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.
Rather than a 6.30 start for hardcore workouts, I let myself sleep in til 7.30ish.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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!
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!
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.
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’.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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
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
I’m going to review my experience of ‘tapping’ or ‘EMT (Emotional Freedom Technique)’ in this post, but first I just want to tell you a little bit about how I came across it, and share a kind of disclaimer!
I came across tapping via Jody Shield, who I first saw speak on a wellness panel at YellowKite Books with a nutritionist and fitness professional I highly respect (Rhiannon Lambert and Shona Vertue respectively).
Jody is not someone whose book you would expect to resonate with me (although I love it!), and was a bit different featuring on that panel I mentioned above of scientific, evidence-based women as a modern, new agey intuitive healer, spiritualista, success coach and meditation guide. While I’m always interested in religion and ritual and myth, I’m decidedly atheist, and not spiritual. Other than my foray into wicca and paganism like all teenagers who grow up around Glastonbury when I was about 13/14 (LOL!), I have never believed in a god, or new agey type stuff (though to this day I have an impressive crystal collection!) because I am fundamentally a big believer in things being evidence-based.
That said, placebo is well known to be surprisingly effective and many studies have evidenced this, so let’s suspend disbelief for a moment, shall we…
So, like my interest in ayurveda which I wrote about here, you may have to accept that this is hugely contradictory to my usual stuff, and yes it goes one step (or several!) beyond my thing for yoga and meditation, both of which have proven scientific benefits.
Because, I have to say, whenever I’m going through a tough time, mood wise, health wise, stress wise – I re-read Jody’s book Life Tonic(recently republished under the new title Self Care for the Soul). Yep, I’m a walking contradiction because it’s quite a woo book in places, although it has some really great practical tools too. I also find myself searching for podcast interviews with Jody and just listening to them again and again when I’m in a particularly dark spot – there’s just something so comforting, calming and uplifting about her energy and her voice, even if I don’t connect or rationally believe 100% in everything she believes in.
So what is ‘tapping’ or ‘EMT’?
Also known as Emotional Freedom Technique,the idea behind tapping is that, much like acupuncture is meant to do, EFT / tapping focuses on the meridian points (think energy hotspots on the body – I know, I know, pseudo-sciencey right?!) to restore balance to your body’s energy. It is an alternative therapy technique, and proponents claim that stimulating the meridian points through EFTtapping can:
reduce the stress
resolve negative emotions you feel generally or from a particular issue
and/or ultimately restore balance to your body/mind’s ‘disrupted energy ‘.
For balance, I feel like you should read this snipped from wikipedia about it and the footnotes:
Advocates claim that the technique may be used to treat a wide variety of physical and psychological disorders, and as a simple form of self-administered therapy. The Skeptical Inquirer describes the foundations of EFT as “a hodgepodge of concepts derived from a variety of sources, [primarily] the ancient Chinese philosophy of chi, which is thought to be the ‘life force’ that flows throughout the body.” The existence of this life force is “not empirically supported”.
EFT apparently has no proven benefits as a therapy beyond the placebo effect, or beyond any known-effective psychological techniques that may be provided in addition to the purported “energy” technique (see here). It has failed to gain significant support in clinical psychology (again, see here).
So, you can read the above and be like ok, sod it, it doesn’t work. But, to be honest, it’s pretty hard to find stuff that categorically ‘works’ for treating stress and anxiety. Fine, exercise, fine diet, fine therapy etc. etc. are all key but I for one implement all of those things and still suffer sometimes with stress and anxiety, and none of them are particularly useful in the moment.
So I have tried tapping. I think you can find videos on youtube for free on how to do it, or check out Jody’s book Life Tonic/ Self care for the soulfor full instructions and diagrams, and examples of phrases you can use.
And while it may not have significant effects other than the placebo effect, if the placebo effect works – that’s pretty helpful and powerful stuff.
I have found it to not necessarily be revolutionary but it is something I find calming and a helpful distraction in the moment (even if you look a little bit weird tapping on different body parts!)
I find it needs to be accompanied by deep breathing, which of course does have a proven effect on the parasympathetic nervous system.
Harry got his Hogwarts letter, why can’t we? As Roald Dahl says, those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. This might not be a scientific trick at all, it’s probably all in my mind, but again as Dumbledore says – just because it’s happening in your mind, doesn’t mean its not real. Haha ok I’m being annoying. But basically… I’ll take the placebo, thanks! ❤
Have you tried tapping? Let me know what you think!
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.
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.
Classes 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).
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. ❤
You may or may not have noticed, if you’re with me on Instagram, that I’m loving all things Tara Mackey at the moment (music, books, you name it…! If you haven’t read Cured by Nature or WILD Habits, you totally should, and I’ll post about them separately as they’re totally life-changing!) Her new single ‘Level Up’ is literally on repeat in my earphones 24/7 at the moment. Her message of how to cure all kinds of ailments, and make all kinds of great beauty choices, the green, natural, eco and ethical way is a pretty cool one… and something I’ve been starting to explore.
Sick with stress
I’ve been ill with stress recently, and for only the second time in my life it’s taken its toll on me physically (as in literally my body is reacting weirdly AF) – dermatitis on my scalp and eyebrows and palms of my hands, stomach pain (not as bad as the end of last year when I had chronic gastritis with stress, but still enough to make me do a double take!) and even vomiting. I knew whatever I was already doing (diet, exercise, not enough meditation) to manage stress clearly wasn’t enough, because I was actually getting sick. Medical advice was to reduce stress, which is about as helpful as saying ‘just get better!’
Treating your skin (& stress!) the natural way
At just the right time, I turned back to two books on my shelf that I read and loved a year ago by the gorgeous goddess that is Tara Mackey, founder and CEO of her own organic skincare company, activist, blogger at The Organic Life, musician and best-selling author (oh, and she does loads of work with orphanages and under-privileged children too!). Using her meditations and taking some natural plant-based supplements that she talked about in her book that are great from everything to overall health, reducing inflammation, and nature’s antidotes to depression and anxiety (always consult your doctor or a nutrition professional to be safe – I did extensive research before dabbling) I feel like a new woman (no word of exaggeration!)
Finally feeling better and full of new energy, I wanted to carry through some of the nature-based living into my beauty routine. An advocate of natural, green and ethical options, I love Tara’s style and have been interested in trying to clean up my beauty products for a long time now, but, frankly, just too lazy to do it. The one problem – most of her lovely recommendations are US-based, and I’m over here in the UK.
Get the green glow
I am a firm believer that every little helps, so I’ve done a little research, and am ready to go green! I’m not throwing out old products as that will just cause waste, but as they run out, I’m hoping I can track down cleaner, greener alternatives and I’m always on the look out so hit me up with recommendations!
For now, though, I just wanted to share some of my favourites that I’ve found, because I’m so so excited about these – each one has been so worth it!
Swapping all the nasty chemicals out for clean, natural products has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my skin. Not only did it clear up my stress-induced skin issues, but my skin is the glowiest-dewiest-softest it’s ever been… I’ve discovered my new regime just in time for my upcoming Winter Wedding!
Clean, green brands you can find in the UK
The Body Shop was an obvious one to try, known for not-testing on animals and great nature-based products, I thought I’d try them out, although I have to admit I was dubious about whether their makeup would be as good – oh my god was I crazy to be skeptical! Their lipstick is one of my firm favourites (just the right amount of moisturizing and staying power, and they have great colours) [I have this Colour Crush Lipstick in Corbodona Petunia and I adoooooore ittttt], and their eyeshadow palettes are GORGEOUS (this Own Your Naturals palette is my absolute fave, the colours are great). They also have some lovely skin-care products (I’m now using their camomile waterproof eye and lip makeup remover and loving it because it actually works but is so much gentler and more soothing for my skin!) Their Matt Lip Liquid in California Rose is also my new ‘feel-good-pick-me-up’ go-to when I need some cheeky Cali/LA vibes, I’m obsessed.
Then I went to Planet Organic and picked up this natural shampoo by Jason Natural Hair Care which completely solved my stress-triggered horrific scalp issues in a matter of days without any of the nasty chemicals or coal tar normally in these types of shampoos, along with bathing in warm water with added lavender and geranium oil, which I also picked up from Planet Organic.
Plus a favourite skincare brand of mine for a while now since I discovered it maybe a year ago is Pretty Athletic, as its formulated specially for active women whose skin needs that extra care, it’s natural, vegan and not tested on animals (plus they’re the best working skincare products ever – the cooling gel cleanser is a daily staple for me, as is a face massage with their Recovery Boost Cell Repair Serum! This delicious serum is actually my number one skincare product that I absolutely couldn’t live without!)
While we’re talking about natural and ethical products, I’d also be letting you all down if I didn’t share my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE part of my bath rituals – Lush Cosmetics Intergalactic bath bombs. They’re absolute HEAVEN. And while I stopped off to pick up a couple of others (for a really nice girly pamper beauty ritual style bath, I love their Goddess and Sakura bath bombs too!) I made a cheeky impulse buy at the counter… their lip balm in Rose Lollipop might be pricey at £7.50 a pop but MY GOD is it the most delicious, hydrating, moisturizing, magical product I have ever put on my face maybe ever. It literally smells divine… I can’t stop putting it on! And it’s all natural, not animal tested, all that amazing clean green jazz so you can feel like you’re doing good things for the planet as well as your face! I literally feel happy every time I put it on haha (no exaggeration!)
Get your glow[-up] on!
Here are my top tips for skin health and feeling glowy inside and out:
Source natural, organic products as much as possible, for cosmetics as well as skincare. I felt almost an immediate different (and the planet will too!)
Cleanse, tone, leave it alone! Don’t over do it. A mask or exfoliate of a weekend is fine, but a simple, sustainable routine is better.
Swap moisturisers for natural face oils and self-massage. This is great for stimulating circulation and lymphatic drainage to keep your skin looking young.
Reduce or cut out caffeine and alcohol. Sorry girls, but it’s the best anti-ageing tip there is!
Drink loads of water! Hydration, hydration, hydration!
Get your vitamins and minerals, especially B, C, D, E and the omega / fish oils! A well balanced diet with fresh veggies is best, but supplements can be used where needed (consult a professional!)
Tara Mackey’s book Cured by Naturehas been a game changer for me – I’d highly recommend checking it out!
What are your favourites? Do you have any green and clean beauty recommendations? I’d love to hear from you.
It’s no secret that pretty much the entire world is over-tired, undernourished, bombarded by stressful technology, media, internet, work requests 24/7… or even if not, anxiety is actually nothing new, we just live in a world which makes it more of an epidemic than ever because we’re so disconnected from the natural way of living our lives.
I’ve previously taken anti-anxiety medication, but I’m happy to say today I’m able to manage it entirely pharmaceutical free! Here are my top 6 tips for managing anxiety entirely au naturel! And I know some people get sick of always hearing meditate, meditate, meditate… so as big a meditation advocate as I am (I regard it as essential to my wellbeing and happiness!) this will not appear on my list of top tips… you’re welcome 😉
1. Your new (natural!) make-your-own-medicine
No need to pop pills – chamomile tea (available at any good supermarket or corner shop!) and 3-4 drops of Valerian tincture (available via this link at Planet Organic, and most good health stores) and you’re good to go! This works at least as well as if not better the drugs I was once prescribed (and took!) for anxiety… without any nasty side effects. It’s a life saver. I keep the tincture on my desk. You can add it to water or any herbal tea, but chamomile has calming properties and I find they work best together.
2. Movement – the right kind
Notice I didn’t say ‘exercise’ or ‘train hard’. If you’re stressed and anxious, hardcore workouts release quite a bit of cortisol (normally this is an okay dose and your body deals and it’s actually beneficial, but if you’re already frazzled it can be cortisol OD! Not good!) So I recommend mindful movement – 30 minutes of outdoor walking near as much greenery as possible per day (no excuses Londoners – Hyde Park, Holland Park, Victoria Park, Clapham Common, Hampstead heath, or even a leafy neighbourhood are great…!), things like yoga, pilates, cycling and swimming can all be nice, mindful, meditative and importantly they get your blood pumping and endorphins flowing without too much stress on the body.
3. Vitamin meeeeeee
Make sure you’re eating a diet rich in vegetables (all the colours of the rainbow, and don’t forget the leafy greens!) but if in doubt you may want to speak to a doctor or nutritionist and consider supplementing. Some mood-boosting (and general health boosting!) supplements I researched extensively and incorporate now include vitamins C, E, B12, Co-Q10, ashwagandha, ginseng, and olive leaf extract. I came across nature’s amazing pharmacy via the amazing book Cured by Nature by Tara Mackey (but always remember professional advice is key when supplementing! Don’t take my word for it. your body could be different, and always double check if you’re pregnant or on any medication with your GP if there are any issues with you supplementing). Most pharmacies and health food stores will stock all the ones I’ve listed above. Probiotics are also great (the gut brain strongly affects mood!) and you can get these good live cultures from kombucha, kimchi, or supplements.
4. Caffeine and alcohol (sorry folks!)
Cutting these out is good for your health anyway, but if you’re anxious and stressed, it’s super important. They’re dehydrating, they’ll make anxiety and mood issues worse (caffeine is a stimulant, and alcohol is a depressant) and so in difficult times, these are best avoided. They also disrupt your gut microbiome and so its no wonder they’re detrimental for mood, anxiety and stress! Try swapping for herbal teas – the calming ones are a much healthier swap for the over-anxious (peppermint, chamomile etc. and you can find all kinds of de-stress blends to help!) and if you’re missing alcohol, pop some kombucha (which feeds your microbiome the good gut bacteria and boosts your mood in the process!) in a wine glass – voila! No-one will know it’s not champagne!
5. Turmeric… gold dust!
Apparently studies show this can be as effective as some anti-depressants for mood (source: Cured by Nature). Even if not, it’s been used since ancient times for food-medicine for all sorts of things, and is a key spice in Ayurveda (an ancient Indian holistic health system). I drink it in the Yogi Tea Turmeric Chai herbal tea blend and add it to soups and salads. You can also mix it into juices, smoothies, sprinkle it on veggies or whatever meal you have, season meat, fish or veggie alternatives with it… and you can also buy it in capsule form online or from health food stores. It’s anti-inflammatory, and whether or not it works like magic, it’s placebo, or whatever… it’s great for your health, it’s the colour of sunshine and some studies do support its benefits so I’m totally in! No bad can come of incorporating this sun-dust into your diet.
6. Clary sage – so underrated! (lavender’s so last season…)
Everyone’s favourite essential oil for relaxation is lavender, and yes, it works… but if you’re anything like me, it reminds you of sleep. If you’re in the office and anxious in the middle of the day, you might like to sniff something else. I find clary sage oil to be the best calm remedy. Sniff straight from the bottle, or pop a few drops on a tissue and breathe in as needed. It’s calming, but less sleep-inducing than lavender. I’d also recommend uplifting scents like orange and lemon for a little energy boost!
I hope some of these help a little bit, or give you something to think about. There are so many more (I promised I wouldn’t say meditation or deep breathing, but those are great, but also reading, creativity, trying new things, journaling, finding inspiring podcasts and blogs, dancing… there are a million options we have to better manage our stress and anxiety!) Let me know some of your favourites if they’re not listed here 🙂 ❤
I make no secret of my love for boxing (yep, I really enjoy watching the sport as well as going to classes at KOBOX [check them out in City, Chelsea and Marylebone]) and, when I can, getting in PT to focus on padwork and technique) so this post won’t catch anyone by surprise…
I always advocate people finding ways to MOVE and TRAIN that they love and that feel intuitive and fun, rather than ‘exercise’ to burn calories which you have to force yourself to do and take less joy in. The mental angle of being excited about learning a new skill is key for me, and key for every client I’ve worked with or friend I’ve encouraged when we’ve worked on lifestyle changes for better health (both physical and mental!)
It’s also better for body image and your relationship with training and nutrition if you can move for joy and to celebrate what your body can do (because it honestly is kickass!) rather than as a punishment for what you ate.
Maybe it’s not boxing for you that ticks this box, by the way. Maybe its cycling, ballet, hiphop, triathlons, karate, hill sprints, hiking, surfing, paddleboarding, competitive swimming… the list is endless. And that’s okay too. But in really zoning in on boxing as both a way to keep my mental health in check, my body healthy, my stress levels down a little, and most importantly as a hobby that makes me happy and teaches me new skills at the same time, I’ve found loads of unexpected benefits to boxing that I thought I’d share incase anyone is on the fence about trying it.
PS. If you are on the fence about trying it and are nervous to go to a traditional boxing gym, DEFINITELY check out KOBOX – you can find out all you need to know on their website, and I’ve also posted at length (nothing sponsored, all me!) about why Kobox is incredible here, how 1 year of Kobox changed my body and brain here, plus I interviewed Kris Pace, their brand director when we spoke but now Operations director here for my Inspire Interview series.
Anyway, without further ado, here are 8 benefits of boxing that you probably aren’t expecting when you start!
More Zen – yep, despite it looking like an aggressive gig (and obviously it is, so it has MAJOR stress busting benefits!), the cool down and stretch times after a boxing session are some of the most relaxed and blissed out sessions I’ve EVER had (it’s like a yoga savasna x100000000000, and beats saunas and Jacuzzis any time for the relax factor!) The 100% mental focus it takes to push yourself hard and try to wrap your head around the physical challenge but also the technique side of things means you concentrate super hard, sweat a tonne, release a f**k load of stress and you can really meditate, stretch and unwind like you’ve never experienced when it’s all over.
Grit / resilience boost – I’ve noticed my stamina and grit through painful bits of training has increased sooooo much through boxing classes and PT. I used to be more prone to working at 60-70% effort and stopping with some fuel left in the tank. Not anymore! The Kobox instructors particularly are all super motivating, really know their sh*t, and will push you out of your comfort zone but also know how to tailor it to the individual so they can always gauge how hard to push you and when to let you recover.
Developing this grit and resilience helps you day today as it also stays with you outside the gym too.
Improved mindfulness, focus, and being present – as above really, 1 & 2 combined… having to challenge your cardiovascular system, your concentration on technique, controlling your mental state so you don’t give up and lie down or grab a donut – over time it’s amazing how these really build to a better ability to be present. Focused. Mindful. Boosted concentration. Boxing in class or a cheeky PT sesh is one of the rare times I can genuinely 100% block out and switch off from the outside world and zone in on the task at hand – hitting bags or pads or doing drills, whatever it may be! You definitely take this out of class or out of the ring too and find you have a fresher, uplifted perspective.
Better body awareness (also = better sex, fyi…!) – [this is something you can get from dance training too] – focusing in on technique and having to be aware of the alignment and placement of all parts of your body to execute movement better translates into gradually improving your awareness of your body at all times, both inside and outside the gym. This has knock on effects for all other workouts, for how you walk and move generally – the more aware you are of what feels right and wrong and how your body is aligned means you get more out of every session. It also has interesting benefits outside of the gym too… 😉
You’re also less likely to get injured if you move and train with awareness and it helps you cultivate an injury prevention mindset and makes you want to take care of your body so you can continue doing the good stuff rather than hammering it and risking longer term injury.
You learn a lot about yourself – the style of training is quite demanding but you also only get out what you put in. How you adapt, how much you push yourself and how you respond to new challenges really reveals to you what your strengths and weaknesses are. You will also be surprised how much harder you can work than you thought. Boxing’s combination of learning a skill, working you crazy hard, demanding focus and dedication to getting better (plus the huge number of inspiring trainers and sportspeople you can learn from!) means you always leave a session knowing a little bit more about it and you than you did before. It also teaches you perseverance at a much higher level than any other form of workout I’ve tried.
Boxing psychology & a fighter mentality (even if you’re not sparring yourself!) – you feel much more revved up to tackle things in day to day life because of the physical and mental benefits of training. I also find it fascinating to read about boxers’ mindsets and strategies and the psychological tactics they use, so even if you’re not in the ring or doing white collar fights yourself, you can still apply what is interesting and exciting about the sport to your life by taking on board those lessons. Boxing psychology is insaaaaane. Talk about mental toughness!
It’s the best for improving ‘overall athleticism’ – a few years ago, a bunch of researches and ESPN found that boxing is the sport that takes the most athleticism. Boxing combines so many factors and demands a lot of anyone taking part, beginner through to pro – it’s a sport that requires mega endurance, building strength, learning to develop power and some speed and agility to boot. A good trainer will make sure you understand how each drill or seemingly weird or random exercise is beneficial for your boxing – some work to improve footwork, or the placement of the hips or feet to sharpen up your technique, and some things might just be for your endurance.
Either way, boxing is one of the most incredible all-round workouts you can do!
It’s empowering – from both a self-confidence point of view, from a seeing yourself progress point of view, from the feeling you get when you finally manage to nail something you’ve struggled with for ages… it’s bloody empowering! That’s without even visualizing people you hate on your bag 😉 Also, as I allude to in this post here, I’m passionate about women doing sports like boxing and feeling stronger and able to hold their own due to some past family experiences and witnessing guys who think it’s ok to hit girls outside of sport. Spoiler: it’s not.
What are your fave ways to train? Have you tried boxing yet? Let me know what you think. And hopefully see you at Kobox!
So in this post I told you alllllll about how I had watched all these documentaries and for both environmental and ethical-animal-based reasons, I wanted to try being plant-based.
I committed not to the full vegan lifestyle, but to being as plant-based as possible.
It was amazing initially – read the original post for the energy and endurance boost I felt. Then I had a couple of odd symptoms (not the ones you’d expect funnily enough!) and then it was fine again.
I managed to last a couple of months, before landing back at officially flexitarian (eating some meat, some fish, some dairy but aiming to be as plant-based as possible – so I tend to have at least 2 vegan meals a day generally).
Why did I ‘stop’?
The blunt honest truth is I do still agree with the ethics and environmental arguments, but I had to stop for my mental health.
As an ex-ED sufferer, I was aware ‘restrictive’ ways of eating need to be handled with care. I really didn’t think I’d be affected. But I was. I started to get anxious, obsessively check labels, feel sick and jittery around meal times, and obsess about what I could and couldn’t eat. If I had to go out, I’d worry about if I’d be able to eat anything or not.
And while maybe it’s possible to work through these things, given my history, and my on-going story with depression, I decided I didn’t have to be perfect.
I can still aim to eat as little animal produce as possible. To choose clean, ethical beauty and makeup products as much as possible. To help promote healthy plant-based options. I’ve swapped my shakes to vegan protein, converted Boy to almond milk in his lattes, we’re making changes…
But I’m not perfect. I’m not fully vegan. And while I’m sorry I can’t be fully consistent with the fact that I think it’s ideal to be vegan, I feel the need to be selfish and take care of myself on this one.
I hope I’m not letting anyone down, but I wanted to tell it like it is!
Positive lasting effects
I now do eat pretty much 2 meals a day that are vegan now, we’ve made some permanent swaps, and I’m more aware than I ever was before of the impact of my lifestyle choices.
It also made me make WAY more effort with fruit and veg variation, and getting more colour in my diet definitely felt like it gave my skin, mental clarity and energy levels a boost.
I feel better educated about animal welfare than before, and so I am trying to make more conscious decisions. While I’m not perfect, I’m working to reduce my impact and avoid supporting animal products as much as possible.
I care more about the impact of my lifestyle in other areas and make more effort to reduce plastic and recycle too.
It’s taught me loaaaads of tasty brand new plant-based recipes, and learning about plant-based protein sources has been great nutrition knowledge.
So there have definitely been some positives!
As my nutritionist and the lovely human being Rhiannon Lambert says, we don’t have to label our food choices.
I firmly believe this. But if I had to technically put a label on it to sum it up for you, I guess you could call me flexitarian.
However, ultimately, you are unique and need to do what works for your mind, body, ethics, all that good stuff. So don’t stress! Let’s support each other in making incrementally better choices for the planet, but also support good physical and mental health in others, whatever that may look like, and try not to judge others’ diets.
What about you guys, how do you try to live consciously while balancing your own physical and mental health?
I hear some of the meat-eaters sighing already – another person who has a fitness instagram jumping on the plant-based bandwagon.
I wanted to share with you my thinking behind going plant-based (& a disclaimer that while I strive to introduce as many plant-based, vegan foods and focuses into my daily routine, I’m still technically a vegetarian I guess), my motivation and what has ultimately influenced me, and a bit about my history with meat etc. before this just as background.
I am not sharing this to be preachy, or to copy all the #plantbased fitness influencers out there. And I am not sharing this as a spontaneous New Year’s resolution.
So let’s talk. First, winding back the clocks…
My diet background since my teens (eating disorders aside)
I actually spent 10 years as a pescatarian…
Pescatarians still eat dairy and fish, just not meat. I started this in Zambia when given some dodgy quality meat, and kept it up for a decade, plus or minus one slip with some chicken.
But I’d always reassure people it wasn’t for moral reasons, I just didn’t want meat.
But then I started eating meat again…
As I got into training (initially weightlifting, then boxing) more, I thought I needed more protein and got sucked into the chicken, broccoli, sweet potato bro-food thing, although I still wouldn’t eat lamb or pork or processed meat.
I did try a week vegan as an experiment because I saw so many people doing it, but I decided I’d miss cheese too much, and my motivation wasn’t really strong enough. Needless to say, it didn’t last.
My diet immediately before going plant-based
To be honest my diet over the last 6 months has been increasingly plant-based as I became more aware of micronutrients, phytochemicals and overall health via influencers like The Food Medic and my nutrionist Rhiannon Lambert, both of whom encourage lots of veggies and fruit, and healthy whole-foods, but equally don’t prescribe veganism or vegetarianism… I was eating probably about 20% plant-based, 60-70% vegetarian and 10-20% organic lean meats like chicken or seafood.
So I was phasing in more and more plant-focussed eating.
I haven’t touched dairy milk for like 6-7 years though – I woke up one day and just found it disgusting and didn’t want it anymore, so that’s an easy one for me.
Why did you make the jump to committing to being ‘plant-based’? Are you vegan, or vegetarian? What’s the difference?
Valid questions, all!
So plant-based is where you try to follow a diet that is powered by plants i.e. avoiding animal products.
Veganism is the all-encompassing lifestyle where you ONLY eat plant-based foods and do NOT eat any animal-derived products (e.g. honey, cheese, milk, eggs, meat, fish) and you don’t wear anything animal-derived (e.g. leather, fur), you only purchase products which are cruelty free and not tested on animals etc. etc. It touches every aspect of your life, and you avoid all animal-derived products.
Vegetarians don’t eat meat or fish, but do eat eggs and dairy.
Pescatarians don’t eat meat, but eat seafood, eggs and dairy.
I went plant-based ultimately for a combination of ethical and environmental reasons, some health factors, and therefore I aspire to be as vegan as possible.
However, I acknowledge that I may not be perfect – I do still own leather items, for example, or I may eat an egg from the chickens in my dad’s back garden every now and then, or have a little bit of non-vegan chocolate. I’m trying to cut this out as much as possible, I know the dairy and egg industries are very problematic, but I don’t want to lie and pretend I’m perfect or that the vegan transition is an easy one, and I know it would piss off a lot of very strongly devoted vegans for me to say I was vegan, if I was eating honey or whatever, which I may do…
I totally agree with veganism from an animal rights and environmental perspective though, hence why I want to do what I can.
Like Rhiannon Lambert, I don’t believe I need to label my diet per se, but I guess militant vegans would call me a vegetarian who tries not to touch animal products but occasionally has a bit of cheese. Vegan-curious. Whatever. I’m going with the aim to be plant-based as that seems to be socially-media-lly acceptable and offend the fewest people.
However, I always said I ‘admired’ vegans but couldn’t commit myself. I said I couldn’t cope without cheese. I called it ‘joyless’ food. I agreed with the arguments against animal cruelty but was still too scared to watch Cowspiracy. I tried to push it out of my mind. I also figured, well I buy free range eggs, that doesn’t hurt animals. Cows have to be milked… (I discovered I was wrong on both counts, as you’ll see in a sec).
Then Venetia’s episode of Talking Tastebuds with Lucy Watson got me thinking that I should own up to my choices and not shy away. I should fully educate myself and then if I could still stomach meat etc, so be it.
I watched the following documentaries over the course of two days:
What the Health* (*take this one with a pinch of salt, much seems accurate on deeper research but some isn’t – eggs are NOT as bad for you as cigarettes!)
Suffice it to say, animals, even allegedly ‘free range’ ones are not being treated well. Factory farming is a horrific industry – slaughterhouse conditions are shocking. Cows are kept perpetually pregnant to keep them producing milk. So many male chicks who aren’t layers are killed horrifically. Chickens are kept in horrific conditions to keep them artificially laying more and more eggs per year instead of just spring. This is just a sample as I’m not here to preach or shock, I just want to give a flavour of some of the things I either knew and ignored, or didn’t know at all… now I can’t ignore any of it.
For the planet…
Then there’s the environmental stuff – the vast quantities of land destroyed for meat farming, the water wastage, the CO2 footprint, the cow’s fart methane thing which is actually a huge problem, the oceans being destroyed because trawling for tuna kills hundreds of thousands of other sealife too including seahorses and other species.
Then there’s the health side. Hormones and antibiotics and unsanitary, shit filled conditions in slaughter houses. The fact that in the US, the dairy and meat industries lobby so hard they affect government health guidelines, and are the producers of fact sheets so even the Diabetes and Cancer bodies won’t openly admit how much processed meat and dairy can be bad for you.
Milk is baby cow growth fluid, full of hormones, to make a little calf get to the size of a big cow ASAP.
All of this stuff, that once I’d seen it, I couldn’t unsee.
For my mental health…
I read a couple of studies which implied a plant-based diet could help depression, which as many of you will know I’ve been in a 2 decade + battle with. I need to track down the actual journal articles to fully assess credibility, but feel it’s worth the experiment.
It just feels like the right thing to do, but in some circumstances there are reasons not to go vegan (especially if you’ve suffered from anorexia or overly-restrictive disordered eating – always consult a doctor and nutritionist).
The animal thing and the environment thing are pretty big for me. Blackfish is actually about killer whales at Seaworld, and when the baby was separated from its mother and she just floated shaking at the corner of a pool wailing in grief was just heart-breaking.
I guess I knew this all on some level before, but by distancing myself from it and not properly educating myself I could act like it was ok. But now, I don’t think momentary pleasure from eating something is worth all of that. It’s too sad. Not to mention not sustainable.
Q: How do you know if someone is vegan/plant-based? A: They’ll tell you!
I have fulfilled this already by posting in this much detail, but I wanted to explain my reasoning and make clear YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN TO BE HEALTHY.
Up your plant-based eating as much as you can for health reasons but you don’t have to entirely quit meat and dairy and seafood. Those are things you can make decisions about based on ethics and sustainability – you do you.
I don’t wanna preach, but I do think the reasons are worth stating, and I feel like I do have a very little platform to do good things, so hopefully this resonates to some degree and encourages you to consume a little more consciously, even if it’s just #MeatFreeMonday!
Can you just make the switch quickly?
People do, I think, but I’ve gradually become more and more plant-based over the last few months anyway.
I’ve also read a lot of articles and watched a lot of youtube videos by people with tips for going vegan, and things they wish they’d known, so I think the best thing, personally, is to do it gradually, to let your body adjust to the increased fibre.
So how am I finding it… truthfully?
I’ve been doing this since before Christmas, so a couple of weeks now. Have I slipped and had a non-vegan product? Yes.
But I’ve stuck to my plant-based-vegetarian philosophy, focused on consuming fresh, whole foods and plant-based recipes. I found AMAZING vegan cheese (hey violife!) and vegan pizza (Waitrose and Pizza Express!) for when I need those things in my life… and all in all it’s going really well.
I have been feeling:
Endurance during workouts has improved
More connected to the planet and animals etc – sounds woo woo I know, but it’s soooo nice to not just be thinking about myself and trying to eat well in a way that is nourishing for the environment as well as me!
My body has…
Not really reacted to the change so far, because I guess I’d gradually been becoming more plant-based so I’ve not found any of the bloating/digestition issues a lot of people report*
I had a bit of blue cheese over xmas that DEFINITELY wasn’t vegan.
I also had a bit of non-vegan chocolate.
It’s a process! While some may disagree, as far as I’m concerned this is about a sustainable lifestyle change and REDUCING ANIMAL PRODUCTS as MUCH AS POSSIBLE for the LONG TERM, and so a few slips overall may happen but won’t throw me off the wagon!
Friends who react saying they don’t give a f*** about animals, and I’m ridiculous not to eat meat etc. etc. I don’t have any plans to preach or convert anyone, but I’d like my lifestyle choices to be MINE ❤
[*Post publication edit (3rd Jan 17:55): literally the before day this post was scheduled to go live, so yesterday, I started noticing afternoon headaches, which have continued today (the day of publication) – so like, maybe negative symptoms a couple of weeks into this? I’m also feeling very nauseaous. This MAY OR MAY NOT BE CONNTECTED to my diet change – I am diarising what I’m eating, and tracking it to test it. According to Google, these aren’t unusual things to experience while your body adjusts. Of greater concern to me was something happened last night that has never happened to me before except when I’ve had a severe fever – night sweats. So I need to monitor this, and check in with my doctor and nutritionist at the earliest opportunity. Remember there is no substitute for qualified advice!]
All of the things I’ve watched, been inspired by etc. in this decision are linked below and above throughout this post. Watch/read/listen for curiosity’s sake if nothing else – you don’t have to change how you eat at all, but being informed is always nice!
Make sure if you do this, you check in with professionals and ensure you’re looking at supplementation in the right way – protein believe it or not is super easy to get from plants (you just need to know your complete proteins from your non-completes, and how to combine different sources to get all the essential amino acids!) but Vitamin B12 and iodine are super important too.