Online antenatal course – The Maternity Collective

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I just thought I’d pop on here and do a quick review of a course I found really useful in my prep for getting our beautiful baby born this October, however that ends up happening (!) be it vaginal delivery or out of the sun roof 🙂

This is not sponsored, nor was it gifted – I found this over the course of lockdown and The Maternity Collective were kindly offering everyone free access to their online antenatal course (usually at a price point of circa £80 I believe) because of the COVID situation.

COVID clearly did reduce access to ante- and post-natal support for so many women, so access to The Maternity Collective course was incredibly useful, but regardless, it’s still something I’d recommend to you if you’re pregnant even when we return to more normal times!

The course is delivered online in easy to access videos, and has subtitles for anyone with accessibility issues in all sections except the breastfeeding and newborn behaviour presentations (at the time of writing this) but these do have written accompanying slides you can download with the key information points on them.

What I loved about the course is that while all of the hypnobirthing content and books and the online course I’ve done have been super helpful and include some science, The Maternity Collective was created by a wonderful, highly qualified obstetrician and so it better covers the medical ins and outs in more detail, with more clarity, than hypnobirthing-geared content – but Dr Ellie Rayner (who you can find on instagram here @maternitymedic) also appreciates the value of hypnobirthing techniques and that approach to birth and so fuses the best of both worlds into a really helpful, informative, calming and reassuring course (she is a hypnobirthing instructor as well as an incredible, highly qualified medic!)

I’ve found ‘pure’ hypnobirthing books and techniques very helpful, don’t get me wrong, (I recommended many of their resources in some of my other recent posts!) but I do think some hypnobirthing content out there almost creates the impression that it’s hypnobirthers vs. hospitals/medical professionals/’bad’ over-medicalised birth, which really shouldn’t be the case, and The Maternity Collective will give you all of the medical facts, pros and cons, from an unbiased perspective, whilst the value of hypnobirthing is completely recognised and optimal practises are recognised and encouraged.

The course is thorough without being overwhelming, and covers:

  • Preparing for labour and birth (and understanding how it all works!)
  • Normal labour and birth (the various stages, what happens, and pain relief options)
  • Reasons you might meet an obstetrician (all the details on everything from inductions, delays, assisted delivery, tearing, episiotomies, caesareans and what happens if there is too much bleeding after birth)
  • The postnatal period (physical and emotional recovery, and caring for your brand new baby!)
  • A quick summary (on how to create your birth preferences, and make informed decisions throughout labour so that you are in control of everything that happens to you)
  • Breastfeeding and newborn behaviour (all the science of milk supply, techniques for feeding, baby’s body clock, sleeping, what to expect, what’s normal and trouble shooting, plus a guide to formula feeding)
  • There are also some course notes, birth preference templates and breastfeeding and newborn sleep slides for you to keep.

I loved the course’s simple and accessible format, and it will tell you everything you need to know to prepare for labour (you don’t even need to buy any other books if you don’t want to!) and it has some amazing content to get you thinking about what happens afterwards as well, particularly the detail on breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is a topic you hear about so much and is shrouded in mystery because on the one hand it seems so natural and on the other you hear all these stories of problems, struggles, pain and experiences where it didn’t work out.

The Maternity Collective course goes in to a lot of detail on how milk supply works, common breastfeeding issues and the best action to take, seeking support, how and when to feed and what to expect from your baby, how you will know if they’re feeding enough or if there is cause for concern, why babies need to be fed so much at night, and much, much more! There is also the recognition though that you may want to formula or combination feed and so there is a handy pdf guide to formula feeding should this be the best option for you.

If you’re looking for a one-stop shop to prep for labour and afterwards, I would say this course is it!

It’s also a good one for husbands like mine who might find some of the slight ‘woo’ perceptions of hypnobirthing branded courses or content off-putting – with The Maternity Collective you get the same important information, but in a more factual, practical manner (and more of it, from someone who is very, very qualified!)

Hope this helps, let me know if you do try the course and what you think!

If you liked this post, you might also be interested in reading these:

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

TTC tools & tips || + my experience getting lucky first time

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

B xoxox

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

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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

My top 6 food, fitness & wellness podcasts

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

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

So here you go! In no particular order:

1. Talking Tastebuds, by Venetia Falconer

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

2. Food for Thought, by Rhiannon Lambert

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

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

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

4. The Rich Roll Podcast

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

5. Feel Better, Live More by Dr Rangan Chatterjee

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

B xoxox

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

train happy

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

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

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

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

What is ‘diet culture’ exactly?

According to expert Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN 

“Diet culture is a system of beliefs that:

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

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

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

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

‘Train Happy’ – review

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Tally Rye, in Stylist Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is Tally?

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

Should you buy ‘Train Happy’?

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

B xoxox

You may also like…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

The recipes

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

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

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

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

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

The workouts

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

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

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

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

Overall?

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

Hope that helps!

B xoxo

Book Me Up #2 – HEART BERRIES

35840657.jpgSorry it’s been a while – I’ve been so busy reading I forgot about sharing exactly what I’m reading!

I’ve read a lot of really awesome stuff recently, but I reeeeeaaaaally had to share this one with you next.

Heart Berries, Terese Marie Mailhot

I’ve taken a summary of the book from Goodreads as it’s a pretty good introduction to jump in with:

“Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father―an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist―who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.

Mailhot trusts the reader to understand that memory isn’t exact, but melded to imagination, pain, and what we can bring ourselves to accept. Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story, and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.”

This book is an unusual one but it’s absolutely incredible. I don’t know how well you know Sylvia Plath but there’s a line she writes that ‘the blood jet is poetry’. This book brings that to life because my god, the blood jet really is poetry. Heart Berries is incredibly raw, vivid, almost Plath-ian and ‘confessional’, but its also so refined, carefully crafted and wrought, so the intimacy isn’t just dumped on you or exposed, but painstakingly built into art.

The vivacity, brutality and pure honesty of both language and content is refreshing – sometimes hit-you-in-the-face loud, and sometimes so subtle.

It’s not an easy read but the rhythm of her writing and the way she weaves words and disjointed syntax together is something you eventually fall into. Mailhot pushes the emotion via both content AND craft, into your very bones.

I love the way she writes about life, love, motherhood, mental illness, and she takes genres of abuse narrative and Native American writing and makes them hers, simultaneously defying and transcending claddification. This book shatters any box that could try to contain it.

Mailhot rejects white culture’s exoticised conceptions (a la Said’s Orientalism) of Native American mysticism but doesn’t disown those aspects of her culture – she just strips out the whites’ imposition of romanticism and mystical tropes and crafts her own magic with clarity and authenticity and a very personal, sometimes wavering, poignant yet strong voice.

One of my favourite quotes in the book is:

“In white culture, forgiveness is synonymous with letting go. In my culture, I believe we carry pain until we can reconcile with it through ceremony. Pain is not framed like a problem with a solution. I don’t even know that white people see transcendence the way we do. I’m not sure that their dichotomies apply to me.”

I can’t recommend this read enough! If you’re not already sold, I also recommend reading Roxane Gay’s review of it – it’s brilliant!

“Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot is an astounding memoir in essays. Here, is a wound. Here is need, naked and unapologetic. Here is a mountain woman, towering in words great and small. She writes of motherhood, loss, absence, want, suffering, love, mental illness, betrayal, and survival. She does this without blinking but to say she is fearless would be to miss the point. These essays are too intimate, too absorbing, too beautifully written, but never ever too much. What Mailhot has accomplished in this exquisite book is brilliance both raw and refined, testament.”
Roxane Gay, author – Review of Heart Berries 

B xoxo

Where to find the best avocado in London (your pocket AvoCompass!)

pexels-photo-566566.jpegLike many millenials, when it comes to avocado, I’m basic[AF], and I’m not ashamed. I BLOODY LOVE THEM.

This cheeky ‘lil fruit was a game-changer in my recovery from an eating disorder, helping me finally enjoy food by beginning a new lifetime love affair with brunch. I actually don’t even think that’s an exaggeration! Plus it packs an amazing nutritious punch – in roughly 100g of avocado you get approximately 19g of fat (12g of these tend to be monounsaturated fats, with  only 4g of saturated fat).

Rich in minerals such as iron, copper and potassium and a good source of the B vitamin, folate, avocados also have more soluble fibre than any other fruit (or so I’m told!)

Before I break down the best avocado toast and similar avo-based-brunch spots in all corners of London, here are some cool facts about the avocado.

  1. The word Avocado comes from a Nahuatl Indian (Aztec) word “ahuácatl” meaning pexels-photo-849683.jpegtesticle. It is thought that the reference is either due to the avocado’s shape or the fact that it was considered to possess aphrodisiac qualities by the Aztecs
  2. Avocados were initially marketed by M&S as the ‘avocado pear‘ due to their shape. This had to be stopped, however, when some very wrong folk started serving avocado with custard (that’s one way to put me off!)
  3. Avocados are native to Central and South America, only popping up in the UK in the  mid-1900s. Sadly, our British rain and drizzle and cold means we can’t grow them well here… maybe we should all move to Mexico?!

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West

(let’s start here as it’s currently my local, but I’ve lived in North, East and South London too!)

Café Phillies I ama huge fan of their smashed avo, scrambled egg, smoked salmon and sourdough, but for veggies go for the ricotta and avo sourdough toast (and I always sub the poached egg for scrambled… personal preference!) This place is my all time favourite.

Ivy Brasserie – Kensington They have these all over the place, and I adore their brunch menu, lunch menu and dinner menu!

Darcie & May Green – cute little boat venues of the Aussie gem chain ‘Daisy Green’  near Paddington. So instagrammable.

Farm Girl – this Portobello Road beauty is absolutely gorgeous, and they have very instagram friendly frenchie-latte-art going on. Highly recommend, if you don’t mind a wait for a seat.

The Good Life Eatery – the one in Chelsea is always queue-worthy, so don’t be put off by the wait. Really delicious, super fresh food. Great smoothies and fresh juices too!

Central

The Riding House Cafe – This is such a great place to meet for casual coffees or cocktails but as with everything, brunch is my go-to of choice. Always popular and appropriate for literally whoever you’re meeting, not just health w*nkers 😉

Dalloway Terrace – this place features genuinely some of the BEST avocado toast I’ve ever tasted. Not to be missed. Plus the Bloomsbury group theme is great if you’re a nerdy Virginia Woolf fan like me!

AvoBar – Tucked away in Covent Garden, this place isn’t one I’ve tried I must confess but it’s top of my list and super well-reviewed… and not only can you get your avocado toast fix but it features tonnes of avocado inspired recipes (even desserts!) too!

Scarlett Green– one of many of the lovely Aussie Daisy Green cafes, this gem has just surfaced in Soho. Bottomless brunch is a GO.

The Good Life Eatery – As above, but central!

South

No 32 The Old Town – a very chilled but packed at weekends bar and restaurant, you have to try the avocado and tallegio toastie. I went for one of these every single weekend I lived in Clapham. #sorrynotsorry

Brick & Liquor – if you’re Tooting or Clapham based, this one’s for you! They have an impressive array of cocktails too (just saying!)

The Breakfast Club – if you don’t mind a queue, these are around all over London and the breakfast options abound, as you can imagine! Their pancakes are as good as the avo options too!

East

Palm Vaults – this place has cool Miami vibes with pinky-goldy-jungly decor. Anywhere that lets you pick avo toppings which include kale (*blissfulsigh* healthdreams!) and pomegrante among many others… I’m on side. They also have super health tonic-type lattes like beetroot, which you just gotta do for the ‘gram.

The Breakfast Club – see above

The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs – I LOVE THEIR COFFEE (genuinely some of the best in London!) AND NOW THEY DO AVO TOAST TOO! *dances*

Nude Coffee Roasters – ditto department of coffee and social affairsentry above basically. Not an extensive menu but delish avo toast and epic (but strong!) coffee.

Healthy Stuff – this Dalston baby mashes up their avo gooooood. Served simple with chili flakes and sourdough, with a drizzle of olive oil. Hits the spot.

North

Maison D’Etre – they’ve got your avocado, your bee pollen, your coconut chia pudding, it’s a health instagrammer’s delight. Super light, bright and airy conservatory style space tucked away at the back too. They’re on Canonbury Road for any Northernites.

Granger and Co – they have branches at the other compass points too, but I’ve only seen the Kings Cross one so this is tenuously placed in the North category 😉 Great juices as well as great food (I love the immunity shot!) and your avo comes on rye with lime and coriander… yassss. A good choice for non avo fans too.

Greenberry Cafe – a really nice and extensive healthy breakfast/brunch and lunch menu featuring your safe avo staple on Regent’s Park road.

Happy brunching!

Anywhere I’ve missed?! If you stumble across an epic avocado toast spot drop me a line or a comment below, I literally can’t get enough! Where are your fave places to get your fix?

B xoxox

Beauty trend on trial… Jade Rollers

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Photo by Fancycrave on Pexels.com

I mentioned my brand new jade roller in an update to my recent Top 5 Skincare Secrets post here but realised I wanted to do a separate post on it because it seems to be having a moment in magazines everywhere… but does it really work?

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Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

A study showed that there may be ‘subjective benefits’ to facial massage for those who partake but also noted that it may not be great for 1/3 of people who may experience breakouts (read more here).

What’s the deal?

I first came across the concept in Harper’s Bazaar and bought a jade roller last week, because I’m a sucker for marketing and particularly when its in good pieces in beautifully put-together magazines…

I personally don’t believe in the alleged powers of crystals (many people believe they have different healing properties), although I am of course always open to being wrong and hearing new evidence, my mind can always be changed if you show me why  – and I really do enjoy learning about other cultures’ beliefs around them. I totally appreciate that science doesn’t understand everything yet, so it would be crazy to be certain about anything. Jury’s out on if jade rollers have scientific benefits, apparently, but they feel damn good.

Where do they come from?

They were part of the beauty rituals of ancient Chinese Princesses throughout history, some claim [this article states that dermatologist David Lorscher, MD,  consulted a colleague from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, who said she’d found ancient textual references to jade being used to even out a spotty complexion].

What do you do with it?

It’s an aid to facial massage, and you literally roll it across your face! There’s a larger end, and a smaller roller for the harder-to-reach under-eye area.

I’ve recently tried it and it’s changed my facial and massage game.

Top tip: pop it in the fridge and use it for a morning ice-cold massage and it feels amazing and does seem to reduce puffiness (supposed to be from the lymphatic drainage benefits!)

Either way, it feels bloody good. I bought mine from Spitalfields market for just £18. This chalkboardmag post tells you how to use one, or this greencreator article!]

What are the benefits?

In all honesty I think there’s a lack of evidence around benefits, but that’s not to say there aren’t any – just that we don’t know the details yet. However, don’t go and buy one thinking results are scientifically guaranteed.

Personally, as a minimum, I find it super relaxing, a really nice mindful and pampering complement to a facial.

However, JadeRollerBeauty.com describes further benefits it may have (quote below), though for obvious reasons the site may not be entirely impartial!

The action of jade rolling increases circulation and rids your skin of toxins via lymphatic drainage. Increased blood flow means your facial muscles will improve in their tone, effectively carving out the cheekbones and jawline. Wrinkles will be smoothed, increased blood flow will act detoxifying to the skin, and lead to more brightness, clarity, and a glowing complexion. Two rollers can be used in tandem during a facial. During a facial you may cool down the jade by placing the roller in the fridge, then use it to effectively reduce dark under-eye circles, or place the jade stones in warm water and roll over any serum to help it penetrate more deeply into the skin! – JadeRollerBeauty.com

“Jade rolling used to be reserved for the elite in ancient china. When we roll on the right side of our face first, it is said to promote prosperity for the client.” – JadeRollerBeauty.com

 Why jade?

Chinese medicine refers to jade as the “Stone of Heaven”. Purported benefits include relaxing the nervous system, and aiding in the removal of toxins… although please note my evidence based caveats earlier in this post!

Symbolising health and wealth, jade also represents longevity, prosperity and wisdom.

It is said that it has been used by the Mayans and African Egyptians as a massage and meditation tool for over 5000 years. – JadeRollerBeauty.com

So what do you think – will you be trying a jade roller any time soon? While I can’t promise guaranteed magical benefits, I really do love mine… and Roald Dahl does say that those who don’t believe in magic will never find it 😉

xoxo

gym bag dive: post-workout beauty secrets

12321390_10154043329909571_5635629465917082248_nI always used to find lunchtime workouts stressful – having to shower, sort your hair and makeup, and get back to the office looking half presentable after a 40 minute sweat session, and rocking back up to your desk either a few minutes late or still flushed and bare faced? Nightmare!

A lot of you have commented that it really puts you off too, so I thought I’d share what I’ve now perfected as a 5 minute post gym beauty routine… it’s not perfect, but it’s a quick fix, with some great products!

Hair

Mark Hill Get Gorgeous No Knots Detangling Spray – I have crazy thick hair, so this is a must! A few spritzs and brushing my hair is a breeze… but only with my

Best Hair Day Tangle Teaser which I got from Birchbox– if you haven’t tried one, you really must. They’re old news now, but it’s a little grooming miracle.

Leave in conditioner – my hair is naturally very dry so I always have one of these two in my gym bag – Toni & Guy, or Aussie are my favourites.

Styling – From here, my favourite post-gym styles that take seconds are the Balmain high pony (do a real one or use this!), a side braid (or fishtail – see Zoella tutorial here for a quick how-to if you have very quick fingers!) as these disguise you if you still have damp hair but still look tidy and smart enough to return to work (or life outside the gym!)

Makeup

My aim is to be quick, but look like I’ve made an effort. I also like to take advantage of feeling healthy post-workout and fresh post-shower to let my skin breathe!

Grab these for your gym bag, and you’ll get your after-workout face on in literally seconds!

If my under-eye area is a bit dark, I’ll throw on some concealer, but my main gym rush makeup tactic is to focus on the lips.

My two favourite post-gym vibes are:

Rimmel London Kate Moss Lipstick Nude 40 – I love this nude for a natural, chilled look

Max Factor Colour Elixir Bewitching Coral 827 Lipstick – I am really into beachy tones, and this is a bit of a bolder lip, but feels fun, girlie and energetic, and it’s nice for a sassy post-workout glow.

Because I’m always feeling my most ‘sparkly’ after a workout, I like to team both of these with lipgloss. My favourites these days are these Beauty Rush Flavoured Glosses from Victoria’s Secret. Pictured is the Candy Baby  flavour, but I take Sheer Tropical Pineapple and Sheer Sugared Watermelon just as often, and I REALLY want to try the Sheer Mango Blush because I think the name is really evocative haha!

Queen Bee Vaseline – An alternative to lipstick and gloss, especially in Winter, is some nourishment. It gives your lips a subtle sheen too. Go queen bee for power woman lips!

Fragrance

I love scent, and am notorious for collecting perfumes. I picked these three for my gym bag recommendations as they’re my most-used post-workout scents, and they cater for low budget, mid budget, and a little higher.

I think scent is really evocative of mood, so I like to choose ones that prolong my workout high, and feel suitable for whatever’s up next!

Adidas Women Fizzy Energy – Super cheap, I picked this up for a couple of quid in Sports Direct, believe it or not! It’s a very simple scent – lemony, zesty, and energetic – exactly what it says on the bottle. Suitable for going back to work revved up again, or prolonging your endorphin-happy and feeling fresh, clean and light. I think the scent is a bit sporty and androgynous, so if you’re feeling that kind of vibe… do it! It doesn’t last long though, you do need to keep re-applying.

La Vie de Boheme, Anna Sui  – this bottle makes me so happy! Keeping the clean, fresh vibe of the above fragrance, but with fruity and floral tones. It’s very sweet and girlie, and usually that wouldn’t be my kind of perfume (I like them quite heady, spicy, woody) but it really keeps me in a post-gym mood. It’s light and playful, and a little bit magical. And I love the story it tells:

Born of a heart that embraces life to the fullest, the woman who seeks La Vie De Bohème is a poet. She lives half in the past with a nostalgic love for vintage, while firmly in the present with her own definition of style. She prefers authenticity and individuality to society’s norms. She won’t be tamed by convention, or controlled by the world. Self-expression and freedom are important to her, in a live-for-the-moment way. She’s playful and free-spirited, creating her own world one day at a time. La Vie De Bohème opens with a blend of feminine pink florals, rich burgundy berries, and a kiss of electrifying, sensual woods. The juxtaposition of fruity florals plays against mysterious woods to deliver Anna Sui’s signature good girl-bad girl ideal in a captivating, addictive fragrance. Life is beautiful. Life is romantic. Life is La Vie de Bohème. Notes of: Turkish Rose, Pear, Red Berries, Dragon Fruit, Magnolia, Peony, Freesia, White Wood, Skin Musk, Red Raspberries, Vanilla.

– fragrance description, Debenhams

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle – again, keeping it fresh. This can be a little sweet for me (I’m more of a Coco Noir girl!) but after a workout that can be too heavy. Coco Mademoiselle feels feminine, with a little boldness. Still a floral heart, but with a bit more punch. Wear to march back into meetings at work with determination!

 

So go ahead girls, pack your gym bag!

B xoxo