Preparing for Labour | How to ditch the fear of giving birth | Pregnant in a pandemic

baby lying on white fur with brown blanket
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Well hello again everyone! I’ve been fairly quiet on here which is odd given that you’d think in lockdown I’d have had much more time to blog… but being pregnant in a global pandemic, having started a new job (my first fully qualified lawyer job) remotely and various other things have meant that blogging just hasn’t crossed my mind for a while.

Today, though, inspiration struck and I wanted to share some resources that I’ve used to totally change my mindset about giving birth.

This post will cover the resources I’ve used which I’d credit (alongside a lot of time investment on my part!) with taking the fear out of the prospect of giving birth for me, and also helping me prepare for birth generally and the postpartum recovery period.

*(Reminder nothing in this post is sponsored/gifted/other, it’s all stuff I’ve paid for [except the Maternity Collective course which they were giving free to everyone during COVID] and loved and 100% recommend!)*

Where does fear of labour come from?

Because let’s face it, I’ve spent my entire life TERRIFIED of giving birth, like many, many women.

What you see on TV – Rachel on Friends, for example – people lying on their backs, screaming, faces contorted, sometimes legs in stirrups, yelling for epidurals… and that’s just movies and light entertainment (I’ve never even watched One Born Every Minute).

In my ED days I was even scared of pregnant people because of their size – how messed up is that?!

Then you get the STORIES. The whisperings and ‘oh you wouldn’t believe how bad her labour was’, the horror stories, the drama, the nightmare scenarios that people like to tell you…

So as a base line, generally, as a culture, birth has become a very medicalised thing, and something to be feared.

Growing up, I swore that if I had kids I’d get an elective c-section. Now, because I know all the benefits for my baby, I want to try to birth vaginally (if allowed – I may not be able to because at the time of writing [28 weeks pregnant] I still have a low placenta and if this hasn’t moved by the time they do the extra scan to check it at 36 weeks, I will have to have a c-section due to it basically blocking the exit and also high risks of haemorrhaging!)

So what has changed?

Education, & losing the fear

Before trying for a baby, I started reading a lot about birth, pregnancy and all that jazz so I knew what I was in for (see this blog post here on my Pregnancy & TTC favourites which has a full list of the books I read).

If you want the short answer for how I overcame the fear, I guess there isn’t one – it’s a process that took time, effort and mental reprogramming! But a combination of education (and more education!), and taking elements of hypnobirthing which worked for me and my personality (not all – see below!) and basically using my previous study in mindfulness to create an approach to birth that worked for me. I didn’t go on any expensive course or find a magic bullet, I just put the work in.

Getting informed (but still scared!)

One of these books was The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill. Did it make me feel positive? HELL NO! I found it scary on first read. But I read it 3 or 4 times, alongside some other books which I’ll list below, because it took away the mystery and the unknown, and made me understand all the options for birth (location, pain relief, what interventions might be needed and why, induction, caesareans, pros and cons of absolutely everything).

While initially scary for me, getting educated was a key part of the process to make sure I was in control. Because guess what? You have to consent to everything. You do not ‘have’ to have internal examinations to check dilation. You do not ‘have’ to have an induction. It may be there is a good reason to have them, but knowing you have the choice, and knowing you should ask for all of the benefits, risks and reasons was a game changer for me.

Losing the fear – does hypnobirthing work?

I also read Hypnobirthing: Practical ways to make your birth better by Siobhan Miller, and Your Baby, Your Birth by Hollie De Cruz.

Both are hypnobirthing books, a concept I thought sounded a bit hippy but I’d heard people I admire and respect who didn’t seem completely ‘woo woo’ rave about it on podcasts, so I gave them a go.

I also used the Positive Birth Company Digital Pack (an online hypnobirthing course, which was discounted due to the lack of pregnancy support in hospitals etc during COVID 19).

Hypnobirthing is perhaps a woo name, but it’s not really all that woo and certainly isn’t to do with hypnotising yourself, or ‘out there’ practices (full disclosure: occasionally I found hypnobirthing does have a slight push towards home birth (which isn’t for me) which I found a bit annoying, and it could get a bit focussed on fairy lights and candles and prioritising natural birthing to the point it almost felt like it was saying non natural birth was negative [although they explicitly do state ALL births are valid] sometimes, but generally it is science based to help you ensure you stay calm to keep your body hormonally optimal for labour to progress smoothly, with less pain).

Some hypnobirthing fans recommend Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, which is a book I HATED because it was waaaaaay to weird and spiritual and hippy for me. But we’re all different I guess!) But if that’s not your bag, more practical and let’s say ‘modern woman’ rather than ‘earth mother’ approaches do exist, and those are the ones I’m talking about here that helped me.

I don’t for one second buy all of it, particularly that birth is pain free (some hypnobirthing teachers claim it doesn’t have to be painful, others state that they disagree with this like me!), but I do believe that naturally our responses to what is happening in our bodies (e.g. panic, fear, relaxation, understanding, acceptance) can influence that and how bad it feels.

I found that hypnobirthing is really an approach that focusses on empowering women to:

  1. understand your body during labour, how the muscles and hormones work to facilitate your birth and what you can do to keep these as optimal as possible;
  2. understand your choices during labour (you ALWAYS have a choice, and it is important to be informed and that you know you have the right to give or refuse consent for anything)
  3. learn relaxation techniques to keep adrenaline (which inhibits labour) at bay and maximise oxytocin (which makes labour happen) – these can also be used to keep you calm during interventions or caesareans, they’re not just for vaginal births!;
  4. understand natural techniques for labour e.g. using upright, forward and open positions to allow gravity to help you, instead of mindlessly following TV over medicalised assumptions that you should lie down, which really just helps doctors/midwives see what’s happening!; and
  5. essentially to feel empowered and have a positive birth experience, whatever path your birth takes (rather than feeling traumatised and like decisions were made for you, or that you were not in control).

Plus it helps guide your birth partner on how best to support you during labour.

Many of the relaxation techniques weren’t for me and my partner (if he even tried to read me a relaxation script we’d both die laughing!) but the breathing techniques, positive affirmations and emphasis on re-wiring my view of birth from something necessarily traumatic to something that can be a positive experience really helped me move past being scared.

Rewiring your brain

I was NOT up for watching videos where I’d have to see a baby emerging from a vagina. I’m way too squeamish, and not one of those women who thinks that sight is ‘beautiful’. Sure, babies are beautiful, I’m sure the experience of birth can be beautiful, but that’s too much gore for me personally.

Hypnobirthing advocates using positive birth stories, photography, videos, and affirmations to gradually re-condition how you perceive birth. Stop all negative input, and crowd it out with positive.

I didn’t really want to see pics or graphic videos, but I did use:

  • Reading positive birth stories in the two books above, and then the members groups for the Positive Birth Company Digital Pack, and also my Lucy Flow Yoga – Yoga For Birth prep members hub.
    • I started skipping ones which had trigger warnings that particularly worried me (episiotomies, tearing, forceps, ventouse, emergency c-sections) and just read ones that sounded smooth and simple.
    • As I did more hypnobirthing practice and read more of these, I became less afraid and started reading the more complicated birth stories too – this made me realise that even a complicated birth which has things go ‘wrong’ or not as planned can still be a positive experience. So many women wrote about births which on paper you might think could have been super traumatic, but because of their mindset, their hypnobirthing, the fact they were informed and in control and had prepared for all scenarios, they still felt empowered and that the overall experience was positive. This was a game changer for me. 
  • I also listened to the birth experience of my nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert on her podcast (here) which sounds very traumatic and happened during the height of COVID-19. I found it so interesting to hear that a lot of the stress comes from feeling things are going ‘wrong’, not knowing what happens for certain procedures and feeling like birth isn’t going to plan. This really brought home to me that being prepared for birth to take any number of unexpected courses is key and has helped me lose the fear in the build up to it.
  • Positive birth affirmations – the Positive Birth Company has a recording when you buy the pack, but my favourites were actually the free audio ones on the Dream Birth Company website.
  • Limited (!) videos – I watched a few you tubers talk about their positive birth experiences and hypnobirthing, as an intro so I didn’t need to see it. Then I found a couple of you tubers who vlogged their labour (but don’t show you anything too much!!) helpful – especially Kerry Conway’s third labour (no epidural) (part 1 here and part 2 here), and Jess Hover’s two births without epidurals (vaguely remember some brief religious mentions which I just ignored as that’s not my thing).

LucyFlow – Yoga for Birth course

Lucy is a little ray of sunshine I found at random on instagram. She has done a huge series of free IGTV talks about all things labour, birth prep, pregnancy and early days with a newborn, and I loved them so much and then signed up to her online yoga membership / yoga for birth course.

This was great for some pregnancy-friendly yoga for relaxation, and also learning more upright, forward and open optimal birth positions. She also had helpful resources on the fact that it is sometimes possible to be mobile even with an epidural or continuous monitoring – how to ask and how this can be done, which was really useful.

Lots of the yoga flows are designed to help ease pregnancy specific problems (back pain etc) and to prepare your pelvis to really open up. It was amazing to learn the facts about how you can get 30% MORE SPACE in the pelvis by not lying down and preventing the sacrum from moving etc.

It was also nice because membership comes with free access to her Member’s Hub where you can chat about all things pregnancy, yoga, other, ask questions and generally support other mums!

It’s super affordable and I highly recommend it. Check out her website here to sign up.

Maternity Collective Online Antenatal course

As I’d done so much reading and research, and the fact that due to coronavirus antenatal classes in person being cancelled, when I looked at antenatal classes charging £250+ for stuff I already knew, I didn’t see the point, especially as most people say the value is in making mum friends, and I didn’t feel like paying that much money to do that over zoom.

Then I found the Maternity Collective who generously offered free access to their online antenatal course (normally circa £80), again because of the lack of pre and post natal support for women during the coronavirus situation.

It was SO helpful because it was more medically / scientifically detailed than the hypnobirthing content on the physical parts of labour, pain relief, interventions etc.

It also had extensive sections on feeding options and newborn sleep, to help prepare for the part which comes after the labour!

Postive Birth Company – Post Partum Pack

PBC’s postpartum pack (an online course covering everything you need post-birth!) was also reduced to £20 because of COVID for a limited time, and I found this really helpful to prepare and swot up on breastfeeding, baby sleeping (or lack thereof!), maternal mental health, physical and mental recovery from labour, post partum rehab, exercise and yoga, and much much more! Definitely recommend this, especially if coronavirus or other things have prevented you getting to classes or having the normal amount of support with this.

Thanks for reading my ramblings!

I hope if you did stumble across this post as you prepare for birth that you found it helpful – everyone is different, and what works for one may not work for another, but I was so so so scared and anti the idea of labour before and now I’m so excited for it, so it is possible to have a complete mindset shift!

Best of luck with your pregnancy and birth prep if you’re at that stage of your journey, or if not and you’re curious ahead of time like I was… fab, I genuinely don’t think you can get enough prep in because these are things we can never ever be fully prepared for!

B xoxo

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

body stretching yoga beauty
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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

Anxiety & Overwhelm Toolkit: “Tapping”, or EMT – does it work?

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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 EFT tapping 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.[1] 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”.[2]

Wikipedia entry on EFT

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).

My thoughts

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 soul for 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!

B xoxo

Further information:

Healthline.com – What is EFT tapping?

Interview with Jody Shield ‘From business director to spiritual healer’ – Stylist Magazine

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

asphalt dark dawn endless
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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

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:

 

 

Easy steps to clearer skin: Green Beauty & Organic Skincare tips

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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!

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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:

  1. 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!)
  2. 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.
  3. Swap moisturisers for natural face oils and self-massage. This is great for stimulating circulation and lymphatic drainage to keep your skin looking young.
  4. Reduce or cut out caffeine and alcohol. Sorry girls, but it’s the best anti-ageing tip there is!
  5. Drink loads of water! Hydration, hydration, hydration!
  6. 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!)
  7. Tara Mackey’s book Cured by Nature has 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.

B xoxox

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6 natural ways to manage anxiety & mood (that aren’t meditation!)

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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 🙂 ❤

B xoxox

 

8 Benefits/Side-effects of Boxing You Never Expected!

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. 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!
  8. 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.

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What are your fave ways to train? Have you tried boxing yet? Let me know what you think. And hopefully see you at Kobox!

B xoxo

The new wellness craze… spirituality?

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Spirituality is slowly seeping more and more into the instagram wellbeing bubble – I’ve recently heard spiritual wellness coaches like Jody Shield speak at events alongside fitness and nutrition professionals, showing people that spirituality can combine with modern life and isn’t just for hippies in a field dancing naked wearing hemp and sandals.

Former ‘fitness only’ influencers have moved across into yoga, astrology and crystals (quite a few instagrammers, for example) and then there are the public figures like Mel Wells who has moved from food coaching into more of a ‘spiritual wellness’ space having launched her new membership product, The Goddess Collective… Figures like Jasmine Hemsley combine nutrition and Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science)…

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a new wellness craze! But none of these things and ideas are particularly new, it just seems they’re reaching a new market and being taken on by a new ‘generation’ almost…

Wellness and lifestyle bloggers are expanding the areas of content they cover from fitness, fashion, nutrition and health into the spiritual. And I guess that can be quite polarizing for some people, who maybe don’t agree with their ideas, or odd for others who haven’t encountered these ideas yet.

The Big Questions

Religion and myth have been a part of humanity for as long as we’ve been conscious – humans naturally crave explanations for things they don’t understand and the mysteries of the universe.

I’ve been asked recently in a Q&A I did on instagram if I’m religious, and if I think religion and spirituality can help mental health. I didn’t answer it on IG as it needed a fuller post to be honest, it’s a huge topic! So here goes!

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My two cents…

Let’s just get it clear that all of these things are deeply personal and we all have to respect that people won’t always agree…!

I am an atheist. I’ve never believed in a creator god, and still don’t. I was made to go to Christian Sunday school as a kid for a bit, but my parents aren’t really Christians either (my grandmother and former stepmum are) but I never believed in it.

I grew up near Glastonbury and so as a teen discovered paganism and Wicca and dabbled for a while for fun, but never seriously believed in it. Yes, I did a couple of Witchy Rituals following Fiona Horne’s books. It’s funny looking back on it now 🙂 However I did learn loads about the pagan tradition, gods and goddesses in all kinds of different traditions, crystals and new age philosophy, and all that jazz. I first started learning to meditate as a teen but stopped and didn’t come back to it til later in life.

I’ve also, with my other half, rejected a lot of the Glastonbury naval gazing and hippyisms as we’ve witnessed first hand how the lack of responsibility and drug culture can mess up peoples’ lives (particularly kids).

At university through literary criticism I discovered philosophy and found myself to be an existentialist. I don’t believe life has inherent meaning, I believe we create it, and have to work to create it and find meaning in things.

I went to Cambodia and Thailand in one of my uni summers and was OBSESSED with exploring the gorgeous temples of Angkor Wat.

I’ve always been interested in world religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism (and my mum was interest in Buddhism too so I read loads on it as a teenager). I’m fascinated by ancient cultures and indigenous peoples, and love to hear about myths in, for example, Aztec and Mayan traditions, and Japanese and Chinese beliefs.

I got diagnosed with depression in my 20s although I’ve had it my whole life. I remain an atheist and existentialist, but after years of work combining fitness, nutrition, medication and meditation to manage the condition, I started looking wider.

I’ve (in the last year or two) dabbled in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian holistic wellness system (and even did a mini course), I’ve read more widely on meditation, spirituality, Buddhism and mindfulness, and I’ve been part of wellness groups which incorporate spirituality (originally Jody Shield’s Tribe Tonic, which I left, and now Mel Well’s The Goddess Collective which at the time of writing I’m still in).

I’m also fascinated by the commonalities between religions, and the ways in which conquering religions like Christianity used existing Pagan holidays to persuade people to adopt their practices more easily.

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So where are you now? Do you believe in god or a creator? How does it work with your rational logical side? Does it help your mental wellbeing?

I’m still an atheist.

I’m still an existentialist.

I’m also a Scorpio with Capricorn rising…!

Do I rationally and logically believe in astrology? No. Do I match everything my chart says about being a Scorpio with Capricorn rising? Hell yes! Do I enjoy it intuitively? Yes. Is that a bit of a paradox? Probably, yeah! Whatever!

In Ayurveda, I’m very strongly the pitta dosha. Do I believe this is biologically, scientifically a thing? No… but I can still relate to it, enjoy it, use it to derive meaning and adopt self-care practices…

Not everything, for me, now, has to make clinical sense. At one point I’d have rejected all this. But I think it’s totally fine to do your own personal thing.

If I had to be labeled, I’d be nearer a Buddhist as they don’t believe in an active being, or creator.

I think you can create meaning and fun however you want. I enjoy hearing about different cultures’ believes, I enjoy astrology, I may not rationally believe in tarot but why the fuck not if you like that kinda thing?

Keats was a poet who wrote about ‘negative capability’ – the ability to hold two conflicting thoughts and beliefs at the same time, so why not do that?!

I think generally religion is two things – a source of comfort and guidance to people (nothing wrong with that!) and an attempt to explain things that science has not yet been able to. If you want to enjoy the fictions to bring meaning to life – why not?!!

Given that I don’t believe in a god, I don’t exactly have a being I feel comforted by, or ask for guidance from. But my foraging into meditation and Buddhism has definitely helped me get a grip on my brain and managing my thoughts, emotions and moods.

What are your thoughts?

Let me know what you think about how spirituality is really kicking off in the wellness field, and share your beliefs and practices if you feel comfortable!

B x

woman sitting on brown stone near green leaf trees at daytime
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#8 Inspire Interview Series – REBECCA KING – Lawyer (Associate at one of the Biggest American Firms in London)

Sorry it’s been a little while since the last Inspire Interview… today’s is completely different to the careers we’ve spoken about before, which is why I love doing this series so much… there are so many amazing people doing cool jobs in all kinds of different industries, and talking to everyone about it is great just for me to be nosey, let alone share with you!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I know law is something I get asked about a lot – how do I fit fitness around life as a trainee, for example, so I thought I’d go right to the source and give you a fully qualified lawyer on how she balances all things work, life, workouts and play!

Today’s interview is with the kick ass Rebecca King, who I actually met through our mutual obsession with KOBOX. She very kindly answered some questions on life as a lawyer in one of the biggest US firms in London, and busts some myths about lawyer life, not least that you have to do law at uni  – she did THE COOLEST undergrad degree ever… so without further ado –

B: Can you tell us a little bit about the area of law you work in…

R: I work in Debt Capital Markets on bond issuances (for corporates, banks and sometimes sovereigns).

B: What made you become a lawyer? How did you get there – did you do undergrad law or convert later?

R: To be honest, I just thought I’d be quite good at it! I didn’t study it as an undergrad, as I wasn’t 100% decided and knew I had the option of converting later. I studied a subject I loved but doesn’t have much in the way of traditional job applications outside academia – Archaeology and Anthropology. I focused on Biological Anthropology, the study of how humans evolved – I even met Jane Goodall once when she gave us a primatology lecture. I also took papers in Ancient Egyptian Religion, which I’ve always been fascinated by, although I chose not to make Egyptology my main focus because I’ve never been great at languages. If you think French is hard – try hieroglyphics! (I did. I was crap.)

I combined that with some legal work experience and vacation schemes, and I was offered a training contract with my current firm just before I graduated from Cambridge – they then sponsored me through law school.

B: Can you describe a (working) day in the life of RK?

R: As you know, hours and work can be so varied! Officially our working hours are 9.30 till 6 and recently my department has been relatively quiet so that’s been about when I get in and out. I’m about to head to lunch, and today so far I’ve sorted out some postclosing matters for a deal that closed last week, had a kick-off call for a pro-bono matter, reviewed and updated our internal memo on listing procedures for the London Stock Exchange and attended our department quarterly meeting. A pretty average morning!

B: What advice would you give someone looking to become a lawyer? Any advice you were given en route that was helpful?

R: I’d say that the subject of your undergraduate degree doesn’t really matter but your grades and outside interests really do. If you’re a non-law undergrad like I was, you’ll need to prove you’re serious about law even though you actively chose not to study it for your degree, which can be tricky! Definitely get involved with your university law society early on and attend recruitment fairs and law firm presentations, and apply for vacation schemes or open days as soon as you’re eligible – once you’ve attended one, it’s easier to tick that “genuinely interested” box and be accepted for more.

Also – and I think this is true of any industry, not just law – it’s infinitely better to just submit five job applications that you’ve really thought about and tailored to that particular firm than fire off fifty identical cover letters and CVs. Believe me, these firms receive thousands and thousands of identikit applications and anything they think you’ve copied and pasted will be promptly set aside.

B: What are the biggest misconceptions about being a lawyer that you think are out there? Any myths you want to bust (or confirm!)

R: That all lawyers go to court! My sister is at a different firm that specialises in arbitration, and goes all the time. I’ve never set foot in a courtroom outside of a school trip aged 15. I work on deals, not cases!

B: Best and worst bits of the job? Biggest challenges?

R: I work with some great people! Almost all the lawyers I’ve ever worked with have been really clever, fun and interesting people. There’s definitely a certain drive and perfectionism we all have in common but my department is a great place to be and I met some of my absolute best friends through work.

I think the biggest challenge for me personally is the variability of hours. As I’m in a transactional area, I can have two weeks of past-midnight finishes followed by two weeks where I barely bill any time at all. When your bonuses and performance reviews put a lot of emphasis on whether you hit an hours target, slow weeks can be really demoralising and on the flip side busy weeks can mean cancelling really important plans. People tend to be very understanding but ultimately the client calls the shots, and if there’s work to be done and no one else can do it, you just have to put plans aside.

B: I’ve found that people really stress about training contracts (and I know the numbers are tough!) but personally I found being a trainee waaaaay tougher than the application process… any thoughts on coping with the journey to working in law, since it can be super long, super competitive, and of course isn’t always peachy when you’re on a very late deal…?

R: Personally, it’s easy for me to finish a tough week and just flop on the sofa for six hours straight on Saturday and binge watch a show because I’m tired. If you’re like me – my advice is to try not to do that too often, as I’ll then get to Sunday evening and feel like the weekend was wasted. I always try and spend some time with friends, do a workout class, book an event or, if I am sitting in front of the TV, I’ll work on one of my costume projects at the same time – it’s a creative outlet and making something gives me a sense of achievement, even if I did it while watching Netflix! It’s different for everyone but basically my advice is – if you don’t have much time off, really make sure that the time you get to yourself you’re putting towards something or someone you love, rather than just spinning wheels waiting for the next work email to come in or Monday to start.

B: How do you relax and wind down outside of work, and look after yourself generally? Anything that particularly helps you stay balanced?

R: I have a lot of hobbies and interests, and making time for those is really important to me. I love reading – history, true crime (I stayed up till two last night reading the Ted Bundy biography “The Stranger Beside Me” and barely slept a wink!), trashy regency romance novels, fantasy and sci-fi. I’m also listening to podcasts at the moment on my commute – my favourites include “You Must Remember This” (on the forgotten scandals of Hollywood), “My Favourite Murder” and “The Soundtrack Show” (which analyses film soundtracks). TV-wise I love Westworld, Game of Thrones and anything David Attenborough.

I’m also a huge Star Wars geek and in the last couple of years have got into cosplay, so I love researching and making props and costumes in my spare time and attending comic conventions, and I even take lessons in lightsaber fighting! It’s basically a fusion of kung fu and tai chi, except instead of wooden practice swords we use plastic ones that light up. Other sports and activities I love are Kobox (obviously!), skiing, diving, yoga, pilates, hiking and golf. Some weeks I’m busier than others, but for me balance is when I’m happily busy at work but with time for my interests and seeing friends and family.

B: Best and worst career advice you’ve ever been given?

R: Best: people don’t dwell nearly as much on the criticism they give you as you do. I think particularly in law, we’re such perfectionists that any negative feedback can really knock us. Take it, learn from it and try and move on – because the chances are that the person who said it hasn’t thought about it since they did!

Worst: “You can’t wear dangly earrings to work!!” My mum was an incredibly badass accountant-turned-banker in the 80’s when the City really WAS a man’s world, and any sign of femininity was seen as distracting or a weakness – this classic quote was from my first day at work when I was going to wear drop earrings. I don’t think she realised when I started my TC in 2015 how much the world, and corporate dress code in particular, has changed from “her day”. The fact our firm has casual Fridays continues to amaze her, as does the fact I never wear suits (stretchy jersey dresses for the win!)

B: Do you feel like workouts impact how productive you are at work?

R: 100%. I always try to work out in the mornings. It wakes you up, it gets your metabolism going, it clears your head, and ultimately I think it’s great to start the day with a bit of me-time – whether it’s yoga, running or, in my case, punching the hell out of something heavy to some really loud music.

B: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be and why?

I honestly don’t know! I always have loved writing and secretly wanted to be a novelist, but I realised early on I wasn’t suited temperament-wise to such a solitary and unpredictable job. I also occasionally daydream of being a guide at a safari camp! Spending all day in the bush and then the evening round the fire with a glass of Amarula listening to the sounds of the wild and chatting to guests from all over the world sounds pretty fun to me. Having said that, I’d probably make it about three weeks without internet access before hotfooting it back to London.

B: Any role models career-wise (whether in law or not)?

R: My mum! She was the first in her family to go to university and then trained as an accountant as one of five women in a class of over 100. She then went into banking and made way more money than my dad for the first 10-15 years of their marriage (which was very unusual then). She ended up giving up work completely to look after me and my sister about the time I started school, but my parents were married for 10 years before they had kids, so she fit in a pretty incredible career before deciding to make that change. People are always shocked to find out my parents’ house is in her name! She’s incredibly driven and hard-working and is an example I try (and fail, a lot of the time!) to live up to.

B: Fave restaurant in City – any great places to take clients you’d recommend people?

R: I go to the Ned a lot and really like their restaurants, but if I’m not eating there I’ll usually head back towards Chelsea to have dinner. Mossimann’s, which is a dining club set in a gorgeous converted church in Belgravia, is the ultimate favourite – unfortunately I can’t go without my dad, as he’s the member, but I always beg to go there on my birthday! I love Rabbit, on the King’s Road, which does incredible seasonal British food tapas-style, and nearly died of happiness when they opened a Sticks ‘n’ Sushi less than two minutes walk from me!

B: And finally, what does ‘success’ mean to you?

It’s kind of abstract but that little fist-pump moment you get when you’ve absolutely nailed something. Whether it’s at work or not, the aim for me is for life to have more fist-pump moments than “d’oh” or “loo cry” moments.

**Quickfire Round**

Fave KOBOX combo – I know you go a lot 😉

Uppercuts. When I hit the bag hard enough that it jumps up, it makes me feel like Captain Marvel.

Pancakes or full english?

Full English for sure, I’m a savoury girl!

Burpee or bear crawl?

Oh Christ. Is Miranda reading this? Bear crawl! Definitely bear crawl!

Nature or nurture?

You can’t ask a former anthropology student that question, she’ll spend three weeks agonizing and then give you a 12-page essay that doesn’t even answer it! Like any true-crime aficionado, I’d probably say mostly nurture. But as a cat owner, nature certainly can’t be discounted.

Martini or cosmopolitan?

Martini – I like a citrusy, dry one with a grapefruit twist. But I’d choose a good margarita over either!

Talent or hustle?

Hustle.

Fave latin phrase from law-school?

In vino veritas – definitely learned during law school, although not actually during lectures…

Chocolate or cheese?

CHEESE.

Louboutin or Jimmy Choo?

Louboutin, as long as I’m not walking far.

Fave legal drama?

Does Judge Judy count?! Funnily enough for a lawyer I’ve never watched Suits or The Good Wife or anything like that. But my mum always has Judge Judy on somewhere in our house so I have a soft spot for her.

You have to hug, marry and water-balloon 3 kobox instructors – which ones do you choose?! 

Marry Miranda, obviously. Hug Joe or Jesse. Water-balloon Jacob (This is 100% revenge and I reserve the right to revise this when he’s back on the timetable permanently!)

Fave movie?

Hot Fuzz!

It’s your last EVER meal of your life. What do you go for?

Christmas lunch followed by my mum’s EXTREMELY boozy raspberry trifle! With wine. Lots of wine.

Hope that was a useful insight into lawyer life – Bekky is definitely the coolest lawyer I know. Catch her at KOBOX in City most weekdays 😉

B xoxo