respond to things (and have responded to past trauma), and how to balance myself out.
I’m inclined to agree it’s more helpful from a mental health and balance perspective than it being a medicine system to cure physical ailments – I wouldn’t ever substitute it for qualified medical advice – but it can certainly support, in my opinion.
I’ve always been drawn to ancient cultures the world over and it’s fun to play with… and there’s no harm in playing and being interested!
It just feels intuitive to me and explains my personality. Whether that’s placebo, or whether modern science and psychology aligns with it or not, if it makes you feel good, what’s the harm?!
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda means the ‘knowledge of life’, and is a holistic Ancient Indian system of health and wellbeing. If you google it, the definition you get is:
the traditional Hindu system of medicine (incorporated in Atharva Veda, the last of the four Vedas), which is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing.
I found Sahara Rose‘s attitude of choosing the parts of the practice that work for you and work in modern life helpful. You can read her article here about why practicing yoga (although amazing!) is only a tiny step in optimising how you feel – and how ayurveda is the ultimate lifestyle compliment (the two systems go hand in hand, after all!)
As a simple introduction, in Ayurveda the idea is we’re born with a unique combination of the three Ayurvedic doshas – kapha, vata and pitta (the combo you’re born with is your prakruti). Diet and lifestyle and other factors can change this – if you were born vata dominant, for example, you could become more pitta. Your present constitution, if different from your prakruti is your vikruti.
In Ayurveda emotional states, mental and physical ailments etc… basically anything that means you’re not ‘well’ is thought to be because of a dosha imbalance in some way. Too much vata, too little kapha… it can be much more complex than this, but this is a simplified explanation, and ayurveda seeks to provide lifestyle choices and practices people can follow to stay physically and mentally balanced. Certain personality types may prefer different things, and need to bear in mind they should balance themselves (for example I’m a pitta – considered to be driven, fiery, highly motivated, prone to loving caffeine and heavy duty workouts – but I need to balance this with more yin yoga, for example, and slowing down, caffeine and alcohol reduction, even if that’s not my instinct!) A lot of it can be considered common sense! Kaphas are thought to be much more grounded, stable, generous, but also potentially prone to lethargy and weight gain if out of balance… and so more vigorous movement is recommended. (These are just some super simplistic illustrations!)
My experience so far
I’ve found that certain ayurvedic practices, including but not limited to an improved morning routine (including tongue scraping, oil pulling, splashing the eyes 10 times with cold water and abhyanga [an ayurvedic form of self-massage with oil]) to be therapeutic and actually quite uplifting.
I’ve also been trying trying a few of the dosha balancing meditations (discover an indication of your dominant dosha here but for truly accurate results see a practitioner), and making some dosha-balancing lifestyle changes (for example, I am very dominantly pitta – in both body and mind – so rather than stick to my go-to agressive coffee consumption and power yoga, I’ve incorporated more deep breathing, some very gentle yin yoga, and calming herb teas).
Studies have shown (I was reading a scientific paper from a journal on the train about exactly this today!) that meditation, yoga (and other activities like reading, qu gong, tai chi) etc. are beneficial for health and mind because they promote the relaxation response which has a positive biological impact – reduced oxygen consumption, blood pressure, heart rate and changes to regions of the brain whose names have escaped me just now! Activities like this positively influence our epigenetics (the parts of our DNA that switch cells on and off essentially – determining which bits of our DNA are used!) On a similar note, exercise is another lifestyle factor that can alter your DNA (as can nutrition, stress levels, exposure to toxins…) and you can read more on the science of that here.
However, whether or not there are tangible benefits you can derive from ayurveda (and anecdotally there do seem to be, although clearly when people like me try things, we’re not doing a controlled study so it’s hard to establish a reliable causal link), to me, it’s all about how you feel and if it has a positive impact on your life and general wellbeing… and this definitely is for me!
I also just did a quick 8 week short course called Self Care and Ayurvedic Nutrition to learn more, and it has given me some great practices that really help me manage stress and my mood, plus some delicious recipes.
What do you think?!
I’d love to hear your comments on this, and any philosophies or lifestyle changes that you find work for you!
Sahara Rose Ketabi, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Holistic Health and Sports Nutrition Coach on dosha-sports science parallels:
Some of us have increased development of the ectodermal layer, contributing to a more active nervous system and faster catabolism (the breakdown of muscle tissue.) This makes make us more naturally small-boned, full of thoughts, sensitive to external surroundings and energy, and often cold — exactly like a Vata.
Vata is regulated by Ether and Air energy, regulating the nervous system as well. Vatas are thin-bodied, dry-skinned, bold-bodied, hypersensitive to their surroundings, and imaginative. When they’re off balance, they can become anxious or anemic. I often compare Vata to the Fall wind — cool, dry, creative, and a little bit all over the place.
If you are an Ectomorph/ Vata, then I recommend consuming a more warming, grounding foods like soups, stews, and proteins. Avoid too much cold, raw food, which will cool down your already weak digestive fire. Make sure you stretch your body to prevent it from getting stiff and practice strength-training exercises. Practice more mindfulness.
Others of us have increased development of the mesodermal layer. We’re naturally more muscular, prone to stress, with strong bones and appetites — just like a Pitta.
Pitta is comprised of Fire and Water energy, controlling transformation — metabolism, digestion, assimilation, and muscle development. Pittas are naturally athletic, high-achieving people with strong work ethics (and appetites). When they’re off balance, they can become impatient, overheated, or agitated. I often compare Pitta to the summer — hot, fiery, and passionate!
If you are a Mesomorph/ Pitta, I recommend consuming more cooling, hydrating foods like fresh fruit and leafy greens. Avoid spicy food, caffeine, and chocolate, which are all too stimulating and heat-inducing for your already hot system. Be careful not to overexert yourself and become overly competitive. Practice yin yoga and meditation regularly.
And there are those of us with increased development of the endodermal layer. We may have slower metabolisms and digestions and are prone towards respiratory issues, exactly like the Kapha Dosha.
Kapha is comprised of Earth and Water energy, regulating structure, body tissue, and bone structure. Kaphas are peaceful, easy-going, good-natured, people. When out of balance, however, they can easily become overweight and lazy, and catch colds frequently. I like to compare Kaphas to the Spring — cool, wet, and dense.
If you’re an Endomorph/ Kapha, I suggest favoring light, stimulating foods like well-spiced quinoa, steamed vegetables and bitter greens. Avoid sweet, cool, and creamy foods like ice cream or pasta, which will make your sluggish digestive system even slower. Make sure you break a sweat every day to prevent yourself from becoming lethargic. Try something new every day.”
So this week an email landed in my inbox from Rhiannon Lambert (her Rhitrition newsletter has all kinds of interesting nutrition nerdy news and tips so do subscribe!) linking me to an article in The Independent about Meghan Markle’s favourite smoothie. But the article misses out another favourite recipe of Meghan’s that she mentions in an interview with The Chalkboard, so scroll down to unearth this extra little royal gem!
It’s no secret that this gorgeous, smart, soon-to-be-royal was a fan of all things wellness before she took up with the Prince… and all fairytales need to feature magic and potions somewhere, right?!
Rhiannon Lambert, as I’m sure you all already know if you’ve been around this blog/insta a while, is an amazing Harley Street nutritionist (info on her book here) and in the article mentioned above, she breaks down the health benefits of the ingredients to Meghan’s go-to smoothie. The recipe Meghan claimed she uses can also be found in this article in Hello Magazine, but Rhiannon highlights how the protein powder could be improved to a healthier one, so I’m going to share a take on the smoothie that’s more in line with these Harley Street guidelines ❤
With the Royal Wedding coming up, I thought I’d experiment and give you a recipe made with these ingredients that you can blend up in time for the celebrations along with the bonus extra the Independent missed out… who knows, maybe we’ll get Meghan’s glow if we drink enough of it 😉
On my recent insta poll a lot of you said you want to hear about my full weekly routine, so here it is (extended to 10 days for better insight)… but first:
Pleeeease note that I am NOT a nutritionist, doctor or dietician and so can’t advise you on your diet. Please don’t copy what I eat because we’re all individual, and advice must come from qualified professionals. This is for inspo and curiosity only! Nothing here is sponsored – all stuff I’m buying or using! I haven’t included guess-timated weights of food or macros as I tend to eat intuitively. I thought about recording them for you but I don’t think it’s helpful as it just encourages people to copy another person’s diet, which as we’ve discussed is not good!
WORKOUT: 4.6k run outdoors (casual pace, not working for speed, distance or time. Find me on Strava!)
Breakfast – some granola from the office (medium serving) and water
The water isn’t a ‘health’ thing, it’s just that I can’t stomach milk, and don’t like alternatives particularly… sometimes I’ll include oat or coconut milk in a shake, but otherwise I just go with water for porridge etc! Sounds weird but I prefer it.
Lunch: plaice with courgette and red rice & quinoa mix
Dinner: tuna and green pesto with wholegrain brown rice, sprinkling of cheese. Cocoa orange nakd bar for dessert.
Confession booth: I had some very stressful family stuff happening in the evening, and so ended up having a vodka and soda water which isn’t great to do when you’re stressed, but I made myself calm down first and then had it as a little treat. Then the Boy brought me home a mini bottle of prosecco (approx. 2 glasses) as a treat as he knew I was upset so I had that too! Oops! Normally this wouldn’t be a ‘confession’ type thing – moderation is fine, but as I’m on a cut it’s a bit of a deviation, and alcohol messes up your body metabolising fat and affects nutrient absorption so it’s not great… but these things happen, hey ho! Tomorrow is another day.
I know I’m working until at least 9pm tonight and I’m not sure how the day will go & can’t count on lunchtime, so I set my alarm for 6.15, 6.20, 6.30am and get myself up and into city for a Kobox class. They’re 50 minutes, pretty ‘HIIT’ in style. Today was a core workout with Jacob and it was AMAZING. [There’s a full review of Kobox here if you’re keen!]
Breakfast: Blueberry Brawler Shake made of blueberries, coconut water, choc vegan protein.
I‘m in a rush to make it from class ending at 9.10 to work for 9.30 so I grab a Kobox shake (any excuse!) which they have ready and waiting for me when class is over… winner! I opt for the ‘Blueberry brawler’ – blueberries, coconut water and usually it’s vanilla protein but I request they swap this for chocolate vegan… try it, it’ll change your life!
Lunch: Hake with broccoli, kale, mango and a small serving of white rice.
I’m spoilt because work has fantastic healthy options at lunch time, so you can eat well and cheaply. In fairness though, this is the kind of thing I’d make at home too and it’s so quick to prep and pop in a lunchbox.
I’m not a big snacker to be honest and on my summer shred my standard position is to eliminate snacking, but today I have to do some pro bono legal work in the evening until approx. 9pm so I know I won’t get dinner until I’m home around 10pm… so I’m keen for something to tide me over!
Dinner: turkey steaks, mashed [white] potato, sugar snap peas and four bean salad with sweetcorn. Cocoa orange nakd bar for desert.
I actually finish work earlier than planned so am home by 21:10, and I decided to cook this kind of ‘bro-food’ ish meal with a twist.
WORKOUT:none. I have coffee with a friend before work, a work thing at lunch and then have to leave for Somerset to see family this evening so there genuinely is no time. Plus I’m super sore from Grace’s lower body workout (see above!) earlier in the week so I’m letting my poor glutes and hamstrings recover!
(I’d tried to have avo on sourdough this morning but Curator’s Coffee Gallery (love this place!) on Margaret Street were out of avo, so after two of their INCREDIBLE black filter coffees with a friend, I had to rush to the city and grab something quick at work that wouldn’t take too long to eat. Don’t like strawberry yoghurt but they were out of raspberry and I’d planned to get a fruit salad but protein balls were just quicker. Next time though!)
Lunch: beef burger in a bun with green salad leaves. Followed by a double espresso over ice with added cold water for ‘dessert’
I’m having lunch with a colleague today who wants to try the office terrace BBQ… and once outside I just can’t opt for a veggie skewer, I want the beef! While I say yes to the bun (bread isn’t the devil, people!) I don’t like sauces or dressings anyway so I skip those, and I don’t have cous-cous salad or potatoes with it as the bread is enough for white carbs, although with hindsight I’d have preferred a naked burger with cous-cous as the bread isn’t great quality. But in general… what do you know, cut friendly and indulgent… you can still do this and not miss out! Pouring a double espresso over ice is a nice way to have an iced coffee without the milk (which I hate anyway!) or the added sugars and syrups which I not only don’t like but are unnecessary for my cut. Bonus! (I add cold water to make it a long drink though… it’s a hot day, don’t want to dehydrate!)
Dinner: Mexican-style spicy chicken, aubergine and mixed peppers, smashed avo & brown rice
Slip-up!: 1 vodka soda water, 1 prosecco
I was determined not to drink alcohol tonight but the weather is SO SUNNY and I don’t have to leave for Somerset for an hour or so after work as we drive down late to avoid traffic (don’t worry I wasn’t driving!) so I cave in and spend an hour on the terrace in the sun with colleagues… and a couple of cheeky drinks.
WORKOUT:just a dog-walk with the family.
We’re in Somerset for the day to see family (approx. 3 hours drive from London) so while I’d brought my kit to go for a run up Glastonbury Tor, I decide to spend all the time we have with family rather than disappear off for a workout. We manage to see The Boy’s mum, my dad, and my mum (all of whom live in different bits of Somerset at least 30 mins apart each) before driving back to London that evening so it’s a lot to fit in!
Breakfast: 2 slices of fruit bread toast
One of the hard things about staying with family is less control over what you eat, especially if you don’t want to make a big deal about a cut. Often I plead not hungry, but obviously you don’t want to not eat at all! So sometimes you gotta roll with it. Don’t stress. S’all good! This is where #balance and a healthy mindset is important… once I’d have obsessed but now although it niggles initially, I shrug it off and enjoy.
Lunch: Tomato, spinach, rocket, watercress and stilton salad with a couple of pieces of hot wholemeal baguette + Slice of apple & cinnamon cake made by my -mama-in-law
Luckily the Glastonbury family lunches like this are always perfect, although I do accept a slice of cake The Boy’s mama has made… because it looks amazing, because their European influence means they’re kind of feeders hehe, but also she’s health conscious too so I know it’s all natural and made with love, so why not? Treats like this are far more worth it than a mindless chocolate binge at 3pm at work because everyone else is doing it! The cake is epic btw.
Dinner: Halloumi-courgette-mint cakes with broccoli & spinach. I steal 4 of The Boy’s skinny fries too, haha!
We decide to have dinner out so before we head back to London we swing by The Red Lion, Babcary for where I waitressed in my youth from pre-A-Levels to university summers (and had many a lock-in party and woke up hungover on the sofa the next day far too often…!) The food is some of the best in the South West pub scene (more actual gastro/restaurant style though – fab quality, menu is better now than it was when I worked there for sure!), but it has lost a bit of it’s charm as it used to be more of a local and now they have the B&B guesthouses and things it feels a bit more like a resort. Beautiful village though and the food is fantastic. Also if you’re having a break but feeling nostalgic for the city, they do serve cocktails and espresso martinis worthy of London 😉
WORKOUT:6km outdoor run in 36 mins (early afternoon) & a gentle walk with The Boy in the evening for some LISS + an at-home 20 minute yoga, stretch & foam roll session.
I was aiming for a faster 5k but it was so hot and the pavements and parks were so busy I had to weave a lot. Also strava (the app I use to track my runs) doesn’t update you through headphones how far you’re running so unless you keep looking it’s easy to overshoot distance (I may go back to Nike run… thoughts?!)
The Boy has his chest day at the gym while I’m still sleeping and gets home craving protein so he generously whips up enough of this for me too. He improvises this as we’ve made it quite a few times so it doesn’t match the book to the letter, but even he is a convert to this recipe book (review here) and as it’s by the Harley Street nutritionist who looks after his fave snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan, I think he’s more willing to listen haha! #celebrityendorsement (you can buy ReNourish here)
Lunch: roast beef, 1 Yorkshire pudding, greens (spinach, dark green cabbage & kale), carrots, parsnips, 3 white roast potatoes (NO GRAVY BECAUSE I HATE IT!)
Dinner: stir fried prawns and mixed veg, dash of soy sauce.
Evening treat: 1 gin & slimline tonic (it’s so sunny and it’s the weekend so I indulge, despite being conscious that I’ve been a bit lax with the alcohol recently. Considering an 8 week alcohol break for the duration of the rest of the cut… but we’ll deal with that on Monday! Tomorrow starts another week…!)
WORKOUT: Grace Fit Uk’s Home Guide (although I do it at the gym as it saves faffing with a tonne of equipment!) full body workout, approx. 38 minutes. Extra abs (ab bikes, leg raises, plank, commandos, Russian twists, weighted sit-ups) + 3 sets of x10 burpees to finish.
Now the weather is nicer I also add on a 30 min walk daily Mon-Fri by not taking the train near me and walking 15 mins in the morning to the tube and 15 mins home at night from an earlier tube stop for extra steps.
Breakfast: 1 slice sourdough, 1/2 smashed avocado, chili flakes, drizzle of olive oil
Lunch: salmon, broccoli, kale, a few chickpeas and sprinkling of mango
WORKOUT: fast (for me!) 5k [treadmill]- I get a PB of 26 mins 31 secs &the daily commute walk I mentioned above – 30 mins total (15 before work, 15 after)
For short distance treadmill runs I try to always run just above my comfort zone (comfortable level for me treadmill wise is approx. 10-10.5k/h). So I start at 12k/h (a mind game I play haha to make the push pace feel easier!) for about 1km and then settle into 11k/h. I increase to 11.5k/h for my power track, then gradually up to 12, then 12.5k/h, 13k/h which is really working me hard…! And I finish the last 1/2km on 13.5k/h and am grateful when I hit 5km distance to be able to press the ‘stop’ button!!!!
Breakfast: same as yesterday – 1 slice sourdough, 1/2 smashed avocado, chili flakes, drizzle of olive oil
Lunch: vegan salad (rocket, quinoa, sweetcorn, spinach & mixed leaves, black olives, kidney beans, grated carrot, red pepper, sprinkle of walnuts and coriander, red pepper, celery, samphire)… plus a pack of Coconut & macadamia protein balls (not vegan – contain whey) by The Protein Ball Co.
Dinner: my fave quick brown rice Bolognese – its basically 5% fat lean beef mince, small serve of brown rice, 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, lots of spinach, dash of Worcestershire sauce & paprika, pink Himalayan rock salt & black pepper (the Worcestershire & spices are the key secret ingredients that make all the difference!) + 1 paleo bar [coconut & macadamia nut] for dessert/snack as I’m weirdly still hungry an hour later and know I have fasted kobox in the morning…
WORKOUT: Kobox – lower body, 50 mins. Plus the extra 30 min LISS commute walk as per yesterday.
I’ve waxed lyrical about Kobox before and above, but just to say – Jacob has now been added to my list of fave instructors haha, think he has the best playlists in the place! Today the workout was fun but felt hard, because my legs were DOMSy from Monday and yesterday’s workouts… it was good to be challenged, but tomorrow is definitely going to be a rest day to let my muscles recover 🙂 As I mentioned before, now it’s spring/summery I walk 15 mins to a further train stop in the morning and 15 mins back in the evening – brisk pace to ensure extra LISS. It’s a nice way to warm up and wind down for the day!
Breakfast: Peanut Uppercut Shake made of chocolate protein (I ask to add an extra scoop today!), almond milk, banana and peanut butter.
Lunch: Mackerel with courgette, yellow peppers, tomato salsa and spinach & mixed leaf salad
By late afternoon I’m STARVING – haven’t had a hunger pang like this in a while! I wonder if it’s because I’ve not had many carbs today looking back at breakfast and lunch, or just because my workouts have been relatively intense… either way, I decide to eat but I need to be quick and don’t have anything prepared, so a bag of popchips it is! Not super nutritious but a fairly low kcal and so theoretically cut friendly option!
Dinner: (White) jacket potato with tuna, stilton and sun-dried tomato (no mayo because I hate it!), spinach & rocket.
I get home and I’m pretty knackered and sore from the last 3 days worth of workouts, and I just want to lie on the sofa so I want the quickest possible meal (and one I can leave out for The Boy to reheat for himself because he’s working much later than me this evening!) I recommend, if you’re a cheese lover, using blue cheese rather than cheddar as you don’t need as large a serving and you actually get more flavour, so you can avoidaccidentally over-indulging on the fat (fat isn’t bad per se but cheese isn’t full of the ‘good fats like salmon, nuts and avo – bear in mind dairy has a lot of benefits though!) I also state ‘white’ potato here for clarity because a few years ago I was obsessed that white potato is bad and sweet potato was fine – NOT SO! My nutritionist explained to me they both have benefits and neither is better or worse, the profiles are just slightly different (sweet potato has more vitamin A for example!)
And that was 10 days of my workouts and meals!
I don’t typically make it a practice to weigh myself but I have been documenting it for the cut, and at the end of the 10 days I am down just over 2lbs, just over 1kg.
My abs are starting to peek back through, especially for ‘morning abs’ which is fun – while aesthetics aren’t the sole or even main reason I train, obviously cutting is designed to tweak your aesthetic and as long as you don’t fixate, it’s fine to play around – just make sure you’re healthy and check in with your doctor and ideally see a nutritionist!
Disclaimer: I started my summer shred recently, inspired by Grace, so please note my nutrition is going to be either a little more on point than it would if I was cruising at maintenance, and/or a little more critical of my ‘treats’ and slip-ups than I normally would be! (For healthy fat loss tips see this post, and feel free to follow and join me on #gettingshreddyforsummer on instagram here!)
While I mention that I have a nutritionist in this post, I say it in a loose sense – I don’t go regularly, I have the occasional check up. This isn’t a meal plan she’s given me or anything!
A note on my daily drinks whether I’m cutting or bulking or maintaining, I don’t drink anything during the day other than tonnes of tap water, lots of peppermint tea, a couple of green teas, 1-2 black coffees a day. I only drink water based drinks really! And then there’s the alcohol which is all openly declared above… *sigh* Always the toughie to resist, especially in nice weather!
What I learned from this week
It’s so interesting for me to write all this down and actually look at my picture for the
week instead of viewing it daily. It makes me realise maybe I’m too dependent on protein balls or nakd bars or similar for a quick fix haha (although they’re an all natural company, I feel like real food where possible is always good rather than faster options!) I can see I eat quite a bit of seafood which is good and I’m happy with, and occasionally get caught off-guard if I’m rushing, so maybe some fresh fruit and nuts saved in the office for emergencies would help… Also you can see my diary commentary increases as the week goes on but then resets on the second Monday when I’ve relaxed over the weekend and feel refreshed and ready for a stronger start – obviously I get busier as the week progresses so I have to think more about my choices, whereas earlier in the week it’s just simple logs of what I eat, no muss no fuss. Just noticed as well that Friday was a bad day with 4 servings of caffeinated coffee, although it’s calorie free broadly as I don’t add anything to it, for health reasons I shouldn’t be stressing my body with so many stimulants so I need to watch the cheeky pre-work coffees and maybe just take a single espresso over ice with extra water for a treat. Plus the alcohol thing… would be best relegated to just 1 or 2 over Saturday and Sunday, not just for cut reasons but for general health reasons as alcohol isn’t fabulous for you in addition to being packed with nutritionally-empty calories! The best alcoholic drink from a cut perspective is something like vodka soda, with soda water being calorie free, vodka being 50kcal (compared with diet tonic which contains approx. 15g carbs per 200ml). While I don’t advocate calorie counting for food (NUTRIENTS NOT NUMBERS woop woop!) it’s important to be aware of it with alcohol as your body basically derives no nutritional benefit from it – genuinely empty calories (not saying have zero unless you want to teetotal – it’s fine to have treats, but I’m just talking about being aware as it’s easy to drink a few days worth of your recommended food intake if you’re not careful!)
So guys, hope that answers the questions! I’ll do a similar post if people find it helpful for when I’m not cutting / #gettingshreddyforsummer so you can see what that’s like.
I’ve been 100% honest above and recorded my alcohol/extra snack slip ups even though I didn’t want any on my shred and certainly not during the week – all to show you that WE ALL DO IT and it’s fine, it won’t totally derail you, just get back on the bandwagon the next day! Also visiting family in Somerset with family meant I didn’t have as much control over food, so this is a good illustration of attempting to stay on a cut and dealing with family meals, but also sometimes saying you know what – eat the damn cake & hang out with family instead of going for a workout, life’s too short.
Diet culture needs tackling. Where ‘clean eating’ feeds this – it’s a problem. Individuals need to be educated and supported. Perhaps the lesson here is all viral fads are unlikely to ever be holistic (when things go viral they’re not joined by the scientific papers and research are they?!) and so are potentially always dangerous because a fad, even if it sounds saintly and perfect and #wellness, is still a fad and the lifestyle that follows from it is unlikely to be as tailored, balanced and healthy as it needs to be if it comes from a buzzword, be it ‘clean eating’ or ‘Atkins’. – B, @legallygymliving
Clean eating: what is it?
The way I and many other fitness and nutrition enthusiasts understand it is the idea that certain foods are, for want of a better word, ‘cleaner’ than others… i.e. not processed, as close as possible to their natural state… Essentially from nature. I heard phrases when I first got into clean eating like: ‘if it didn’t die or grow in the ground, avoid it’.
And what’s the harm, right? We all need to be encouraged away from eating so much processed, junk and massively added sugar-laden food don’t we?
Well… to an extent. I personally believe the ‘movement’ started with these good intentions – to encourage eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods as much as possible, to try and ‘re-set’ what people regard as go-to foods to a healthier place. For example, James Duigan’s Clean, Lean cookbooks (he founded Bodyism and coached celebs like Elle McPherson).
But increasingly there’s been a backlash against the movement as it grew – let’s talk about why.
Clean eating: the backlash
Semantically, the opposite of clean is dirty, right? So the backlash can be summarised in a nutshell like this.
People begin dividing foods into ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’. It spirals out of control. Orthorexia rises (an eating disorder where people become obsessed with only eating ‘clean’), presumably triggered by the cultural prevalence of a movement that seems healthy but encourages binary thinking about food as GOOD vs BAD. Instead of being a balanced, encouraging tagline, the term essentially seems to encourage an either/or mindset and this catches on beyond the pockets of health bloggers and fitness professionals via instagram, and grows and grows into a clean eating frenzy – so we’re basically back to demonising certain foods on a fairly wide scale, because they’re not clean, and worrying about whether we can eat stuff – is it ‘clean and lean’ or is it ‘dirty’ or ‘bad for me’. It’s like the 80s and 90s fad diets all over again, but dressed up as balance and health.
This is pretty much how and why the backlash happened.
And I agree it needs to be discussed – it’s dangerous, particularly for impressionable young girls, boys and even adults who glean all their nutritional information from the media – to become brainwashed and let this kind of mindset spiral out of control.
Influencers like Alice Liveing realised the movement was having unintentional negative consequences, and distanced themselves – Alice famously changed her instagram username from @cleaneatingalice to @aliveliveing partially for this reason.
My two cents: clean eating, orthorexia, & foodie language – words have power, but also have (& need) context!
I am not a nutritionist, so I’m not qualified, I can’t advise, this is just my personal view! I am a nutrition and fitness enthusiast and I followed the clean eating trend as it rose, and fell. I see both sides of the coin. It didn’t trigger orthorexia in me, despite being an ex-eating-disorder sufferer (of bulimia and body dysmorphia). It has clearly triggered an increase in orthorexia, or at least been problematic for ED suffers and this really needs to be addressed.
I think we need to be so careful about how we talk about food and ensure we’re not promoting things that can make it easier for eating disorders to be triggered. But remember – they are eating disorders and it’s a mental and physical health issue. Describing food as clean isn’t a single cause, and the movement was initially, I believe, well-intentioned and an attempt to educate.
It’s hard to know what language to use because there’s no getting away from the fact that some foods ARE nutritionally more beneficial than others. The problem is, a description of food can’t be taken in isolation (and neither can a meal or a snack!) We need to look at the whole picture.
Yes, labelling foods as just clean or dirty is damaging in isolation.
You can have cake, burgers, pizza, nachos etc. in MODERATION and still be healthy (and lose fat if that’s your goal).
Just like you can eat a caloric surplus of ‘clean’ foods – nuts, rice, sweet potato, chicken, broccoli and gain weight.
Ultimately, it’s about the wider culture, and your wider nutritional intake, self-image, body confidence, the whole shebang. We can’t lie to ourselves and say pizza or chocolate are as great for our bodies gram for gram as broccoli, mixed veggies, potato and lean protein! I appreciate ‘dirty’ is a loaded word but we do need to be aware of the additives in our food.
So I think it’s all about context, balance, and trying to avoid saying ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ around food as much as possible, but sometimes I do say ‘clean’ and I think providing the context is there, it’s totally OKAY. The problem is the way people are educated about their diet in general, the way certain body types are idolised or vilified, the tearing apart of celeb bodies in the media (constant comments particularly with women in the gossip mags!) and the fact it’s ASSUMED all women WANT to lose weight… to name a few!
Diet culture needs tackling. Where ‘clean eating’ feeds this – it’s a problem. Individuals need to be educated and supported. Perhaps the lesson here is all viral fads are unlikely to ever be holistic (when things go viral they’re not joined by the scientific papers and research are they?!) and so are potentially always dangerous because fad, even if it sounds saintly and perfect and #wellness, is still a fad and the lifestyle that follows from it is unlikely to be as tailored, balanced and healthy as it needs to be if it comes from a buzzword, be it ‘clean eating’ or ‘Atkins’.
Where describing foods as clean can be helpful and is done in context, I think that’s fine.
What are your thoughts around these issues? It’s such a complicated topic! Let me know in the comments.
Ooh, and I also published a post a while ago you might like to read if you’re interested in this area (see ‘An Apology’ here) in which I dealt with how I now feel about past bits of my fitness and health ‘journey’ (cringe), where I did promote clean eating and various things that at the time I loved but now don’t feel comfortable about…
Are you affected by anything in this post?
If you suffer with an eating disorder, think you do, or are struggling with your relationship with food or your body, please contact your GP and a nutritionist (and ideally therapist).