Sustainability and eco-friendly everything have finally started becoming part of mainstream conversation, probably with many thanks to social media and influencers promoting these topics.
Some people have come under fire for this (I’ve seen a well known fitness blogger get attacked for suddenly becoming a sustainability activist!) but I don’t really understand why – making a difference surely depends on ALL of us making small, incremental changes, hopefully leading to bigger and bigger changes, and pressures on companies and governments to do and be better… it’s all about us as individuals taking the small steps we can. Lots of us doing it imperfectly is better than very few people being flawless (which in today’s world is hard to achieve! Let’s face it, modern society is built for convenience, at the expense of our planet, and these things have become part of the fabric of our every day lives so unless we all go and live in a rainforest and roam free, we’re probably not living as consciously and sustainably as we could be!)
I’m not perfect. I’m ashamed to say I used to be too lazy to recycle and because I’d been put off growing up near Glastonbury by crazy hippies, I was actually relatively hostile to conversations about the planet until the last few years, where Boy and I have watched documentaries and been so saddened to see wildlife dying out, where I’ve learned from influencers like @VenetiaFalconer, @ZannaVanDijkand @HannahRoseCluleyabout all kinds of things from more sustainable diets to fast fashion to animal testing in the cosmetics industry.
So I’m trying to be better… and while I’m not claiming to be any kind of beacon or example, I just want to share some simple steps that I’ve found easy to implement, and you might like to try some of them!
Sustainableeating – I’m far from perfect, but I lived 10 years of my life as a pescatarian, I tried veganism for a couple of months, and now I’m predominantly pescatarian – I try to be ‘plant focussed’ and base meals around that where possible. I’m not saying give up meat or go vegan, although if you want to, do so by all means! But I am saying our health as well as the planet’s benefits from reducing our meat consumption, so have a little watch of some Netflix documentaries and consider trying #MeatFreeMonday, trying to buy loose not plastic-packed veggies, and eat as seasonally as possible.
Nix the new fitness clothing hauls and fast fashion! As if you’re following me you probably love working out as much as me, I know this can be a hard one. For years I’ve been seduced by new fitness clothing line launches! And I also realized my wardrobe basically IS Zara and H&M. But Venetia Falconer has done a lot of work to promote sustainable fashion recently and the idea of buying fewer clothes is so simple! Stop shopping for the sake of it! I also listened to some great podcasts featuring Livia Firth from Eco-Agewith some great tips. Essentially, reduce your buying, try to invest in sustainable brands where you can, and make sure you buy clothes and keep them for a long time. OUTFIT REPEATING IS GOOD FOR THE PLANET! And give vintage a go or try up-cycling old outfits.
Invest in sustainable and cruelty free products, and donate to charities who do work in this area. This is a very simple but powerful one, and while I know it’s hard to be 100% ethical here, do your research and make some simple swaps!
Pledge to give up the takeout coffee cups! I struggled so much and I’m not 100% perfect now, but I’m getting better. I remember my keep cup 80% of the time now, and keep one at work too. Our office has also gotten rid of plastic takeout boxes and cups and provides keep cups and Tupperware in our canteen – why not suggest your workplace does the same? I haven’t figured out what to ask gyms like Kobox etc. to do yet instead of plastic protein shake takeaway cups but if you have ideas, let me know!
DON’T WASTE FOOD! I argue about this with Boy a lot as he often forgets Tupperware in the fridge, and we’re trying super hard to not waste as much food. Did you know that 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK every year? This isn’t just a huge waste of food and money, it adds to the amount of CO2 being created in landfills. So there’s our incentive. No excuses!
Fitness and bro food fiends rejoice – USE YOUR MICROWAVE! Apparently they’re much more energy efficient compared with conventional ovens.
TURN IT OFF! Turn off lights. Skip the electric treadmill and run outside. Don’t leave the TV on all day for the dog. It’s honestly fine without it.
Change your bathroom habits (and pick up gorgeous products in the process!) When it comes to keeping shiny and clean, there are several things you need to be careful to avoid for a truly eco-friendly lifestyle. The most damaging of these is microbeads, which are basically tiny bits of solid plastic which aren’t biodegradable and make their way into watercourses and ultimately end up damaging the environment by entering the food chain. They can be found in body wash, toothpaste, face masks etc. so make sure you double check your products… In addition to this, avoiding chemicals and opting for natural cleaning products like those sold by Lush means you get their AMAZING almost edible (but don’t eat them) delicious products and keep the environment clean too!
Remember: don’t let ‘perfect’ be the enemy of progress. Lots of small steps by lots of people slowly but surely make an impact. If we all throw our hands up and say ‘f*** it, it’s too hard, what’s the point, I won’t make any difference anyway’ we’re defeating ourselves (and the planet!) before we even begin. Do your best. Make mini changes. Make a few more. Try to see what works for you and what you can keep up. It’s worth it! ❤
What are your top tips for trying to be more eco-friendly? Do you have any fave fitness or beauty (or other!) brands that help you do it? How do you recommend reducing plastic? Let me know!
Anytime I see posts and articles about this I find it SO INTERESTING because I feel like we all get insecure sometimes and want to be a little more confident.
I’m a super shy person. Always have been. But I am less painfully shy than I used to be, to the point where now often people don’t believe I’m shy (maybe they think I’m awkward instead hahaha…!)
Confidence is this weird thing, right? You see people who literally are just so free and don’t give AF and are able to share their ideas, boss something in the gym without embarassment or speak up at work… I’ve often wished I could buy it in a bottle (champagne doesn’t count if you wanna keep your job guys!)
In my first job at Vouchercodes.co.uk, a lot of ‘pitching’ was involved – and I had to deliver the pitches myself. I was 21, super shy, not at all confident, I felt inadequate and ridiculous, and could barely speak in internal meetings, let alone with clients! We also had to present in company-wide meetings weekly, and it nearly gave me a heart attack.
I’ve always hated public speaking. I’d shake – as in PHYSICALLY SHAKE. I’d feel sick. I’d cry on the phone to my dad every morning.
But you know what? Being forced to do it again and again means that 1) I know if forced, I can… I even gave a speech at a wedding a couple of years ago! and 2) where speaking in a meeting of 3-10 people used to terrify me, now I know how to do it.
Practice, basically. I’d practice my pitches to my boyfriend, on the phone to my dad, I’d set up meetings with my boss to practice with her, I’d listen to her and make notes on how she did it… and then the worst bit was just making myself do it.
To help, I qualified to teach fitness so I had to stand up in front of a class so I could learn to do it somewhere I enjoyed. And it really, really helped. But you have to decide to put the work in.
All of that ground work is the only reason I could go to an interview at a magic circle law firm and get a job as a lawyer, because if I’d gone in post-graduation at 21, I’d have fallen to literal bits and been a nervous wreck.
I mean, I’m still an introvert, I like to recharge solo as much as possible rather than socialise, and that’s totally okay! I can still be awkward and weird hahaha… but I got over that crippling shyness and if I managed to, anyone else can too.
So here are my tips! And yes, ultimately it really is a case of fake it (or try!) until you make it!
1. Stop hiding behind the ‘it’s just my personality, I’m shy’
This is tough love, I know. I used to have panic attacks about doing public speaking, and I’ll never love it. BUT if you repeatedly practice exposing yourself to uncomfortable situations, you WILL adapt. Be gentle with yourself, do it gradually, you don’t have to be too mean to yourself. But the big key is to stop making excuses and decide to make a change. The way to start is to jump in and practice whatever it is that makes you uncomfortable.
Set small goals initially. Baby steps. Then as you get into your stride, you can take the leaps and bounds.
Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.
2. Physical strength builds mental strength
Did you see this one coming? 😉 Fitness is amazing for releasing feel-good hormones (endorphin pump is REAL y’all) but it also shows you the power of practice – little by little you increase strength and/or cardio fitness and it shows you change IS possible, which should give you the confidence to keep trying new things!
I did a Kayla Itsines leg workout the day of my training contract interview and it literally saved me hahaha!
3. Re-train your brain: the long bit!
How much time do you spend worrying about what other people think about you? I read an amazing book called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k and it suggested you have a think about the important things in your life that you DO and are WILLING to give a fuck about. Anything not on that list? It’s not within your fuck budget. Let that shit gooooooo!
How your life feelsto you is more important than how it looksto other people
Trust your own choices and stop talking to yourself in a negative way in your head. Try just repeating (silently or aloud!) ‘I CAN do this’ or something similar. It sounds super American and cheesy but when your habit is to tell yourself you CAN do something instead of saying you CAN’T, it does make a massive shift in your mindset.
Too scared to try something in the gym? Feel stupid, watched, embarassed? Re-train your thought process to be like SO WHAT? What’s the worst that could happen? They’d laugh at you? (I guarantee the other people there won’t, they’re too busy doing their own workouts, but even if they did…) Worse things happen at sea, guys.
The ego likes to try and protect us from laughter or scorn from others, but I think as a result it goes into overdrive and makes us think 99% of the time people are judging us when actually they don’t really care or even notice what we’re doing! Your opinion and that of those you love (and maybe the person who pays you!) is the only one that counts. Let everything else go. Even if the worst case scenario comes true and you’re super embarassed – so what? Once you start approaching things this way, and not minding looking silly, you’ll 100% feel liberated.
I used to experiment with my hair tonnes as a kid, but my dad’s side of the family always made comments about it, and gradually I think I stopped wanting to experiment. I started to think I had to have long hair to prove I was a girl (?! wtf ?! seriously ?!) as comments would often be about short hair being ‘boyish’. As my EDs got stronger and my confidence got lower, I felt like I was way too ugly for short hair and needed long hair to distract from it. How crazy is that?!
So, recently, (and also once a year and a half ago!) I chopped all my hair off again from my boobs to my collarbone, and it’s super liberating… and I now don’t care what anyone else things, apart from me and my boyfriend basically!
Basically, work, fitness, gym, wherever… there’s a bit of work to be done on realising that you just need to go with your gut. And if it all goes wrong and you look silly… you’re not dying, you’re still alive and have soooo many good things going on… so focus on that ❤
Admittedly some of it comes with age too. The nearer I get to 30, the better able I am to shake off anyone who bugs me and stick to my fuck budget 😉
Whether you hate the idea of meditation as woo woo, you’re a hippy spiritual moon-child or [insert other extreme here], meditation has been proven by various reputable scientific studies to have a positive effect on the brain due to its promotion of the ‘relaxation response’, a physiological change in the body as a result of the ‘relaxed’ state.
So. For the purposes of confidence, meditation’s mention here is twofold:
it teaches you increased focus, which makes you better able to let go of nagging, negative thoughts like ‘I can’t do this, I’m too scared, I’m too shy, I’m too anxious, why is everyone else more confident/smarter/prettier/cleverer than me…’ and breathe, and master your emotions.
it connects you better with yourself and your thought patterns, and by being more present with yourself, you eventually come to realise that you’re not your thoughts… you’re the observer of your thoughts. So you can actually create change and not let thoughts control you, but also it should increase your ability to spend time with yourself, feel good within yourself and actually (god forbid if you’re British) LIKE YOURSELF. Like, what is this madness?!
So those of you who orbit in the instagram fitness/nutrition universe along with me may have noted the recent controversy surrounding ‘The Carnivore Diet’.
Yup, that’s right, a diet advocating essentially only eating meat (and possibly eggs).
Now you don’t need to be a genius to work out that ANY DIET advocating extremes of ONLY EATING ONE THING or cutting out other major food groups is problematic.
The Nerdy Nutrition Science Bit – why eating only meat is ridiculous
Why? Because we humans need a variety of not only the major building blocks for our bodies, macronutrients – protein, healthy fats and carbs, but we also need the smaller stuff in smaller amounts, micronutrients – all the little vitamins, minerals, things like iron or selenium or Vitamin A etc (see books The Food Medic by Hazel Wallace, Jr Doctor or ReNourish by Rhiannon Lambert, nutritionist).
A picture of optimum health involves a balanced plate, as advocated by Harley Street Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert – which means eating a rainbow, the easiest way of achieving your micronutrient goals – focus on different coloured fruits and veggies! – and a balance of the macronutrients – palm size of protein, thumb of healthy fat, firstful of carbs (ideally things like wholegrains – brown rice, quinoa etc).
The carnivore diet cannot provide you with these micronutrients, which include antioxidants and phytochemicals, the stuff in certain fruits and veggies which helps influence your epigenome to avoid cancer and other serious health issues.
The carnivore diet is also not providing people with complex carbohydrates, the main nutrient our brains use for energy, not to mention key to the production of seratonin (tryptophan can’t synthesize to make seratonin without carbs people!), often known as the happy hormone, and often considered to be lacking in people with depression.
The carnivore diet is also missing fibre, key for the internal digestive system and weight management, and a critical part of a healthy diet.
“Mrs X tried the carnivore diet and within weeks her cancer was cured!”
“I tried the carnivore diet and my psoriasis cleared right up – nothing worked for years before that!”
“I tried everything to lose weight but only the carnivore diet worked!”
So let’s look at anecdoctal evidence. Someone says something worked for them and people rush out and try it because we all want an easy mircale that provides perfect health – it’s too boring to acknowledge we have it well within our power to exercise, eat balanced meals and control lifestyle factors like stress and sleep!
Anecdotal evidence is an issue because:
They cannot positively know what caused the change without having tested it logically and systematically against everything else: this would mean only having one variable, for an experimental period of time, and keeping everything else EXACTLY THE SAME. Then doing the same to test other factors. To establish ONE THING as a root cause / cure, you need to eliminate the confusion of other factors. So if their sleep, stress, diet, job, commute, anything changed within that period, it has the potential to skew results. How do you KNOW the diet changed things? You can’t reliably separate it from other variables. You also ideally need a control group, and a group which has variables tested to see how patterns emerge, and whether correlations exist at all.
Even if you do test out variables as systematically as possible using the scientific method, you are a sample size of ONE. This is NOT ENOUGH to establish something as true for the rest of humanity. Sample size is key! 1,2,10, 20… they’re all pretty small groups when you think about it!
Additionally, we’re emotionally and cognitively biased towards people we know, so if our best friend says ‘OMG I tried this and it worked for me!’ we’re much more likely to not be questioning and critical and just take things as true, which is an issue!
On a slightly separate note, I find it so frustrating when people say they’ve tried ‘everything’ but just can’t lose weight – this usually means every fad diet, and therefore it’s no wonder! They’re not healthy, they’re not sustainable, they encourage deprivation-binge cycles and disordered approaches to eating, and typically once they’re over people return to their ‘old’ ways without ever wondering if their ‘old’ ways were this issue in the first place! Their version of trying everything doesn’t usually include the unsexy but simple and EFFECTIVE balanced eating, movement, and moderation with treats.
The final thing I wanted to touch on in this post is trolling. Rhiannon Lambert is a highly educated, highly qualified professional, and she came out on social media to denounce this diet (quite rightly!) because it’s making dangerous false promises, not to mention encouraging unhealthy eating habits.
The trolling she received was not ‘healthy debate’ or ‘offering an alternative perspective’. It was personal. It was vindictive. It was unnacceptable. I know that ‘keyboard warriors’ are supposedly emboldened by being hidden behind a screen to say things they’d never say to someone’s face, I know technology ‘de-personalises’ things – but that’s no excuse, not in a million years, to troll, attack, bully and dissect an individual, full stop.
Further, in this case Rhiannon was RIGHT and putting forward a highly qualified professional opinion (although note even people who are WRONG deserve to be treated with respect and dignity!) backed up by PLENTYYYYY of scientific evidence.
If you want to debate in a healthy way, don’t shout, don’t troll, don’t attack. Harness legitimate evidence (so in this Carnivore Diet situation, studies – although there aren’t any credible ones that support it, so you’ll have a hard time), reason logically and calmly, and while being adversarial is okay in THEORETICAL terms – argue with VIEWPOINTS, attack VIEWPOINTS, not people.
Plenty of other nutritionists have come out with exactly the same view, but Rhiannon’s public profile makes her a target for abuse and it’s totally unacceptable.
Are we done now…?
I hope this cleared up a few points on the Carnivore Diet, and why I 100% believe you shouldn’t be following ANY fad diets – as ever, I’m not a qualified nutritionist, but I take my views and everything I’ve written above from my nutritionist who is INSANELY qualified, from other nutritionists, from my personal studies and from scientific journals.
I hope this also highlights why you need to be smart about ‘anecdotal evidence’ and recognise it’s actually just a story and doesn’t prove anything!
And finally, it shouldn’t need to be said, but it seems that it really does in today’s day & age – trolling, bullying and harassing people is just not on kids.
Sending tonnes of love to you all, and to Rhiannon, and here’s hoping that we can share and spread POSITIVITY and arm ourselves with facts and information! Positing new ideas, theories, hypotheses is TOTALLY OKAY but before citing anything as true we need to DO THE RESEARCH!
Today’s Q&A is a pretty cool one because I think it manages to COMPLETELY bust some myths about social media influencers not being smart, and ‘smart’ or academic people not being able to be social media savvy or sporty… plus I found out we shared some work icons which is always fun… so over to the lovely Flora Beverley! (Links to all of her social media channels are down below).
Do what you love ALWAYS, but be sensible. Money is needed to survive, but if your way of money stops you doing what you love, try doing something else. No experience is a wasted experience – I worked in advertising, catering, in a museum, events and social media. All of them have helped me get to where I am today!
– Flora Beverley, Science PR & Media at Royal College of Obstetricians, Fitness Blogger & Social Media Influencer
B: So people may recognise you from your instagram and know you as a fitness blogger – but please can you tell us a bit about your ‘day job’, it sounds like an amazing career that a lot of people don’t even know is out there!
F: I work in Science media at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, so I act as the go-between between scientists and the press. It’s our job to make sure journalists understand the science behind a health story and translate science stories into lay english. We also make sure important research makes its way to the press without being misinterpreted! I also co-run the college’s twitter account so we always have a good online presence.
B: How did you get into science media and discover this was what you wanted to do?
F: I always knew I wanted to do something sciencey that wasn’t just research, as I always loved the arts too. Research is a little dry for me, but science media means I’m always reading the latest research but get to use my creative writing skills to translate it into English. I also obviously love social media, so it’s nice to be able to use my hard-earned social media expertise to advise organisations where social media is not the primary focus but where it is still useful to have. I knew this was the sort of job I wanted from second year at uni, but I didn’t know it actually existed until I applied to and got my first job in science comms!
B: Is it ever a struggle to juggle a full time job with your blogging?
F: I absolutely did over the first 8 months or so. That’s why recently I’ve cut down to 25h a week rather than 35h. I found myself working 8am – 10pm 7 days a week without much rest, which burned me out pretty fast. You can love your jobs all you like, but everyone needs rest! At 25h a week I am able to do 1.5 days extra of blogging. I think I actually work harder on 25h per week and am more productive in both jobs, so it’s definitely a better balance of both. I now also schedule in social media-free days every other week or so, otherwise I’d go mad! It’s hard to take time off when you’re both self-employed and employed by an organisation. [You can also read Flora’s blog post here about staying healthy while working an office job].
B: Do you have any advice for people looking to work in a similar field?
F: I’ve actually written about it on my blog a little. It’s all about showing that you’re interested in science communications and know why it’s so important. A science degree and writing experience are both useful, as a lot of it is translating science jargon to plain English.
B: Can you describe a (working) day in the life of Flora Beverley?!
F: I actually have an entire YouTube video on this! It’s my latest vid 🙂 Tends to go: 7am workout, 8:30am work, 4:30pm work ends, 5:30pm event of some variety. 10pm bed time!
B: What has been the most challenging part of getting to where you are now?
F: Keeping on the track of what I think is best for me. There is a lot of ‘advice’ coming from all directions – parents, friends, my agency – but I’ve found that sticking true to what I enjoy, more than anything, has kept me pretty happy!
B: What are your career goals for the next five years?
Whilst I think that doing pretty much everything I’ve enjoyed over the last few years has been wonderful, as I grow in all the fields I’m in, I think there’ll come a point when I have to decide what I want to specialise in. I’ve always been the sort of person who has managed to fit in literally everything I want to do, but I think there’s a point people reach where it’s in their best interest to cut loose various things so instead of doing 10 things not very well, you choose your favourite 3 and do them 110%. That’ll be a really difficult decision for me, but also I don’t think anything is final, and if it doesn’t work out I can always change my mind. That’s the only thing stopping me panic!
B: Any big misconceptions about the work you do, either your blogging and influencer work or your day job?
F: It’s funny actually – when I speak to older people, they seem way more interested in my work in science media. I think they think that I can’t be that clever if I’m a blogger. When I speak to my generation, everyone’s super interested in the work I do as a blogger, and saying I also work in science media seems to turn them off, like working 2 jobsmeans that I’m not good enough to work full time in social media. Maybe not misconceptions, but definitely preconceptions!
B: You’re always super active and super healthy – do you feel like this positively impacts your work?
F: Yes absolutely – when I lapse a little on the health or exercise front I feel my concentration and mood slipping. Exercise keeps me energetic and good food keeps me alert and happy.
B: What advice would you give to someone trying to figure out what they want to do?
F: Do what you love ALWAYS, but be sensible. Money is needed to survive, but if your way of money stops you doing what you love, try doing something else. No experience is a wasted experience – I worked in advertising, catering, in a museum, events and social media. All of them have helped me get to where I am today!
B: Have you made any mistakes along the way to where you are today and what have you learned from them, if so?
For sure, but I look forward to making plenty of mistakes in the future too. I think I’ve learned to always stay true to myself – even if something ends up being a mistake, if you know you did it for the right reasons, that’s not a problem!
B: What does ‘success’ mean to you?
F: Happiness and family. But I think the meaning can change over time. I think I’m successful now, but if I was in the same position in 8 years time, I would think of myself as unsuccessful – it’s a moving target! B: Best and worst career advice you’ve ever been given?
F: Best: Don’t listen to what others want you to do. You do you. (I’m yet to fully live by this, but I’m moving in the right direction!)
Worst: Get a job that pays well. I’ve got a job that pays, but it hardly pays WELL comparatively. But I love it and I’m happy, and it’s enough for me to live. That’s all you need!
B: Do you have a role model or mentor you look to for career inspiration?
F: My friend had a job that she loved until a staffing change made her miserable. Instead of grinning and bearing it, she got up and left. I like to think that if I stopped enjoying what I did, I’d have the confidence to quit and move on. My boyfriend is a huge inspiration – he’s gone through 3 pretty drastic career changes (drummer to gardener to academic) and has never been happier. I think for me these two people are role models for me as I would never want to be someone stuck doing something I hate and hating on others for enjoying themselves.
B: Who are your fave work and fitness icons?
F: Emma Watson and some journalists, such as Stevie Martin, Dolly Alderton, Pandora Sykes etc – all role models in general! Fitness icons – anyone who really has a passion and chases it. I like people who do a lot of things! Oenone Forbat, Gemita Samarra and Sophie Hellyer spring to mind!
B: Can you describe your weekly fitness routine? I just have to ask, because your abs though…!!!!
F: Also wrote a blog post on this! I tend to box, run and do HIIT around 5h a week. I don’t overdo it! ***Quickfire Round***
Fave workout? Boxing! Or horse riding, if you count that 🙂
Nut butter or avocado? Avo Brian Cox or Richard Attenborough? Brian Cox – unless you mean David Attenborough, in which case he always wins. I did mean David Attenborough haha sorry, I think I had the Santa Claus actor on the brain as I only just learned they were related…?! Fail!
Massage or facial? Massage
Nature or nurture? Nurture
Talent or hustle? Hustle
Chocolate or cheese? Chocolate
You’re doing cardio: podcast or playlist? Podcast
Chick flick or thriller? Thriller
Best brunch spot in London? The lighterman It’s your last EVER meal of your life. What do you order/make? Pad Thai, G&T and cinnamon oatmeal cookies to finish
So I mentioned on instagram recently I’ve been experimenting with Ayurveda. This may or may not come as a surprise to people who know me – I like to think of myself as a healthily open-minded sceptic – I treat all ideas critically, in a balanced way, and am open to changing my mind if people present evidence. It’s a safe and scientific and logical approach… which conflicts a bit with my arts-degree (I was a literature girl) more free-thinking and creative writing side… but I’ve always been contradictory like that (or as I like to think of it, it’s Keatsian ‘negative capability’ mwahaha).
I’ll explain more about ayurveda shortly, but here’s how I’m approaching it.
I’ve fallen into it via modern practitioners who fuse ancient Ayurvedic philosophies with modern Western life and nutrition knowledge. I do believe that it was created 5,000 years ago (yoga’s sister science) for India 5,000 years ago, therefore it doesn’t have to be followed to the letter – for example, lifestyles change, and my environment and culture is different from that of India 5,000 years ago. For example in Ayurveda you should never eat raw foods. That was true in India then (and much of India now!) – salad could make you ill. It’s not the case in London, so you can tweak it based on where you are and also just modernity.
I also believe that modern medicine and science knows a lot more about many things now, so naturally there are inconsistencies.
However, there are some overlaps – like the body types endomorph, ectomorph and mesomorph, for example, correspond with the Ayurvedic doshas – mesomorphs would be dominant in pitta, ectomorph – vata, and endomorph – kapha (see discussion below). In terms of the mental qualities associated with each dosha (more on what these are below!), you can think of these as metaphorical, emotional or psychological illustrations of personality types if you struggle with the pseudo-scientific nature. Just be open-minded with it, I guess! It’s not a science, it’s a philosophical system of wellness… and it’s 5,000 years old, so take or leave what works for you, and where modern knowledge is proven to contradict, that’s fine, but remember – Western medicine responds to disease and treats symptoms and causes. Ayurveda aims to prevent illness arising.
*quick check on cultural appropriation* I am fascinated by different cultures, and you may or may not have seen a discussion I had on instagram recently around the issues of cultural appropriation around yoga in the West, for example. These practices (yoga and ayurveda) are no doubt growing and evolving – they’re not the same as they once were, but I do want to take a second to say I have the utmost respect for the origins of these philosophies, and I’ve done as much research as I can into the history of the practices. I’d like to make clear and acknowledge that it isn’t part of my own heritage, but it’s something I am interested in exploring and I hope my adoption of some of the modern-fusion ayurveda is sensitive and respectful of anyone who does have deep roots in Ayurvedic and Hindu traditions. I know that ‘my’ version, or Sahara’s (see below) aren’t necessarily authentic, but hopefully we can all share in it respectfully and the last thing I would want is for this to offend anyone. Read more about the tradition here, and the Atharva Veda .
With all of that explanation over with to ‘explain’ and satisfy any fellow sceptics, here is why I have kind of fallen in love with Ayurveda, despite my reservations about all things that tend to be embraced by ‘hippy’ types which undeniably eastern and Indian philosophies have been (having grown up around Glastonbury and seen many families hugely disrupted by drugs, dropping out of school and various consequential issues, hippyisms are not something I tend to be a fan of and I feel should be treated with huge caution! Plus they tend to be unchecked appropriation of other cultures, and used as excuses for outrageous lifestyle choices… Rant over, okay, okay!)
(NB: where it conflicts with modern nutritional and scientific knowledge, I’d go with those things. However, on the mental and emotional side it’s more just like an alternative perspective on things, and one I find helpful!)
It’s a romantic and almost mythical way of expressing many things that I think modern science and psychology do tell us too.
It feels intuitive, and places emphasis on living a healthy, balanced lifestyle, with diet and digestion as a cornerstone of wellbeing – which we know to be true.
It helps me make sense of my personality, how I emotionally respond to things (and have responded to past trauma), and how to balance myself out.
I’m inclined to agree it’s more helpful from a mental health and balance perspective than it being a medicine system to cure physical ailments – I wouldn’t ever substitute it for qualified medical advice – but it can certainly support, in my opinion.
I’ve always been drawn to ancient cultures the world over and it’s fun to play with… and there’s no harm in playing and being interested!
It just feels intuitive to me and explains my personality. Whether that’s placebo, or whether modern science and psychology aligns with it or not, if it makes you feel good, what’s the harm?!
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda means the ‘knowledge of life’, and is a holistic Ancient Indian system of health and wellbeing. If you google it, the definition you get is:
the traditional Hindu system of medicine (incorporated in Atharva Veda, the last of the four Vedas), which is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing.
I found Sahara Rose‘s attitude of choosing the parts of the practice that work for you and work in modern life helpful. You can read her article here about why practicing yoga (although amazing!) is only a tiny step in optimising how you feel – and how ayurveda is the ultimate lifestyle compliment (the two systems go hand in hand, after all!)
As a simple introduction, in Ayurveda the idea is we’re born with a unique combination of the three Ayurvedic doshas – kapha, vata and pitta (the combo you’re born with is your prakruti). Diet and lifestyle and other factors can change this – if you were born vata dominant, for example, you could become more pitta. Your present constitution, if different from your prakruti is your vikruti.
In Ayurveda emotional states, mental and physical ailments etc… basically anything that means you’re not ‘well’ is thought to be because of a dosha imbalance in some way. Too much vata, too little kapha… it can be much more complex than this, but this is a simplified explanation, and ayurveda seeks to provide lifestyle choices and practices people can follow to stay physically and mentally balanced. Certain personality types may prefer different things, and need to bear in mind they should balance themselves (for example I’m a pitta – considered to be driven, fiery, highly motivated, prone to loving caffeine and heavy duty workouts – but I need to balance this with more yin yoga, for example, and slowing down, caffeine and alcohol reduction, even if that’s not my instinct!) A lot of it can be considered common sense! Kaphas are thought to be much more grounded, stable, generous, but also potentially prone to lethargy and weight gain if out of balance… and so more vigorous movement is recommended. (These are just some super simplistic illustrations!)
My experience so far
I’ve found that certain ayurvedic practices, including but not limited to an improved morning routine (including tongue scraping, oil pulling, splashing the eyes 10 times with cold water and abhyanga [an ayurvedic form of self-massage with oil]) to be therapeutic and actually quite uplifting.
I’ve also been trying trying a few of the dosha balancing meditations (discover an indication of your dominant dosha here but for truly accurate results see a practitioner), and making some dosha-balancing lifestyle changes (for example, I am very dominantly pitta – in both body and mind – so rather than stick to my go-to agressive coffee consumption and power yoga, I’ve incorporated more deep breathing, some very gentle yin yoga, and calming herb teas).
Studies have shown (I was reading a scientific paper from a journal on the train about exactly this today!) that meditation, yoga (and other activities like reading, qu gong, tai chi) etc. are beneficial for health and mind because they promote the relaxation response which has a positive biological impact – reduced oxygen consumption, blood pressure, heart rate and changes to regions of the brain whose names have escaped me just now! Activities like this positively influence our epigenetics (the parts of our DNA that switch cells on and off essentially – determining which bits of our DNA are used!) On a similar note, exercise is another lifestyle factor that can alter your DNA (as can nutrition, stress levels, exposure to toxins…) and you can read more on the science of that here.
However, whether or not there are tangible benefits you can derive from ayurveda (and anecdotally there do seem to be, although clearly when people like me try things, we’re not doing a controlled study so it’s hard to establish a reliable causal link), to me, it’s all about how you feel and if it has a positive impact on your life and general wellbeing… and this definitely is for me!
I also just did a quick 8 week short course called Self Care and Ayurvedic Nutrition to learn more, and it has given me some great practices that really help me manage stress and my mood, plus some delicious recipes.
What do you think?!
I’d love to hear your comments on this, and any philosophies or lifestyle changes that you find work for you!
Sahara Rose Ketabi, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Holistic Health and Sports Nutrition Coach on dosha-sports science parallels:
Some of us have increased development of the ectodermal layer, contributing to a more active nervous system and faster catabolism (the breakdown of muscle tissue.) This makes make us more naturally small-boned, full of thoughts, sensitive to external surroundings and energy, and often cold — exactly like a Vata.
Vata is regulated by Ether and Air energy, regulating the nervous system as well. Vatas are thin-bodied, dry-skinned, bold-bodied, hypersensitive to their surroundings, and imaginative. When they’re off balance, they can become anxious or anemic. I often compare Vata to the Fall wind — cool, dry, creative, and a little bit all over the place.
If you are an Ectomorph/ Vata, then I recommend consuming a more warming, grounding foods like soups, stews, and proteins. Avoid too much cold, raw food, which will cool down your already weak digestive fire. Make sure you stretch your body to prevent it from getting stiff and practice strength-training exercises. Practice more mindfulness.
Others of us have increased development of the mesodermal layer. We’re naturally more muscular, prone to stress, with strong bones and appetites — just like a Pitta.
Pitta is comprised of Fire and Water energy, controlling transformation — metabolism, digestion, assimilation, and muscle development. Pittas are naturally athletic, high-achieving people with strong work ethics (and appetites). When they’re off balance, they can become impatient, overheated, or agitated. I often compare Pitta to the summer — hot, fiery, and passionate!
If you are a Mesomorph/ Pitta, I recommend consuming more cooling, hydrating foods like fresh fruit and leafy greens. Avoid spicy food, caffeine, and chocolate, which are all too stimulating and heat-inducing for your already hot system. Be careful not to overexert yourself and become overly competitive. Practice yin yoga and meditation regularly.
And there are those of us with increased development of the endodermal layer. We may have slower metabolisms and digestions and are prone towards respiratory issues, exactly like the Kapha Dosha.
Kapha is comprised of Earth and Water energy, regulating structure, body tissue, and bone structure. Kaphas are peaceful, easy-going, good-natured, people. When out of balance, however, they can easily become overweight and lazy, and catch colds frequently. I like to compare Kaphas to the Spring — cool, wet, and dense.
If you’re an Endomorph/ Kapha, I suggest favoring light, stimulating foods like well-spiced quinoa, steamed vegetables and bitter greens. Avoid sweet, cool, and creamy foods like ice cream or pasta, which will make your sluggish digestive system even slower. Make sure you break a sweat every day to prevent yourself from becoming lethargic. Try something new every day.”
Diet culture needs tackling. Where ‘clean eating’ feeds this – it’s a problem. Individuals need to be educated and supported. Perhaps the lesson here is all viral fads are unlikely to ever be holistic (when things go viral they’re not joined by the scientific papers and research are they?!) and so are potentially always dangerous because a fad, even if it sounds saintly and perfect and #wellness, is still a fad and the lifestyle that follows from it is unlikely to be as tailored, balanced and healthy as it needs to be if it comes from a buzzword, be it ‘clean eating’ or ‘Atkins’. – B, @legallygymliving
Clean eating: what is it?
The way I and many other fitness and nutrition enthusiasts understand it is the idea that certain foods are, for want of a better word, ‘cleaner’ than others… i.e. not processed, as close as possible to their natural state… Essentially from nature. I heard phrases when I first got into clean eating like: ‘if it didn’t die or grow in the ground, avoid it’.
And what’s the harm, right? We all need to be encouraged away from eating so much processed, junk and massively added sugar-laden food don’t we?
Well… to an extent. I personally believe the ‘movement’ started with these good intentions – to encourage eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods as much as possible, to try and ‘re-set’ what people regard as go-to foods to a healthier place. For example, James Duigan’s Clean, Lean cookbooks (he founded Bodyism and coached celebs like Elle McPherson).
But increasingly there’s been a backlash against the movement as it grew – let’s talk about why.
Clean eating: the backlash
Semantically, the opposite of clean is dirty, right? So the backlash can be summarised in a nutshell like this.
People begin dividing foods into ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’. It spirals out of control. Orthorexia rises (an eating disorder where people become obsessed with only eating ‘clean’), presumably triggered by the cultural prevalence of a movement that seems healthy but encourages binary thinking about food as GOOD vs BAD. Instead of being a balanced, encouraging tagline, the term essentially seems to encourage an either/or mindset and this catches on beyond the pockets of health bloggers and fitness professionals via instagram, and grows and grows into a clean eating frenzy – so we’re basically back to demonising certain foods on a fairly wide scale, because they’re not clean, and worrying about whether we can eat stuff – is it ‘clean and lean’ or is it ‘dirty’ or ‘bad for me’. It’s like the 80s and 90s fad diets all over again, but dressed up as balance and health.
This is pretty much how and why the backlash happened.
And I agree it needs to be discussed – it’s dangerous, particularly for impressionable young girls, boys and even adults who glean all their nutritional information from the media – to become brainwashed and let this kind of mindset spiral out of control.
Influencers like Alice Liveing realised the movement was having unintentional negative consequences, and distanced themselves – Alice famously changed her instagram username from @cleaneatingalice to @aliveliveing partially for this reason.
My two cents: clean eating, orthorexia, & foodie language – words have power, but also have (& need) context!
I am not a nutritionist, so I’m not qualified, I can’t advise, this is just my personal view! I am a nutrition and fitness enthusiast and I followed the clean eating trend as it rose, and fell. I see both sides of the coin. It didn’t trigger orthorexia in me, despite being an ex-eating-disorder sufferer (of bulimia and body dysmorphia). It has clearly triggered an increase in orthorexia, or at least been problematic for ED suffers and this really needs to be addressed.
I think we need to be so careful about how we talk about food and ensure we’re not promoting things that can make it easier for eating disorders to be triggered. But remember – they are eating disorders and it’s a mental and physical health issue. Describing food as clean isn’t a single cause, and the movement was initially, I believe, well-intentioned and an attempt to educate.
It’s hard to know what language to use because there’s no getting away from the fact that some foods ARE nutritionally more beneficial than others. The problem is, a description of food can’t be taken in isolation (and neither can a meal or a snack!) We need to look at the whole picture.
Yes, labelling foods as just clean or dirty is damaging in isolation.
You can have cake, burgers, pizza, nachos etc. in MODERATION and still be healthy (and lose fat if that’s your goal).
Just like you can eat a caloric surplus of ‘clean’ foods – nuts, rice, sweet potato, chicken, broccoli and gain weight.
Ultimately, it’s about the wider culture, and your wider nutritional intake, self-image, body confidence, the whole shebang. We can’t lie to ourselves and say pizza or chocolate are as great for our bodies gram for gram as broccoli, mixed veggies, potato and lean protein! I appreciate ‘dirty’ is a loaded word but we do need to be aware of the additives in our food.
So I think it’s all about context, balance, and trying to avoid saying ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ around food as much as possible, but sometimes I do say ‘clean’ and I think providing the context is there, it’s totally OKAY. The problem is the way people are educated about their diet in general, the way certain body types are idolised or vilified, the tearing apart of celeb bodies in the media (constant comments particularly with women in the gossip mags!) and the fact it’s ASSUMED all women WANT to lose weight… to name a few!
Diet culture needs tackling. Where ‘clean eating’ feeds this – it’s a problem. Individuals need to be educated and supported. Perhaps the lesson here is all viral fads are unlikely to ever be holistic (when things go viral they’re not joined by the scientific papers and research are they?!) and so are potentially always dangerous because fad, even if it sounds saintly and perfect and #wellness, is still a fad and the lifestyle that follows from it is unlikely to be as tailored, balanced and healthy as it needs to be if it comes from a buzzword, be it ‘clean eating’ or ‘Atkins’.
Where describing foods as clean can be helpful and is done in context, I think that’s fine.
What are your thoughts around these issues? It’s such a complicated topic! Let me know in the comments.
Ooh, and I also published a post a while ago you might like to read if you’re interested in this area (see ‘An Apology’ here) in which I dealt with how I now feel about past bits of my fitness and health ‘journey’ (cringe), where I did promote clean eating and various things that at the time I loved but now don’t feel comfortable about…
Are you affected by anything in this post?
If you suffer with an eating disorder, think you do, or are struggling with your relationship with food or your body, please contact your GP and a nutritionist (and ideally therapist).
Something has been on my mind over the last few months, and exams and various things have meant it’s taken me FOREVER to get around writing this.
But over the last year or so, I’ve MASSIVELY re-educated myself about nutrition, about self-care, about the science of health and looking after ourselves. I’m so excited that Instagram is starting to have healthier advice from qualified professionals seep out there – from @thefoodmedic, a junior doctor to @rhitrition, a Harley Street nutritionist, and from there it’s trickling down to influencers and professional bloggers, and also out to the wider world – including your at-home-normal-girl-online (like me!) who just takes an interest but doesn’t work in the field.
This dawning realisation of how qualified advice is key, and of how to truly look after myself made me realise something: even when I thought I’d recovered from eating disorders I was still obsessive, counting calories and macros made me miserable, I tried crazy tips and tricks I’d find online… I was exhibiting damaging behaviours, but because I have always documented my journey on Instagram, I was sharing them.
I am not an “influencer”. I’m just a girl online. I’m not a nutritionist. I’ve never pretended to be able to give advice in any official sense, but the problem with sharing our lives on social in the health and wellness sphere is inevitably there will be people who give something you’ve tried a whirl.
Social gives you a channel that if what you say reaches even one person, it can have an effect.
So I am writing this to say I’m sorry.
Obviously everything I’ve ever written is just my opinion and so I can’t be responsible for anyone copying or trying anything, I know that, but I still want to write this to make clear that moving forward I want to distance myself even more from the obsessive ‘weight loss’ and ‘clean eating’ online movements… clearly each and every one of us takes responsibility for our own health (unless you hire qualified practitioners who then presumably assume responsibility for any good or ill effects of you implementing their official advice), and I’m not under any ego-centric illusion that me essentially sharing my health and fitness ‘diary’ has changed lives…
BUT I am sorry for sharing things about my journey, my experience, any informal advice or tips when they were wrong (as I now believe them to be – obviously at the time I was excited by them, and believed in them! And there are evidently people who still do). I think posts of mine even a year ago mention macro counting. I’m sure that for certain people this works fine, but it’s not something I’d now want to promote personally at all.
It has never been my intention to mislead, but in genuinely believing stuff that was wrong myself, what I intended doesn’t matter – maybe I contributed to promoting unhealthy habits in the past entirely mistakenly. Trying to convince myself that obsessing about macros made me feel great might have made someone else do the same, possibly, and I’m sorry for that.
I’m sorry for sharing so much on #cleaneating in the past. (I think this movement started off as well-intentioned – to encourage increased consumption of whole foods, vegetables, and reduction of over-processed, super sugary products… but the way it caught on has led to the rise of orthorexia in recent years (see the book ReNourish, by Rhiannon Lambert, and also there are various documentaries you can watch on this) and it is tricky, to be fair, to find vocabulary to express these ideas without them being loaded and causing problems!).
I’m sorry for not finding the right path sooner, and for falling prey to pseudoscience and myths in the hope they’d be quick fixes.
I’m sorry that society hasn’t yet fully embraced sensible healthy living and still encourages diet culture.
Of course I’m still sharing my journey but I’m trying to cite sources, to seek scientific verification before I try things out for myself let alone talk about them in public online, and to constantly emphasise that we can’t take information we find on Instagram as correct without fact-checking from credible sources – and that includes not just blindly believing hobby bloggers like me!
We have all probably accidentally pushed material around in the public sphere that with hindsight we realise actually wasn’t the right thing. I don’t think there are many people out there who do this deliberately (maybe with the exception of skinny/detox/diet teas and body wrap products!) But I think we can all try to be more responsible about how we use social media and ground what we say in sources that aren’t dubious in origin!
I hope this helps, and let’s all do our best to join the revolution of evidence-based health and nutrition and counteract diet culture!
(And in the event that anyone comes out of this post feeling a bit blue about social media, have a little read of this where I’ve shared my musings on the dangers but also the AMAZING BENEFITS of social!)
PPS. all images here are of recipes which you can find on this site, or on my Instagram!
PPPS. As if I haven’t said it enough, I think we should ALWAYS SEEK ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS about diet, nutrition and fitness. The internet might be great for inspiration, but your health is the most important thing and you need qualified individuals to help you make sure you’re making safe and sensible choices for your body.
Bloggers, randoms like me, instagrammers (who aren’t nutritionists and doctors, and even when they are, they can’t give tailored advice without seeing you in clinic!) and internet forums aren’t sources of info you should copy unquestioningly, or even at all. Use them to investigate, but always always always verify. Have I emphasised this enough yet hehe?!!!