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

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

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

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

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

My diet background since my teens (eating disorders aside)

I actually spent 10 years as a pescatarian…

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

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

But then I started eating meat again…

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

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

My diet immediately before going plant-based

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

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

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

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

Valid questions, all!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the animals…

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

For the planet…

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

For health…

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

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

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

For my mental health…

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

For me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you just make the switch quickly?

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

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

So how am I finding it… truthfully?

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

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

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

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

Resources

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

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

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

Documentaries:

Cowspiracy

What the Health

Forks over Knives

Blackfish

Youtubers with good advice on going vegan:

Zanna Van Dijk

GraceFitUK

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Allergic reaction to alcohol? | How I ended up in hospital

So those of you who also play with me on instagram may have seen that I ended up in hospital on a drip and medicated up last weekend, and it did really shake The Boy & I up and is leading to some massive lifestyle changes, so I thought I’d share details.

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I went to some leaving drinks on a Friday night – had a few glasses of wine, got suitably happy… phoned my boyfriend after my last one today I was coming home and getting an uber.

I then (apparently – I don’t remember this!) called him back, barely making sense, saying I felt ill and couldn’t breathe and needed help, and that I was in the bathroom. I then passed out while throwing up, still on the phone to him.

He managed to call someone to come and find me, and they kindly looked after me. At this stage everyone just thought I was drunk, although the Boy has seen me drunk many times over the last 13 years and never seen anything like this. He managed eventually to get 2 different taxis to take us home, half way, then fully (thank god I apparently wasn’t ill in the taxi!)

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However, I was throwing up every few minutes, couldn’t breathe properly and my throat was swelling. After I’d been vomiting for 12 hours non stop and my throat was literally visibly massive he realised something was wrong and I had to go to hospital.

We went to A&E and they checked me over and sent me to the minor injuries unit – I was dehydrated and having panic attacks because I couldn’t breathe or stop being sick.

They put me on a drip, did some tests (I hate needles but literally barely even noticed I was in so much pain!), gave me medication and saline solution and kept me in for a while. After 2 litres of fluids and whatever medicine they gave me (I was pretty out of it and not paying attention to be honest!), I started to feel more normal, but super weak.

Eventually after ruling out a few things and finding my blood alcohol level wasn’t high enough for me to be so violently ill, the conclusion was that, most likely, I had a reaction to a specific type of wine.

However, it’s also possible that I’m now intolerant to drinking generally.

To be honest, I really don’t feel like testing it… I am quite happy to never drink again.

I’m a bit confused they didn’t discuss interaction with my current medication with me (I told them multiple times I’m on 20mg fluoxetine daily at the moment) as I know that could have affected things too.

The nurse said she’s sure it’s the brand of wine, but the doctors didn’t specify. Either way… I can’t end up in hospital again, whatever the reason, and I feel awful for scaring the Boy and my family like that, and so I am planning to stay sober. To be honest, given my tendency to use alcohol to feel better because of my depression at the weekends, I never had the healthiest relationship with it anyway, and so I think this is just a great sign / excuse / reason etc to stop drinking altogether.

I received lovely messages from so many of you, so thank you! And also some amazing support from someone who came forward to talk to me about what it’s like giving up drinking and I’m so grateful as I know in the UK it’s not an easy thing – culturally it is pretty unthinkable to the British!

I’m just super grateful for the NHS (all of that amazing, kind treatment was so smooth and efficient, I somehow had a private room, and it all just comes out of general tax and National Insurance that me and the rest of the country pay every month – we’re so lucky this exists!) and also for my health and my body and what our bodies are capable of!

I’m back to my normal self and boxing again after a few days’ recovery, and I know being sober carries a lot of stigma but I’m hoping I can share this with you as part of this wider health and fitness journey – this blog has always been mostly nutrition and workout focussed but lately has moved to cover and be more open about my mental health. Not drinking is something that I think spans all these areas, and so while I’m not for a second saying anyone else has to give it up (I wouldn’t be if I hadn’t been through an allergic/intolerant reaction and been really freaked out I suspect!), I’m hoping my wake up call will inspire people to just be careful of their health, drink sensibly and healthily, ensure you’re not drinking for mental health support (alcohol is a depressant and will not help here although it feels like it does – it’s a slippery slope, friends!) and if you do have an allergic reaction you know to get some help and get yourself treatment ASAP!

Tonnes of love, and any other non drinkers with tips, stories… please connect with me and share as I’d love to hear!

B xoxo

 

The Carnivore Diet Dangers, Anecdotal Evidence & Trolling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s wrong with believing anecdotal evidence?

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

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

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

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

Anecdotal evidence is an issue because:

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

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

Trolling

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

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

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

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

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

Are we done now…?

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

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

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

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

B xoxoxoxox

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

The recipes

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

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

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

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

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

The workouts

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

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

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

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

Overall?

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

Hope that helps!

B xoxo

Do you need to stop reading and start DOING?

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I don’t know about you, but I’m an obsessive reader. This applies to fiction for fun, but also non-fiction, articles, blogs…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sadly, it won’t.

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

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

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

You need to do the work darlings.

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

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

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

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

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

Just start!

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

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

Motivation 101 – how to get it & keep it!

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

The Truth About Carbs!

Workout inspiration

B xoxo

My Ayurveda experience

Me… trying Ayurveda?! It’s true!

close up photography hindu deity
Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

backlit balance beach cloud
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My-urveda

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Ayurveda?

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

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

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

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

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

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

My experience so far

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?!

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

B xoxoxo

Appendix

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

Sahara Rose Ketabi writes (full article here)

“Ectodermal = Vata

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

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

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

Mesodermal= Pitta

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

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

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

Endodermal= Kapha

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

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

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