Pregnancy & TTC favourites: Books, Apps, Supplements, OPKs & all things Baby!

baby lying on white fur with brown blanket
Photo by kelvin octa on Pexels.com

Sorry not sorry that the baby spam starts now…! I’d look away if this isn’t your thing… 🙂 you’ve been warned!

In this post I’ll cover:

  • Supplements
  • Books
  • Apps
  • Podcasts
  • Books
  • Mummy youtubers
  • The technical stuff – tests, OPKs, sperm friendly lube etc!

But first, I just need a quick natter with you guys!

It’s crazyyyyyyy to be expecting our little cub after so much planning…! I am the kind of crazy person who before we even started trying (like, months before) had done ALL the research, read all the books, listened to all the podcasts, read all the blogs and articles and magazines and watched all the youtube videos. I was on special supplements well over 4 months before we started trying and went to see my nutritionist to discuss my ‘planning to conceive’ diet and check my supplements, and had loads of chats with Boy about his nutrition and supplements too and he was even taking the Wellman Pregnacare trying to conceive ones before we were trying – we were checking his zinc levels and all sorts haha! (You can buy the Pregnacare Him & Her pack for couples here which will have you both covered!)

I get that not everyone would want to be that prepped, and also that some people are more spontaneous – totally fair! We’d known for about a year that we were ready, and we just wanted to wait for the wedding in December to be sorted so I could enjoy my champagne (!), my training contract to end so I was a fully qualified lawyer, and Boy’s probation to be over as he changed jobs during the year. We then had a month to get healthy and back on track post Xmas, so the trying point was set to Jan 2020 and we expected it to take 6 months to a year to conceive (that’s totally normal for healthy couples our age). I know that doesn’t match what we told people our plans were, but we wanted to keep it private and pressure free.

Also, it seems it paid off, because we had expected to be trying for a year and then bam! First try, we had a little cub!

So, OTT though all that planning might be (I can’t help being over-prepared!), it means I’ve collated some useful resources that you may or may not fancy trying if you’re a mum, about to become one, or just super keen to know what you’re in for before you start your TTC journey (trying to conceive for anyone who hasn’t yet stalked all the mummy corners of the internet!). So much of this stuff is personal taste and unique to you, so you might haaaate the things I love, but here are just a few resources that helped me feel prepared!

These are my pregnancy & #TTC  favourites, covering everything from nutrition, wellbeing, keeping baby healthy, fertility and maximising your chances of conceiving, baby psychological development, and keeping sane on the pregnancy new mum journey… plus the ever-terrifying and intriguing topic of labour/childbirth aka the stuff of most girls’ nightmares! Knowing more can take some of the fear out, so get reading gals.

Supplements

Pregnacare – before conception

I took these for 4+ months before we started trying which is potentially overkill, but 3-4 months in advance is good, and 3 months ahead of trying is apparently when you ideally need to begin building up your folic acid stores especially.

We also got these joint packs about 2 months before so Boy could be on the right stuff too:

Pregnacare – him & her conception for couples trying for a baby

As soon as I was pregnant I switched to these Pregnacare  Plus ones which also include omega 3s for brain and eye development 🙂

Books

Of course, being a book obsessive, before we were even trying I ordered a tonne of stuff to get reading up on everything I wanted to know on Amazon. These are the ones I’d recommend you give a go too! For me, I just felt like if you’re going to try for a baby, obviously you want TTC information, but also it’s important to know what you’re in for! The most useful were easily the Henrietta Norton Pregnancy Nutrition Guide, Your Baby Your Birth by Hollie De Cruz, Hypnobirthing: Practical Ways to Make your Birth Better by Siobhan Miller, and The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill (it didn’t make me feel v positive haha but it’s super informative and helpful and worth a read anyway).

Apps

  • Clue – (free!) this was my go to for period/fertility tracking in the period before we were properly trying, just to familiarize myself with my cycle, so I’d know the dates of my periods and rough fertility windows etc. but then I changed to a different one which if you’re TTC is more accurate because in Clue, you can’t log ovulation tests. In the app below, you can log what your ovulation tests say and it feeds into the algorithm and re-calculates your dates!
  • Glow – (the basic version is free, and is super extensive but I did upgrade to premium as they did 40% off for the new year!) I downloaded this before we were TTC officially and I used the info I had from Clue about my cycle to input all my previous periods. This one is a lot more involved. Clue lets you track emotions and sex as well as periods, for example, but with Glow you can go the whole TTC 9 yards (TMI possibly, but you can include if you were on the bottom or top, or had sex multiple times, log your cervical mucus consistency (this is something I never thought I’d care about when I was younger haha, and you can also log, believe it or not, whether or not your orgasmed!) It also lets you record your basal body temperature so you can really hone in on the ovulation day predictions. You can also track your stress levels, join groups (and weirdly even talk to women on the same cycle as you, but I must admit I didn’t do that!) Anyway, this was so helpful, and I might do a proper review of the app on here if you guys might find more details useful?! It also has meditations if you subscribe to premium, both for general life and de-stressing, and also fertility-specific meditations. But key for me was that while it and Clue looked equally accurate (they initially predicted the same fertile window), Glow updates according to your ovulation tests (it turned out I was ovulating a day earlier than it thought!)
  • Glow nurture – once pregnant, I used the Glow sister app to track Cub’s development 🙂 ❤
  • RelaxMelodies – for keeping calm and helping me sleep, and de-stressing (you need to reduce stress as much as possible while TTC and pregnant!)
  • Freya – this is The Positive Birth Company App and helps with breathing exercises to try to reduce pain and stop you freaking out during labour. I’m all about trying to learn these kinds of techniques in advance! You can also use it to time contractions when the time comes…!
  • Peanut – I’ve heard the founder interviewed loads. She is an amazing entrepreneur and mum, and this is like tinder for mums, to help you meet friends who will also have little ones and be around at the same times as you (and help you find like-minded mums so you don’t end up bored out of your brain on nappy chat if that’s not your thing!) I joined a bit early and spoke to some TTC mamas too!

Courses

I’ve done the Hypnobirthing Digital Pack by The Positive Birth Company which was comforting, and I’m now doing their Post Natal course which teaches you what to expect in the period immediately after birth, and recovery from their, feeding, all that jazz!

Podcasts

These two episodes from Rhiannon Lambert’s Food for Thought:

Also, every single episode on Made by Mammas. I’m addicted to this podcast – it will answer ALL your questions on ALL aspects of pregnancy and having a baby!

I also love Get your Glow Back by Madeleine Shaw, and Happy Mum, Happy Baby by Giovanna Fletcher.

These are just a few but there are loads out there, I guess it just depends what you like.

Blogs

Made by Mammas (by Zoe and Georgia, who do the podcast of the same name!)

And then I was lucky enough to already know of two mummy bloggers as we were friends at school years ago for a bit – Sarah over at Whimsical Mumblings and Kerry Conway at Lived with Love .

I also discovered Kayla Buell on my TTC googlings and she has a blog over at Lost Gen Y Girl that I also found helpful.

Plus the gorgeous and glamorous Rose – of The Londoner fame, who was an old fave lifestyle, fashion and general recipe blogger of mine – now has a baby and so does some posts on mum and baby life which are helpful. (Ps an old non-mum fave: check out her recipe for Slutty Brownies!)

I didn’t discover her until I was pregnant, but Lucie and the Bump is great too, and I like following her because she’s just a couple of weeks ahead of me in her second pregnancy.

Mummy youtubers

I am very particular about the youtubers I watch, and I struggle with mum youtubers sometimes. These are the ones I like, most others I struggle with. Always keen for recommendations though!

  • Fleur De Force & Fleur De Vlog (I love that Fleur didn’t start as a mum vlogger, she’s first and foremost herself doing mostly beauty, fashion and lifestyle but NATURALLY her life changed once she found out she was having a baby, and I love her pregnancy vlogs etc. I find her really relatable and maybe one of the youtube mums I feel like I’d be similar to, so I really like and relate to the style of her videos. Also her little girl River Wren is ADORABLE and I REALLY RESPECT Fleur’s decision not to feature River too much and put her all over the internet and keep it about River’s choice as she gets older!)
  • Kerry Conway (we went to school together so maybe I’m biased haha but I love following her adventures with her 3 girls and her husband back where I grew up. Loads of helpful info and tips, and she juggles motherhood with entrepreneurial work which is great!)
  • Kayla Buell (most US based mommy vlogs haven’t been my cup of tea but I love Kayla’s videos! At the time of writing she has a little girl called Riley and is about to pop with her baby boy! I love that she was smart, educated, with a career but fully owned her choice to say “screw the haters, I want to be a stay at home mum”)**
  • Lucieandthebump – I discovered Lucie when I was almost 10 weeks pregnant and she’s at 14 weeks so a little bit ahead so it’s fun to follow her journey as we’re so close with where we’re at! She does other content too that I don’t really follow so much.
  • Jessica Hover – she has a couple of baby 101 and newborn tips videos that seem like they’ll be super useful**

**with these American ones, if you’re an atheist like me, the religion can get a bit much, so usually I skip any of those parts!

The technical stuff – tests, OPKs etc.

So I was determined not to use ovulation kits and not to obsess and just enjoy our period of trying when we first talked about it. That went out of the window for various reasons, including Boy having to travel for work and us wanting to maximise our chances… obviously at this point we had no idea it would happen first cycle. So… we ordered the OPKs and then I ordered a BBT thermometer to be extra careful. Here are my technical bits & pieces that I’d recommend.

  • Clearblue ovulation test advanced digital – these are pricier than the super cheap ones on Amazon, but I wanted a clear, definitive answer on fertility, not to stress about whether there was a line or not! You have a super clear smiley face if you’re ovulating, and a flashing smiley if you’re high fertility. Simple. Stress-free!
  • Clearblue digital pregnancy tests, especially the Clearblue Pregnancy Early Detection Triple Check kit – these just feel more reliable to me to confirm what you’ve seen on a cheapie, but obviously they’re too expensive to keep shelling out for if you’re testing a lot, so also invest in the below!
  • ‘One Step’ test strips (Amazon cheapie pregnancy tests!) – life savers if you’re getting obsessive in the two week wait. You get x50 in this pack and don’t have to pay a fortune. Obvs I now have millions left over that I didn’t end up using haha… oops!
  • Pre-seed lube – apparently regular lube can kill swimmers (fact of the day haha!), and even if you don’t normally need or want lube, if you’re having a lot more sex than normal to try, trust me – buy some of this! Makes everything super easy, and it’s sperm friendly. Woo!
  • Femometer Digital Basal Body Thermometer – accurate to 1/100th of a degree, it also has its own app to help you chart and tell when you’re going to ovulate, but I also tracked my results into my Glow app.

Your recommendations…?

I am obsessed, as you can tell, with learning what the hell I’m in for as I want to be as well prepared, happy and healthy as I can be so that in turn our little cub is super happy and healthy too… so any books, pods, apps, you name it, hit me up!

Also please, PLEASE share your fave pregnancy workouts and any youtubers you think I might like who are similar to the above.

How crazy is this?!! I can’t even explain how excited we both are ❤

B xoxox

New rituals & health habits | my morning wellness routine January 2020

body stretching yoga beauty
Photo by Roman Davayposmotrim on Pexels.com

So you may have seen on instagram I became a bit sporadic posting in early Jan this year, and then went offline for a few days with some health stuff.

Nothing like something feeling wrong with your body to make you focus on taking care of yourself, right?

I usually rely on my hardcore boxing workouts in mornings, but in giving my body a break I established a new morning routine that has definitely helped me heal and get better.

Sleeping in

Rather than a 6.30 start for hardcore workouts, I let myself sleep in til 7.30ish.

Yoga

I started trying to start 4 out of 5 working days a week with a 10 minute yoga flow. No videos, no structure, just listening to relaxing music, moving my body and finding what feels good a la Yoga with Adriene’s philosophy.

Cutting caffeine

I’d then, post yoga, wash up, clean my teeth, dress and make my way to the kitchen where I drink peppermint tea, a weak green tea, and/or plain old hot water to start my day.

Handful of spinach

I don’t eat breakfast until I get to work at 9.30 but during my morning down-time, I started grabbing a handful of spinach to munch on, so I know I’ve got a hit of some good stuff first thing in the morning. Spinach is amazing – just one cup contains, according to Medicalnewstoday.com:

Downtime

I’d then chill out and read a book, or watch an episode of One Tree Hill (guilty pleasure from my younger days!) before I have to leave for work.

Meditation

Some days I’d also do a 10 minute guided meditation (usually a Jody Shield one, or via the Tone It Up app).

Better breakfasts

Instead of being sporadic with breakfast at work, I’ve decided to opt (every work day) for something I know gets as many nutrients, antioxidants, a good burst of fibre and keeps my blood sugar levels steady with slow-release energy as possible – I make blueberry, banana & cinnamon porridge by microwaving plain quaker oats (1 sachet) with water for 2 minutes, stirring in a lot of cinnamon, a handful of fresh blueberries and chopping up 1 small banana on top. Voila! Even when I’m not hungry, I have this at my desk at 9.30 and it’s meant I’ve already got 3 portions of fruit & veg in (the spinach at home first thing included!) before lunch, and I don’t get hangry later in the day or crash out of energy.

Verdict?

So, while I do want to get my boxing back and feel better, putting self-care first and allowing my body the rest it needs has taught me some valuable lessons, especially how much you have to work at keeping your stress levels down! But I feel like all of these things have helped me de-stress, helped my body return to normal and I’m hoping my hormones should all be balanced out now.

I’m definitely going to keep up the caffeine free habit, the handful of spinach, and incorporating as much yoga and meditation into my day as I can.

I’m also going to keep up the better breakfasts, but some days I may swap the blueberry-cinnamon-banana porridge for raspberry, goji berry and maca or blue spirulina just to get a bit of variety.

Some other elements of my January self-care I’ve been loving (not morning-specific!) are:

  • being alcohol free;
  • warm baths with essential oils (rose and jasmine are my faves at the moment!) and epsom & himalayan salts;
  • focussing on getting as many portions of fruit and veg in per day as I can, as per usual but ramping this up to as near to 10 a day as possible!;
  • eating whole foods;
  • cooking from scratch as much as possible;
  • experimenting with new recipes, and being more adventurous with vegetarian recipes for Boy and I; and
  • making as many of our meals plant-based as we can

What are your January wellness routines or rituals (morning or evening!) that you’re hoping to hang on to for the rest of the year?

B xoxoxo

My top 6 food, fitness & wellness podcasts

woman inside studio
Photo by The Teens Network Daytime Show Studios on Pexels.com

I don’t know about you, but I’m addicted to podcasts for my commute, for spicing up boring admin tasks, and for keeping me company while I’m cooking in the kitchen.

I just wanted to share some of my favourites in the realms of food, fitness, wellbeing, health and all that jazz that you might like to give a little listen 🙂

So here you go! In no particular order:

1. Talking Tastebuds, by Venetia Falconer

I love this one. Venetia Falconer is a vegan and sustainability guru but this isn’t a vegan podcast. She explores amazing food-related topics, health, wellness but also ideas around activism, mental health, and society, interviewing an amazing range of guests. Definitely check it out. Easy and fun to listen to.

2. Food for Thought, by Rhiannon Lambert

Rhiannon Lambert is a super-smart, highly qualified Harley Street nutritionist and her podcast explores all kinds of nutrition-related topics and issues with amazingly qualified guests. Definitely one to inform and bust some myths!

3. The Doctor’s Kitchen, by Dr Rupy Aujla

I love Rupy’s philosophy of food is medicine – he discusses all kinds of health topics and the role food can play, and interviews some great people. A good commuter podcast.

4. The Rich Roll Podcast

The episodes can be long and occassionally a bit woo, but Rich is an incredible example of what we can achieve. He found himself overweight and an alcoholic approach mid life crisis, and almost overnight turned his life around, becoming vegan, and becoming an ultra-endurance athlete achieving incredible things. He explores fitness, nutrition, wellness and spirituality with long, meandering, chilled conversations with a range of guests. Pop on in the background if you’re working on boring admin tasks!

5. Feel Better, Live More by Dr Rangan Chatterjee

Much like The Doctor’s Kitchen, this is another podcast by a medical doctor who explores nutrition, fitness and lifestyle issues and questions. A great one to help you live a healthier, happier life.

6. Fit & Fearless, by The Girl Gains (Zanna Van Dijk, Tally Rye and Victoria Spence)

A BBC 5 Live podcast hosted by young, kick ass female PT and influencers, this is a positive, upbeat and uplifting podcast where the girls chat all things health and fitness, bust workout myths, interview leaders in their fields (athletes, nutritionists, you name it!) and give you a much-needed confidence boost to love yourself and your body, and to find workouts you enjoy. A girl power podcast that’s not just for the girls. A nice pre-gym motivator.

What do you think?

Any others you’d recommend? I also love podcasts more generally that aren’t just on health/fitness/food but wanted to share these first as I think they’re really great introductions to these topics by people who are experts in their respective fields, and/or super super inspiring.

B xoxox

Train Happy by Tally Rye – An Honest Review | Intuitive fitness, intuitive eating and new approaches to exercise

train happy

Fitness fads come and go, and every January you see new books on fitness and food released, ready to ride the wave and cash in on the ‘New Year, new you’ mindset that so many kick off the year with. One of the new books out is Tally’s ‘Train Happy’.

I wanted to read and review ‘Train Happy: An Intuitive Exercise Plan for Every Body’ by Tally Rye (Train Happy is available from Amazon here) to chat to you guys about it and let you know if it’s worth the hype (spoiler alert: yes it is!)

This isn’t another book that’s out to make false promises, coax money from you by promising to make you skinny, or to continue feeding diet culture myths of ‘thin = happier’, and ‘slim white bodies are the only healthy bodies’.

This book is a disruptor in an industry that has long needed it. Tally has been kicking back against diet culture (definition below) and promoting intuitive eating on her social channels for a while now, explaining how she experienced first-hand the power of this to transform her life. In a recent interview on the latest (as of 13 Jan 2020) episode of nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert’s podcast Food for Thought, Tally explained how waking up to diet culture and recovering from obsessive approaches to exercise and equating health and happiness with getting smaller has freed up more time for a balanced life – seeing friends, reading more, becoming more politically active – and moving for joy.

What is ‘diet culture’ exactly?

According to expert Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN 

“Diet culture is a system of beliefs that:

  • Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.”
  • Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.
  • Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.
  • Oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health,” which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health.”

Tally refuses to continue participating in the fitness industry model of ‘make your

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Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

self smaller and life will be better’. She is the first to advocate for the benefits of exercise (both physical health and mental health-related, better overall wellbeing, brain changes, you name it!) but her mission is to show how these can be achieved by moving for joy, and doing what you like, not forcing yourself to pump iron at the expense of your happiness.

So here are my honest thoughts on her brand new book, which is close to my heart as I have written about half a book [unpublished obvs! I wrote it about a year ago I think] on similar topics (not the same, but similar theme!) so clearly it’s a topic that means a lot to me.

‘Train Happy’ – review

Tally deals with a lot in a very upbeat, simple, accessible book. Touching on diet culture, body confidence, body neutrality, body positivity and its origins in the 1960s Fat Acceptance movement, the book crams a lot into a small space but doesn’t feel overwhelming, and successfully delivers what it promises – something to make you stop and think about how and why you eat and train the way you do.

I love Tally’s description of her journey into fitness, and how she moved from her previous ‘diet culture’ and restriction mentality to discovering a healthier, intuitive approach.

Tally advocates for all of the benefits of exercise (of which, yes, there are many physical health benefits!) and encourages everyone to:

  • let how you look stop taking up so much brain space, leaving room for a happier, more fulfilled, balanced life, and
  • focus on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of fitness – how does it make YOU feel?

It is the ultimate bible to teach intuitive fitness, an approach which sits well (although it doesn’t have to!) alongside intuitive eating. What is intuitive fitness? This Stylist article on intuitive fitness quotes Tally Rye and sums it up perfectly:

“Intuitive exercise is understanding what your body needs to do. It’s saying ‘life is really crazy right now, I don’t want to go and do an intense class. What I need to do is some meditation or a gentle walk while listening to a podcast.’ Or, equally, it’s saying ‘I was going to do yoga today but I’ve woken up with a ton of energy and so I’m going to go for a run.’ It’s giving yourself room to be flexible with your training and do what feels good on a daily basis.”

~ Tally Rye, in Stylist Magazine

The emphasis is on learning to listen to your body and stop punishing yourself, forcing things, and engaging in harmful behaviours like obsessing or giving up sleep and social life to over-exercise. Tally promotes movement and all of its positives but argues that it should enhance your life and be a joyful experience, not adding to your stress-levels.

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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

I love her approach that you know your body far better than any fitness tracker ever could, and find her tips for moving towards this mindset invaluable.

One thing I also love about Tally’s book is she practices what she preaches on social media about going to qualified people for qualified advice. As a PT, yes Tally is qualified on the fitness end of things, but when talking about nutrition she defers to voices like Laura Thomas PhD, a registered nutritionist, and she includes experts from other fields including academic and social theorist Naomi Wolf, and also professional body confidence coaches.

The book is the best medicine for removing any shame and guilt you feel around food and fitness, and giving you the tools you need to implement a balanced fitness regime.

It includes bodyweight workouts which are perfect for anyone who does not have

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Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

the time, money or access to a gym or tonnes of expensive gym equipment. The plan at the end is an amazing introduction to this brand new lifestyle and way of thinking. There are plenty of examples of valuable ways of moving your body, busting any myths that training has to be hardcore in a dimly lit studio with army-like instructors yelling at you.

Crucially, the book has beautiful illustrations of women of all shapes and sizes and diverse models – it truly does embody inclusive fitness for all.

Who is Tally?

For anyone who happens to have missed her somehow, Tally is an influencer (Tally’s instagram is here), Personal Trainer, Group Instructor and co-host of the Fit And Fearless podcast on BBC 5 Live. You may also like to check out her website at http://www.tallyrye.co.uk

Should you buy ‘Train Happy’?

Basically – is it worth the money? You bet! And at the time of writing this (15 Jan 2020) it’s only £8.99 in a beautiful hard back edition on amazon so go get it gang!

B xoxox

You may also like…

This article in the Telegraph: Fitness blogger Tally Rye on choosing health and happiness over abs

New Year’s Resolutions – Yes or No?! Goal-setting, fitness & food |Hello 2020!

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Happy New Year everyone, first of all! Hope you all had a great Xmas and NYE, but if you didn’t… don’t sweat it!

I had such an amazing time with the wedding in mid December, a lovely mini moon… but then got plunged back in to work stress, then Xmas, and then because of the lack of routine, training and good nutrition my mood massively acted up, then I was unwell… so not necessarily the strong ‘GOALS’ end to 2019 that you tend to hope for and envisage.

But it’s a New Year now… and everyone seems to be either on their ‘New Year, New Me’ campaign OR posting a lot about how it’s silly to make unsustainable resolutions and we’re all fine just as we are.

You may or may not have seen my recent insta post on this, which I’ve pasted below which covers my stance on this – namely, BOTH ARE VALID. There’s nothing wrong with goals and transformation and resolving to do/try/achieve new things IF the motivation is positive. But you also should hopefully have your base level of self-confidence and self-acceptance and knowing that you don’t NEED to do anything, you’re fine just as you are, it’s just whether you WANT TO. Here’s the insta post:

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS 🎇🎆 yay or nay?💡 (link to post here)
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This is an old pic I found that I took in autumn 2019 at my fave spot in LDN to reflect.
There’s a mix of dialogue each Jan it seems – people who gun for all the resolutions & « new year, new you » & people who hate the idea & say there’s no need, you’re enough as you are.
✅BOTH ARE TRUE✅
The question is ALWAYS why are you doing what you’re doing? If it’s for you, feels good or important to you & doesn’t come from external pressures or stress or poor mental health/body image, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH SETTING RESOLUTIONS.
You can set goals at any time of year but New Year always functions to make people think, & that’s no bad thing.
If you do set goals, make sure they’re coming from the right place and not to please others or do what you think you « should ». My areas of focus for 2020 are:
⭐️writing more
⭐️after a decade of work coming first, to prioritise friends & family
⭐️giving CBT another chance, and to reinstate my meditation practice
⭐️to keep enjoying training & eating 🍽 in whatever way works for me, & knowing that this varies throughout the year
🔒some private & personal goals I don’t want to share on the gram! 🤫
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I find all the chatter around whether you should/shouldn’t make resolutions misses the point! It adds to the pressure/guilt/shame when we should all be freeing up our time and mental resources to CHOOSE & to ACT.
😘
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PS I completed my health & mindfulness coaching certs last year, an Ayurvedic self care course the year before & I’m still working on my nutritional therapy diploma. I have limited spots available if you want to work with me 1:1 on your mindset & relationship with you, movement and eating to help you get confident and shift focus away from aesthetics to health, mood & feeling great (NOT a replacement for Drs and nutritionists if you have an ed or ednos!). Slide into my DMs or check out my webby {LINK IN BIO}

The below is my two cents based on years of food and fitness training, studying and my ed recovery, but before we get into food and fitness resolutions PLEASE CONSIDER making other new year’s resolutions such as:

  • travel to X country
  • read X number of books this year
  • save X towards a house / travelling
  • see more of your friends and family (e.g. set up a first Thursday of the month catch up with old friends!)
  • learn a language / take a new class
  • try a new hobby
  • cut down on Netflix and scrolling
  • have more sex
  • try reading some self-development books

Basically, goal-based resolutions that aren’t about body image or weight or workouts or fitness or anything like that. I really regret letting food issues consume so much of my time in the past – I mean, bloody hell, there’s so much other stuff we could be doing that’s way more worthwhile!

Setting fitness & nutrition resolutions

Fix your mindset first

If you are going to set goals, my first piece of advice is DON’T ‘diet’. Have a real think about what you want to achieve and why, and if you have any insecurities or poor relationships with fitness and / or food, do some work on these. Consider seeing a nutritionist and / or doctor for anything serious (EDs, EDNOS, incidences where it severely affects your day to day life) as a matter of priority, but also consider seeing a private nutritionist or therapist to do an overall check that you’re healthy, and that you have a healthy mindset.

Then, once you’re sure you aren’t unconsciously carrying out disordered eating habits and likely to compound any problems, you can think about things like losing fat and changing your body composition if you want to.

But honestly, the best resolution you can make when it comes to your body is to try to learn to love it, or if you can’t love it, accept it.

There are so many ways to go about this. My journey took years and involved learning about the science of nutrition and starting to actually care about nourishing my body, fixing some long term deep seated issues and facing some trauma, some therapy, some work with a nutritionist, lots of conversations with my partner (now husband!), soul searching, endless reading and meditation. Your journey might look completely different.

Fitness and food goals: how to do it!

Educate yourself and seek advice from professionals rather than copying some celebrity with zero credentials. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s free to follow highly qualified nutritionists on Instagram, or doctors (try @rhitrition and @thefoodmedic) and both of these women have highly informative books. They also have great podcasts, as does Dr Chaterjee, and The Doctor’s Kitchen.

Then focus on moving more. The best way to do this is to:

  1. Find workouts you love so you’re moving for joy first and foremost, health second, and aesthetics last if at all. I love boxing. I recently got into primal movement. I also love so many forms of dance. I don’t love weightlifting – tried it for ages because everyone was doing it, but it doesn’t make me happy, so I ditched it.
  2. That said, strive for BALANCE. By this, I mean a couple of things. Don’t just hammer your body with high intensity workouts, but don’t neglect your cardio vascular health by just doing gentle yoga where you never increase your heart rate or break a sweat. Don’t just run and be a cardio bunny and neglect some form of strength and weight-bearing exercise (this can be bodyweight, it doesn’t have to mean barbells!) Strive for a balanced programme, which also includes rest and recovery days, and listening to your body. Over-training is not good, just as a totally sedentary lifestyle isn’t good either.
  3. Focus on foods you should add in to your diet, rather than ‘cutting out’. This is easy, and effective. Get as many veggies in as possible. Up your fibre. Get good, lean proteins. Have your healthy fats. Consider probiotics, and take a Vitamin D supplement in winter. Consult a professional for tailored supplementation advice to you.
  4. Adhere to NHS guidelines on drinking alcohol. Goes without saying, but you can only benefit (body and mind!) by cutting this down or out.
  5. Pay attention to portion sizes (and unless you have an important medically-recommended reason I’d personally advise that you don’t calorie or macro count)- palm size of protein, fistful of carbs, thumb tip of healthy fats – simple!
  6. Don’t cut out treats altogether or do anything drastic. Cut down. Try for something that balances pleasure with health, and make it sustainable. Remember food is also there to be enjoyed.
  7. Don’t buy into the myth that you need tonnes of protein shakes or workout supplements. Chances are, if you’re not bodybuilding and you’re eating a balanced diet of 3 good meals a day, you don’t need a protein shake that often is calorically close to an additional meal, and doesn’t have half the nutrients.
  8. Try not to let food and fitness consume you’re life. They should be tools to help you live your best life, not the be-all-and-end-all.
  9. Remember weight loss might technically be calories in vs calories out but it’s NOT THAT SIMPLE – different people absorb and digest foods differently, different types of food and nutrients are absorbed and used differently by the body, so the best way to guarantee sustainable and long-term health and a size you’re happy with is to move frequently, in a balanced way, and eat wholefoods as much as possible, lots of plants, eat the rainbow, keep it balanced, and do this over a long period of time – i.e. for life! Usually your body will find its happy set-point, and as you move more and build muscle, perhaps lose excess fat if that’s your goal (although remember fat shaming is unacceptable and health is possible at a much bigger range of sizes than we’ve previously been led to believe!) as well as flood your system with endorphins, you’ll find a great medium where you look and feel good.

Hope this helps and gives you some food for thought!

What are your resolutions (if any) this year?

B xoxox

Things not to say over the festive season |Food, Christmas & Body Image

bake bakery baking candy
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Christmas is a time of year most people are crazily excited about… it often seems the only ones who aren’t are those with family difficulties and those who have suffered a loss. But there’s also a group that tries to stay unseen over Christmas and so gets overlooked:

While often forgotten, people with eating disorders, disordered eating and/or body image issues can really struggle at Christmas.

Food is pushed front and centre not just on December 25th, but in the month leading up to it – mince pies, chocolate and treats flood the office, mulled wine is everywhere, party invites and dinners and drinks keep coming… and then again afterwards right up until New Year. Not to mention all the chocolates that get gifted that lie around for ages into January and February…

And people talk NON STOP about how calories don’t count at Christmas, how they’ll ‘be good’ in January, how much turkey they plan to eat…

There’s so much loaded language around ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food (remember: no food is good or bad or intrinsically moral – there are foods that are more and less nutrient dense) and this dialogue is normally pretty constant. At Christmas it can go into overdrive.

If you suffer (or have previously suffered) with EDs, disordered eating or body image issues you will know what a toll Christmas can take on your mental health and how difficult it can be to not only have so much public focus on food, but constant commentary on what you eat (or choose not to eat):

  • “Go on, it’s Christmas!”
  • “Have another one, go onnnnn!”
  • “Don’t you like mince pies?”
  • “Calories don’t count at Christmas, you can burn it off in the new year!”
  • “You’re tiny, what are you talking about! Have some!”
  • “Please finish those off so that I don’t, I’m trying to be good.”
  • “Oh no, I’m being good now so I can go crazy on Christmas day!”
  • “Why aren’t you drinking?”
  • “If you’re not hungry, just have a piece of cake, it’s amazing!”
  • “It’s nice to see you finally eat something!”
  • “I’ve never seen you eat that much!”

The list goes on, and on. And what seems innocent on the surface can actually be at best, a bit stressful, and at worst, quite traumatic.

So this is a plea from someone who has been there, stressed, eaten and made her self sick at Christmas – please don’t say the above, or the below.

Please don’t comment on other peoples’ food choices.

Please don’t ask why someone isn’t drinking, or is eating that.

Please don’t comment on how much or little people are eating.

Not at home, not at the office, not to friends or family.

If you are concerned about someone, there’s a serious conversation to be had, but that is very different from “oh you shouldn’t be dieting over Christmas!” or “why aren’t you having any of this…?”

Those comments aren’t productive. They can trigger people, make them anxious and encourage damaging behavior, entrenching already-difficult beliefs and emotions about peoples’ relationships with food and their bodies.

If you need to understand more about eating disorders, check out these pages on eating problems at Mind.

For now, though, just be compassionate, and respect that food is personal. Don’t pile on pressure and stress by constantly referencing it – EDs and disordered eating aren’t always visible, and you never know who’s listening.

B xoxoxo

Have a greener (not Grinch-ier!) Christmas: Simple Sustainability Tips

I don’t know about you, but every single day I feel a bit sick about the amount of plastic packaging we see everywhere – and yes, I’m an eco-hypocrite because I have my plastic kobox bottles, for example (although I reuse them as much as I can!), or buy the odd innocent green smoothie which is of course in a plastic bottle (and many other eco-sins, I’m sure!).

Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg have brought sustainability to the attention of the mainstream and it’s starting to (finally!) be cool for normal people to care about the planet – no longer the realm of tree-hugging hippies (nothing wrong with being this, but it’s just less relatable for many of us!), the online world is starting to embrace sustainability and eco-consciousness.

Xmas is a time of year most people LOVE (I’m less big on it myself, but trying to get less grinchy so that I’m more fun for my family!) but it’s also filled with waste, waste, waste.

Here are some simple hacks for trying to make your Xmas more sustainable this year, and if you try them you’re not alone – I’m working to implement them too! They’re easy and unobtrusive so they won’t ruin your holiday, and just remember – every little action makes a little difference, and if we all made changes it would be AMAZING!

Xmas (Christmas to you religious folks!) is a Christian festival that derives from Pagan Yule/Winter Solstice, and the pagans were waaaaaaaaaaaay more in touch with nature, so in a lot of ways, going back to a greener, more natural Xmas is going back to the heart of it.

Greener gifts

The greenest thing we can do is probably to not buy gifts at all, but I know for lots of you that won’t feel like an option. Hell, my other half and I have actually campaigned for this for years, believe it or not, but my family are steadfast present people and it’s hard not to buy some things. So I think the options are:

  • Experience gifts – I feel like these are the best way to go! Take someone to dinner, or to the theatre or cinema, or cook them an amazing meal and take them out to do their favourite activity.
  • Hand-make gifts… can you bake cookies for someone, make sloe gin for someone else (both amazing gifts I’ve received in the past!) Can you paint or write or draw something for someone? Or if you’re a musician, write music for someone?
  • Buy vintage or second-hand… we all are starting to wake up to how bad the fast fashion industry is, and so consider going vintage or thrifting for fashion lovers in your life. Charity shops may not have seemed sexy options in the past, but you’d be surprised what gems you can occasionally pick up.
  • Make donations to the persons’ favourite charity – for our wedding, we asked for donations to Girls Not Brides instead of gifts. For animal lovers, you could donate to WWF for Xmas, or the RSPCA. For eco-warriors, pick a charity that’s helping the planet like Friends of the Earth or the Environmental Working Group . For arts lovers, donate to a project or ballet company… you get the idea.
  • Shop at more ethical and sustainable places (although while it’s better to buy more sustainable items, remember we also need to reduce consumption generally to be truly sustainable – no matter how biodegradable the gift!)– ideas include The Body Shop, Lush, Positive Luxury, The AceyThe Deep, and sustainable brands like Reformation and Stay Wild Swim.
  • Reduce the list of who to buy for – can you just buy for peoples’ kids, for example, and do a ‘no presents for adults rule’?
  • Don’t use that plasticy-wrapping paper – you know, the metallic style ones? They’re actually metalised-plastic and non-recyclable.
  • Try to save and re-use wrapping paper and gift bags! Or better yet, don’t wrap at all!
  • Give lovely gifts that may help and educate – for example, Max La Manna’s amazing book More Plants, Less Waste is a delicious recipe book and teaches you how to produce less waste… win win. Or check out the recipe books below with plant-based recipes which will help you change your diet for a better planet (you don’t have to be vegan to reduce your meat and animal product consumption!)

Consider your Christmas Tree

If you already have a fake tree, get as MUCH USE OUT OF IT AS POSSIBLE, but the thing about plastic trees is they eventually will end up in landfill.

If you must buy a fake tree, try ebay and gumtree for a secondhand one.

If you’re going for a real tree, the best option is finding a farm where you can cut your own, but that may not be possible for everyone.

The next best thing is to find locally grown trees where you can.

This article by Eco Age gives you the full lowdown on how to make sure your Xmas tree is more sustainability friendly, and even gives options for renting a Christmas tree!

Eat more plants!

Xmas is very often a ‘bring out the meat!’ fest, but if we all reduce our animal product consumption just a bit it can make a huge difference for the planet’s health (and our own!)

No-one is saying you have to go vegan or vegetarian (although by all means do, or try, if you fancy – it’s far better for the planet and there are SO MANY delicious options these days!) but cutting down as much as you can is definitely a good thing.

  • Can you swap pigs in blankets for a more plant-based recipe?
  • Can you make your other meals over the holiday season plant-based?
  • Have you ever tried vegan and vegetarian Christmas food? It’s incredible! Maybe give it a go this year. Or do just a chicken and a veggie dish, rather than 3 massive birds! Anything you can cut down.
  • Can you swap a cheese board for a plant-based dessert?!

Here are some amazing cookbooks to help you find plant-based inspiration:

Learn a little bit more ready for 2020

I don’t want you to get stressed and eco-anxious over the festive season, but I think education is only ever a good thing, especially given that some people feel talking about sustainability at Christmas is ‘grinchy’ and ‘OTT’. We are overwhelmingly in an environmental crisis, unfortunately, but we can do SO MUCH to help, and we just have to be willing to try. You don’t have to live in a hut in the woods and only forage for berries. Just do a little bit.

It might also be good to think of a couple of small things you can try to do for 2020 New Year’s Resolutions. I’m hoping to make mine:

  • No more fast fashion! No buying new clothing for a year
  • Reduce food waste
  • Recycle my beauty product bottles (you can apparently do this via TerraCycle at The Body Shop)

Some resources to get you started include these TV and documentary resources:

And detoxing your social media of rubbish and filling it up with more positive and educational influences like:

Good luck & enjoy!

I hope some of these resonate a little bit or seem achievable. I think little changes bit by bit are the best way to go to make the change sustainable (wheeeeeeeeeey!) for you in the long term.

It doesn’t have to be everything, all at once, but if we all do our best (and instead of attacking everyone else for doing it wrong, or not doing enough, we focus on living our best lives and doing as much as we can ourselves!) it can only be positive.

Happy Xmas from the reluctant Xmas celebrator (I’m more of a pagan at heart haha!)

B xoxoxo

PS. If you liked this post, you might like my Inspire Interview with Venetia Falconer here, my post about my experiment with veganism here, my landing on being a flexitarian here, my 10 simple sustainability hacks to be kinder to the planet  and also this green beauty post.

PPS. for other peoples’ ideas and more on a sustainable / more eco friendly Christmas, check out these articles:

And if you’re interested in the intersection of your health with the planet’s health, here’s some more food for thought and nutrition / diets to save the planet:

 

 

Bye legallygymliving, hi Balance with Bri! Update & name change reasons

So you may have spotted the name change on insta, and now it’s finally surfaced on here (thanks Sarah for the suggestion for what to change it to!) Apologies while I still transition some of the historical links across (and some links between posts may now play up, so fingers crossed everything works asap!)

I’ve been wanting to update the name for a long time because while legallygymliving worked for me once upon a time, when fitness for me very much meant a gym-focus, and when my law studies and getting ready to start my training contract felt like one of the most important things, it made sense.

My account had other names before legallygymliving including xoxofitgossipgirl (LOL!) and started out as me documenting my health and fitness journey – mostly instagramming what I was eating (I now realise – too little, and too ‘clean’/obsessive – see this post An Apology for more about this journey) and my BBG Kayla Itsines workouts.

While social media has its negatives, for me, it has transformed my relationship with my body and food. I was lucky enough to come across positive figures who have helped me no end with my nutrition philosophy. Food has gone from being an enemy to something I’m fascinated by – how to get the maximum nutrition into my body with maximum enjoyment, and create nourishing recipes that taste great (no more low carb or low calorie obsessions!) Rhiannon Lambert’s philosophy of ‘nutrients not numbers’ is very much mine now and I’m happy to say I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in relation to food and body image. (Also – eat the rainbow and eat more plans!)

Social media also let me find new ways of moving – I now adore boxing and primal / animal flows and know that I don’t have to do what the gym fitstagrammers say I have to (ditch cardio and lift heavy – no thanks! Nothing wrong with this, but I’ve learned to move for joy first and foremost, health second, and aesthetics go waaaaay down that list).

So, as you can tell, I now don’t want a name that suggests the gym is the only way to move. I want something that reflects my much more balanced mindset. And part of that is dropping law from the name too. It’s now a job that I do, yes. It’s not part of my identity.

I’ve also been very open about my health struggles over the course of transitioning to a law career which really woke me up to how physical and mental health MUST COME FIRST. I’d never had physical stress symptoms before and to suddenly be getting chronic gastritis, stomach problems, migraines, tonsillitis and repeated panic attacks and a plummeting appetite (and at one point when my boyfriend had to go to New York for a week for work, my dad had to come up and look after me and help me make it in to work) shook me up. I was doing all the right things – healthy diet, healthy exercise regime, meditation, yoga… but still getting ill. And the lesson is just to listen to your mind and body, we’re all different, with different goals, priorities, ways of working etc. and you just need to look after yourself without reference to what other people think you should be doing.

So, what this rambling post is trying to say is – wooooo, I’ve changed my name, and hopefully it’s now more a positive reflection of how I feel about health, fitness, mental wellbeing, physicality, movement, nutrition… which is, basically, ye olde cliché balance.

Balance. Listening to your body. Nutrients not numbers. Moderation. Not counting calories/macros. Not obsessing. Moving for fun. Moving for joy. Moving for health. Different forms of training. No more joyless gym sessions (only fun ones!) and types of training that can be at home, outdoors, anywhere that suits you. Eating more plants, more variety and more colours. And taking care of mental and emotional health too. Looking after your relationships. Taking up non-health-and-fitness-related hobbies. Reading books. Learning. Exploring. Travelling…

You catch my drift.

The Bitch Clinic review, & what is primal movement anyway?!

MK

I wanted to do a post on this because Instagram only gives you so much space…!

The Bitch Clinic is something that has been set up by kick ass queen PT Miranda Fox, initially beginning with pop-up workshop. It currently runs throughout October as a class at Gymbox, Farringdon for #BITCHTOBER.

PS. There’s also one spot left for the class on the 20th so get over to @thebodyweightbitch and @thebitchclinic (links in bio) for tickets…!

BCWhat is The Bitch Clinic & what’s it all about?

It is a movement class (& growing community!) like no other, focused on supporting, inspiring and empowering women.

The physical aspect of the class gets everyone to move their bodies in a natural way and explore new planes of movement (predominantly using primal flow sequences), while ultimately re-wiring our thoughts around ‘exercise’ and ‘working out’, helping people to move away from the obsession with workouts as punishment or weight loss tools and giving women the confidence to embrace how they look and feel, regardless of shape, size or any other aesthetic.

You won’t hear Miranda tell you to torch fat or burn calories or hammer your body into the ground. Each class is small and intimate and starts with a moment gathered together in a circle – yesterday’s class, for example, began with a reflection on how amazing our bodies are and how privileged we actually are to be able-bodied and move the way we do. Miranda then takes the class through a warm up which also includes elements to really tune you in to how body and mind feel.

You then work through some of the movements that will later be combined into a flow sequence, with coaching from Miranda at your own pace to help you improve form and get the most out of everything you’re doing.

PrimalClasses work on a No shoes, No phones, No Egos & no bullshit policy, so everyone completely focuses in on how they’re moving and enjoys the class without the constant distraction of people filming for social media or snapping selfies mid-move (photos before and after ok of course, she won’t bite!)

The pop-up workshops also featured inspiring speakers at each session, with real women telling their stories of all kinds – how movement healed their bodies, how they left violent relationships, an incredible feminist spoken-word poet…

What exactly is ‘primal movement’?

Primal movement, the base of the class, is a way of movement that steps outside the fitness industry box of ‘lets do 10 burpees, 10 deadlifts, 10 push-ups’, and removes the limits and restrictions that so many people find put them off the standard ways of training packaged up and sold to us by gyms. It can be very individual, and utilizes much more of your body rather than working things in complete isolation (and as a result, despite looking less like the workouts you’re used to, can be infinitely more challenging as it’s working strength, balance, flexibility, mobility, and firing smaller accessory muscles that normally don’t get tapped up for more traditional movement!).

Part of the theory goes that our ancestors were super fit, physical beings (and certainly not hunched over desks!) and they didn’t need a tonne of equipment to get that way. They didn’t huddle over phones, laze in front of the TV and hunchback over computers. They also didn’t use treadmills, dumbells, TRX, bench press, barbells… They did, however, know how to use the human body to the best of its ability (so the theory goes).

Still confused?

Primal movement is:

  • a unique way of movement that doesn’t fit into a traditional fitness industry box;
  • a system of movement that uses different directions;
  • movement that often explores being closer to the ground;
  • something that encourages freedom of movement;
  • a whole-body, holistic workout;
  • a method of re-connecting with our bodies and how they are designed to move;
  • a combination of flexibility, strength, balance and stability, cardio and core work;
  • a functional movement method.

Experts, (apparently – see Metro article here), suggest it could hold the key to improving peoples’ strength and fitness at the same time as alleviating chronic lifestyle-triggered pain and illness.

Why I’m loving it and it’s changing the way I train

I’ve written before on Instagram about my experiences at the workshops, and it basically being a workout, a therapy session & a girly catch-up sesh with likeminded women all rolled into one, and there’s also the fact that Miranda is an INCREDIBLE trainer, really knows her stuff, but more importantly lives and breathes it – no bullshit, she’s straight up passionate and authentic and always delivers everything The Bitch Clinic promises.

Lately, I’ve also been advised to reduce the amount of high impact, high intensity work I do by my nutritionist (which is soooo hard for me as I love it, and it tends to get me out of bed during the week!) but admittedly if you’re living a high-stress lifestyle, sometimes flooding your system with MORE cortisol from hardcore workouts isn’t the best idea (plus it can actually impede results).

Primal movement gives me a different feeling after class. It’s not brutal, I don’t feel battered or broken. But I have broken a sweat, I’ve been challenged in new ways, I have a slightly calmer version of the post-workout high – maybe not the full on drug-like buzz of when you’ve beasted circuits, plyometrics and boxing, but a general sense of endorphiny-blissy-but-not-dead feeling of having energized my body rather than drained it of all its physical resources. Plus that’s always coupled with a sense of relaxation and being at peace with myself and my body that I don’t really get anywhere else except yoga savasana, and I definitely don’t get from putting myself through punishing sessions (NOTE: I don’t workout to punish myself EVER, but I recognize some of the higher impact high intensity stuff I love is nonetheless punishing my body, and so for optimum health I really should reduce it!)

Anyway, I can’t recommend giving it a try enough. It’s amazing, it’s challenging, and it yes, it’s totally different, and it can take a while to wrap both body and brain around it, so if you’re nervous or hesitant AT ALL, all I would say is give it a chance, don’t judge it by how tricky it can feel to begin with – and take the opportunity to totally transform your mindset and confidence in your body and yourself with The Bitch Clinic. ❤

B xoxox

Stress free wedding planning!

white and pink flowerson a book beside eyeglasses
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

People tell you how stressful wedding planning is.

How it has to be ‘perfect’.

How it’s manic, how it’s hard, how maybe you need to hire a planner, how you’ll be surprised how quickly the fun of it wears off… Spoiler, I’ve been with Boy for nearly 14 years, engaged for 2.5 years (I think?!) and planning a wedding for a year – and we’re still loving it!!!

There are tonnes of people who like to give you warnings or advice or sagely tell you the troubles they had, and forecast your impending wedding doom.

Honestly? It is a complete myth that it has to be that way.

Here are my two cents and ramblings on:

  1. enjoying planning, without the stress;
  2. money saving tips and budget friendly ideas; and
  3. what does it all mean anyway?!

There are several things you can do to make sure you have a blast instead of a battle with your wedding (and trust me, we have the world’s most complicated family politics so it’s not like we have the classic nuclear happy family with two parents each and a conventional top table – far from it!) But we’ve not had any drama planning at all, and have loved every second. The most difficult thing has been choosing a piece of music for my aisle walk, and one slight confusion over a shade of navy for suits haha. The rest has been a dream!

Please note, though, that everyone is different, obviously every couple is unique – this is just my two cents, and I get that some cultures have a lot more pressure to invite the whole family or include them (which if you can avoid it, if you’re not from those cultures, I’d suggest avoiding and just doing it YOUR way (as in you as a couple, not you solo!) for maximum happiness!)

1. Stress-free planning

What do you want? Boy & I are very lucky that, having been together for bloody ages, we know each other inside out and can always tell if the other one would like something or not. However, we’ve also had a long time to get to know each other’s general vision for life, and how we like things to be done. This really helps when it comes to planning a wedding. But it doesn’t matter if you haven’t grown up together. It just comes down to knowing each other well, communicating, and not being a selfish wedding hog / bridezilla!

The best thing to do to begin with is chat about your priorities. For example, we felt that food, drink and setting were important to us; a small wedding for family and friends but definitely not a huge thing was key, and certain things (like expensive florists, favours, wedding cake) were things we’d like to skip or not worry about or de-prioritise. We are also both strong atheists so we wanted religion free, guaranteed. We also wanted to remove what we feel are patriarchal traditions or make them our own (so I’m not doing a bouquet toss, I’m being walked down the aisle by both my parents, not given away, and I have guys maids as well as bridesmaids, and will be making a speech at the wedding breakfast as will my maid of honour!)

Figure out what you both want out of the day, and what you’re willing and not willing to spend on.

I guess we were lucky in that we wanted the same thing. If you and your other half disagree, then you really need to get talking and work out how you want to reconcile the differences. The best thing to do with this remember you’re getting married because you want to hang out with and annoy your best friend for the rest of your life, and you bloody love each other. Not to have some party that you planned a specific way. Listen, talk, listen some more, take a deep breath and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Don’t let a disagreement on something wedding-related cause arguments! It’s not worth it. Would you really want your other half to have something they weren’t comfortable with on the day? And would they really want that for you?

My best illustration of this from our planning wasn’t an argument, but we do have different personalities – I love dancing – I grew up doing ballet, tap, modern, jazz, ballroom, salsa, tango… And Boy was totally willing to learn something for a first dance and take lessons to make me happy. But I wouldn’t BE happy knowing how much he hates dancing making him perform like a pony and pay for lessons! I was more than happy to just pick a song together and we can have a 30 second shuffle on the spot before everyone joins us. Simple! Some people asked if I felt like I was missing out, but I really, really don’t – Boy wouldn’t be Boy if he did some choreographed routine and I love him the way he is! If you think I’m missing out, you’re kiiiinda missing the point of the wedding!

Decide you’re going to enjoy the process and don’t act out the story people sell you of wedding stress. It’s a privilege, not a punishment! I regularly like to just daydream about mine, listen to the soundtracks we’ve picked, browse for ideas in Pinterest and magazines and get excited. We talk about it and bounce ideas off each other over Prosecco in the pub. We NEVER plan when we’re stressed. I recommend this strategy because it means you stay happy, grateful, excited and you enjoy the planning process.

  1. Pick your priorities
  2. Remember it’s a celebration with the people who are most important to you; don’t sweat the small stuff and certainly don’t let it cause arguments!
  3. Decide on a vision for the wedding that you’re both happy with (size, budget, location, vibe and theme, religious/non religious, elements that are important to you and elements you’d like to skip or spend less on!)
  4. Enjoy the process! Plan when it feels fun, rather than when it feels like a chore. That’s why I’d recommend, personally, having as much time to plan a wedding as possible. We were engaged for about a year, a year and a half, without setting a date, which gave us loads of time to just get creative and mull over ideas. Then when we set the date we had a year to organise. I COULDN’T RECOMMEND TAKING YOUR TIME MORE! It means you can enjoy each stage, really plan what you want, make every planning detail into a little celebration rather than just another thing on a manic to-do list!
  5. Make it about both of you. We’re both feminists (obviously!) and were determined that we wouldn’t have family just ask me as the bride about how planning was going, so we made a pact early on to get Boy to field those questions when they came up so people would learn slowly it was an equal parts thing. We were both involved with every selection and choice, and wouldn’t have had it any other way! The wedding should be about you as a couple. I can’t stand this idea of people getting carried away at the expense of including their other half because of a childhood Disney vision. I equally can’t stand the idea of a disinterested party leaving it all to the other person – why bother, then?! You’re a team. You should both be interested, excited, and making a team effort! It also takes the pressure off and brings you closer.
  6. Don’t let other peoples’ opinions sway you. It’s your day as a couple, not your family’s (unless they’re paying for your wedding or lots of it in which case you’ve possibly kind of given them a stake I guess so good luck with that! Personally I’d say work hard, save and fund your own wedding so you can be totally free and not beholden and let them help with nice details if they want to). But interfering aunts or in-laws or mums or nosy neighbours should be gently but firmly reminded that you will need to decide things as a couple, so thanks for being excited for me and interested, but you’ll be making decisions together with your other half.
  7. Plan when you’re happy, not when you’re stressed. Make it a celebration and pop some bubbly, discuss, brainstorm, and communicate communicate communicate. There’s no need to make it a drama. Decide you’re going to have fun with it, and do it.
  8. Include who you want to include, when you want to include them. There will always be someone who might be annoyed they couldn’t make your hen date, or that you didn’t ask them to come to choose wedding accessories with you – but nobody owns this wedding but the two of you. Obviously don’t deliberately set out to upset people, but you are entitled to make your own choices and are not responsible for other peoples’ reactions to them. A therapist told me that once and it’s changed my life in general, but its definitely useful to remember when planning a wedding!

Things not to forget for a seamless stress-free day!

Another important way to reduce stress is to have a couple of sessions before the big day with you, your other half and either the events team at your venue, or the bridal party or whoever is helping you if you have a blank canvas venue and discuss the plan for the day and how it will go from waking up to finishing – who is travelling where, and how, who is starting the music, who shepherds people back and forth for photos, who announces the wedding breakfasts or toasts…? This is easy to forget if you’ve hired a blank canvas venue that needs decorating or furniture moving too – make sure you know who is helping and when and how, and give them plenty of time to get their head around the schedule and what is required to avoid hiccups on the day!

A Master of Ceremonies can also be hired, or you can appoint a friend or a groomsmen, but whichever you choose, it’s super useful to create structure to the day and make sure you don’t have to worry yourselves about directing people!

2. No money no honey…?

The average wedding budget is apparently circa £30,000. We both said up front we would never want to spend anywhere near that on a one-day party. We wanted a wedding that was amazing and the way we wanted it, of course, but we also wanted any money we spent to not materially affect our savings for a house deposit. More just felt excessive for us. If you’re super wealthy and don’t blink at that budget… then good for you! And if you’ve saved that and having a big wedding is important to you, or having specific things that soak up that level of cost, then 100% go for it, no judgement, YOU DO YOU.

There is no right or wrong. But you need to make sure you’re both comfortable with the wedding budget, and nobody is stressed about it.

We decided if we splash out it’ll be on our honeymoon. The wedding is gonna be great, we’re not skimping on the things that are important to us, but you can get all of those things on a MUCH smaller budget than that apparent ‘average’.

For obvious reasons I’m not posting our budget here, and a disclaimer I guess – we’re lucky that we haven’t had to budget in the sense of adding up every single spend for the wedding- we both named a max cost figure we’d be happy with, but have just paid for stuff over the year as we’ve gone along and not totalled it up so to be honest we don’t know exactly what we’ve spent, we just pay the instalments as they fall due, and only say yes to things that we know fit within what we said we were happy with. Plus my mum kindly wanted to cover the cost of our ‘cake’ (it’s not a traditional cake though!) and my dad wanted to cover my dress, so we’ve been lucky to have them do that.

If you do need to be careful with pennies, make a plan, make a spreadsheet and get quotes in early, especially for those priority items.

These are the top tips I have for money saving either from planning our own wedding and cutting corners on cost where we wanted to, or weddings of friends who were fab at creative solutions!

  1. REALLY think about your guest list. Do you ACTUALLY NEED to invite 300 people? Big numbers add up to big costs very quickly (feeding and wining them can be killer if you’re having hundreds!) We were happy with 60 day guests and approx 80 for the reception. Can you keep your day smaller and have more people for the evening? Can you cut it right down to just some close family and friends? A good (although not foolproof) rule of thumb (but it can help if you’re struggling) is have you seen them in the last year? If no, definitely no day invite and possible no reception invite. If you need to cut the list you can also remove people you don’t both spend time with as a couple unless they’re close family or super important to you for a specific reason.
  2. Spend on your priority items but then consider alternatives for other things. For example, our florist gave us a minimum spend of £1,000. LOL. We would rather put that on nicer food and wine than flowers that last for one day (or, even save it!) so we said no thanks, and I’m doing my own bouquet and the bridesmaids are having single stems. We’ve also designed our own centrepieces and collected items over the year to build them with. Maybe flowers ARE important to you and you’d spend double that, but you care less about having welcome bubbly.
  3. Work out if you really want something and if the answer is no, skip it. People assume because it’s a wedding they need a bouquet – you don’t have to if you don’t want to! I wanted one, so I said yes, but Boy didn’t want buttonholes so we said no to that and saved. By making our own centrepieces we’re saving a fortune on floristry. We’re also skipping wedding favours (although we will be donating in lieu of them to a charity that’s important to us called Girls Not Brides working to end child marriage) which can really increase the cost.
  4. Consider your options: some venues will quote you £X for exclusive venue hire, food, some drink and ceremony decor all in, or you could hire a barn, put a marquee up somewhere gorgeous in the country or track down a blank canvas venue and do everything yourself. Both have pros and cons, but depending on your budget, and your team of supporters/the time you have available, both can create epic weddings!
  5. Some items you may want to question whether you need to pay someone to do them, or whether you want to do them yourself or skip them entirely: flowers (can you skip? Get creative yourself? Ask a friend?), food (any caterers in the family? Do you really want a five course banquet or are you happy with some alternative options like festival food trucks, a hog roast, a bbq, or a buffet if you can rope some friends in to help?), cake (we are having a three course meal and decided after dessert we didn’t need cake cake as well, so we’re having something alternative. You might want to leave it out altogether, or get a family member or friend to get creative and make one for you!), stationery (do you need it printed or can you get crafty? Or can you order say the invites, but handwrite place cards? Do you really want menu cards or individual orders of service? The answer may well be yes in which case great, but you can do other things like have an easel showing the menu or order of service and save printing costs if you want!), wedding rings (firstly, do you both want them? Secondly, do you want to spend tonnes on them? Go for it, if yes, but we both said that we wanted my engagement ring to be the star of the show, and I didn’t feel like I needed another Big Deal ring. We just wanted them symbolically and got an amazing deal even though we got our rings designed specially for us – bargain hunt (and if you go to Hatton Garden, definitely haggle!)
  6. DON’T FORGET WEDDING INSURANCE just incase. If you’re using a listed building as a venue check the cover is high enough as damage to a listed building can be veeeeeery costly!
  7. Consider using your family and friends’ talents be they floristry, cake decorating, music or playing an instrument, DJing…
  8. Think outside the box. Etsy is great for crafty low cost things from stationery to decor, or even gorgeous dried wildflower bouquets – perfect for a spring or summer wedding!
  9. A wedding website can save on RSVP printing, and is an easy way to field questions about your wedding too!

Best day of your life…?

Maybe it will be the best day, maybe it won’t, but it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’, it just has to make you happy so you can have a bloody good time together and celebrate your relationship.

  • Stay calm.
  • Stay grateful.
  • Plan when you’re in a good mood.
  • Allow plenty of time.
  • Create checklists and a tracker so you know what needs doing, when, and how long before the wedding.
  • Give the wedding party plenty of notice for anything you need their help with so they can plan for it, be it time-wise or cost-wise.
  • And stay true to what YOU WANT between the two of you. Screw the huge wedding consumerist industry pushing things on you, and screw other people pushing things on you that you don’t want.

3. What does it all mean?

As we’re not religious (and actually I didn’t believe in marriage for many years!) you could say why am I getting married?

The truth is, we are kind of married already, living together for almost 14 years. We know that we’re in it for the long haul and have known that for a long time. A piece of paper won’t change anything…

But we wanted a party with the people we’re close to to celebrate that, and legal recognition that we are a team. It’s that simple. Life is pretty meaningless unless you create meaning. Sharing little occasions like this, for us, is one of those ways!

Marriage isn’t perfect or sacred, it’s dirty and messy like us humans, like all relationships… like everything great, it’s unique. There’s no one size fits all. There’s no universal rule or law. There’s no magic or ideal solution or special formula. It’s two people working at things, figuring out life’s nightmares together a day at a time, laughing together but also annoying each other, sometimes angry or even fucking livid…! but always ultimately fighting for each other and for the best for the other person against everything else. This applies to all our friendships and relationships, of course, and even to wedding planning… but especially to marriage if you actually want to make it. One or both of you will, at some point, consider getting out of this thing. The trick is never having both of you stop fighting for it at the same time, and never stopping having a fucking hilarious time together!

Ps if you’re thinking omg I’m so stressed, none of this works for me, I’m scared, I’m not doing it right, I’m confused….You don’t have to get married if you don’t want to. If you’re not enjoying the idea or the process, between you maybe you should think about whether its right for you or not. But if you’re choosing to then reeeeally enjoy it and embrace it, and don’t let it become a stressful thing. It’s actually very simple if you’re logical and organised. It is just planning an event. But more fun, because there’s such an emotional attachment and investment!

Do what you (as a couple) want to do. That’s the only way to do it. Other than that, there really isn’t a right or a wrong way.

You’re also both only human. Hera the Greek Goddess of marriage was one jealous, batshit crazy, vengeful bitch at times! (Read your classical mythology if that’s all Greek to you!) Aren’t we all?! So take marriage and wedding planning off this weird princessy glowy Disney perfect pedestal and enjoy it for all the guts and gore (& wicked bloody fun!) it really can be if you let it. You choose.

Focus on how much you make each other laugh and channel that into your wedding choices.

I’m sure there are some corners of the internet who will roll their eyes and say it’s not that simple. But I promise it can be! (Even with trying to do a wedding seating chart for my divorced parents, my ex-step parents (!), my parents’ current partners, my other half’s mum and partner and dad, some ex-step siblings of mine and a fairly sizeable family contingent!)

Have a bloody good time with it kids. That’s the point.

B xoxoxox