Montenegro fun

Our plan to travel to Montenegro this October originated with a desire for late summer sunshine and some serendipity when looking at potential travel sports in the nearby Croatia. One of the reviews for a hotel we were looking at insisted that anyone staying in Dubrovnik did a day trip to Montenegro, just to see the beautiful scenery and experience the slightly different culture. After realising flights direct to Tivat were significantly cheaper than those to Dubrovnik 60km up the coast we were sold – we were going to Montenegro!

People are usually drawn to the main cities on the coast of Montenegro (which is where we stayed for our brief trip), but as the entire country is only roughly half the size of Wales, a trip to the beautiful northern Durmitor national park isn’t more than half a day’s drive, even on the mountain roads. 

We were lucky enough to be provided accommodation by the beautiful Hotel Splendid on the outskirts of Budva, 30 minutes along the coast from Tivat, where we landed. The location was perfect – we were within walking distance of the Old Town of Budva, a stunning town encircled by stone walls right on a rocky peninsula – the stuff of actual dreams! Rather than being the tourist trap we expected, the old town was pleasant to walk around, despite some large tourist groups. I would definitely recommend visiting out of peak season, as we did! It’s known for being a little too busy in mid-summer. The other side of out hotel further to the south was a coast path all the way to the famous Sveti Stefan semi-island, which is considered the most exclusive area of the Montenegrin coast, in part due to the hotel of the same name situated there. Both the Old Town and Sveti Stefan were decent walks right along the beach – we were pleasantly surprised to find gorgeous coast paths in each direction straight from our hotel, saving us walking on the main roads.

The pics below are of the gorgeous view of Sveti Stefan and the hike up to the viewing area. Running optional! There is also a road up there.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when arriving at Hotel Splendid, as the photos didn’t give too much away. After I arrived I was actually blown away by the beauty of the place – although the hotel is technically a ‘conference and spa resort’, it provides so much more than board rooms and work stations. The hotel itself is a 5* beach resort placed pretty much directly on the sand – the view from our 5th floor bedroom window was of the stunning hotel pools and the beach and mountains that Montenegro is so famous for. This was an absolute highlight of the hotel – I will never get tired of looking at photos of that view!

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Not surprisingly, I wanted to ‘gram every photo taken from this balcony

Hotel Splendid also has the best spa in the region, allowing it to stay open to guests year-round. In the colder winter months, the VERY extensive multi-pooled spa with various saunas is a haven for visitors globally. Sadly we didn’t get to use the spa facilities during our short stay but without a doubt would return again in off season to test out everything on offer! I was lucky enough to be offered one of their spa treatments, however, and I opted for a back and neck massage (because of severe DOMS from boxing) which was good. Being used to mainly sports massages, I asked the masseuse to work her magic potentially a little TOO hard, and at one point it did feel like she was trying to harvest my shoulder blades, but have no doubt that softer massages are also available! 🙂 I would loved to have come back for more treatments (the menu and products used are both very extensive) so that’s definitely something to plan for the future!

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Poolside seemed like the perfect location for some quick HIIT (after much sunbathing)

The food at the hotel was provided in a buffet style in the main hotel restaurant and was good. Particular favourites included the homemade breads (always a winner) and cereal selection. However one thing I would say is that being vegan is nigh-on impossible – I ended up eating pretty much the same food for breakfast and dinner every night (which was really good but did get monotonous). Nothing has allergy advice on either so it is difficult if you are following a specialised diet, although I presume if you asked in advance they would be able to provide all the information to you, as they were very helpful in general. For meat-eaters, however, there was a diverse range of dishes, including many local foods. On our last evening we visited the beach-front restaurant, Promenada, an oriental style restaurant serving up a diverse range of foods. I was REALLY impressed with the food here! I would recommend a visit to each of the hotel’s 3 restaurants and 4 bars if you do visit – there is such a variety of food available there’s bound to be something for everyone. 🙂

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This is how happy I felt in the marina next to Regent Porto!

On our last day we visited nearby Tivat and Kotor, both situated on the nearly Bay of Kotor. I am SO happy we decided to visit Tivat – it has one of the most gorgeous marinas I’ve ever witnessed. Think: the opulence of Oman and Cannes but with the unspoiled beauty of a national park. See pics. 🙂 Regent Porto Montenegro, a relatively new luxury hotel, was generous enough to offer us a visit, and it was a fantastic first experience of Tivat. Situated right on the front of the marina, Fiann and I enjoyed a wholesome lunch in the sunshine with some of the best (and friendliest) service I’ve ever received. After a tour of the hotel (including an introduction to the myriad of wellness activities offered there), Fiann and I settled by the pool for some post-lunch reading. Nb/ the below pictures are of the only pool open so late in the year HOWEVER they also have a huge infinity pool open until the end of the season from May/June time (weather dependent). Sadly we were unable to visit it, but were told it has been voted one of the top infinity pools in the world. High praise indeed. I can’t comment on the facilities or rooms as we haven’t stayed there (yet), but plan on heading back early next year, and would love to write a review then!

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After managing to drag ourselves away from the pool, Fiann and I drove to the nearby town of Kotor. We were told to visit by pretty much everyone, but whether it’s because we were in a rush or because it was such a stark contrast to the tranquillity of the Regent Porto, we were slightly underwhelmed with Kotor. As with many large towns, you don’t seem to get the magic and cosiness of smaller towns. However, as it was recommended by so many people (and as we hadn’t hit our step count yet), Fiann and I paid our €8 each and headed up the approx 1350 steps and 1200m to the Castle of San Giovanni. I can’t recommend this more if you like good views, exercise and ruins! We climbed pretty quickly (chasing sunset) and were not disappointed. Unless you’re very steady on your feet, maybe don’t head up at dusk – the route back down (which, granted, Fiann and I ran) was hellish in the dark, but also very fun as it was lit up by huge flood lights. 10/10 would recommend! If you’re looking for the views without the hike, drive up the nearby serpentine road – it goes up and up and up into the mountains and it is possible to stop in various lay-bys for spectacular views over the bay of Kotor. It’s also quite sickening if you don’t like heights or narrow roads!

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The ruins of the castle in Kotor – image by Jet Setting Fools

TL;DR The long and short of it is that you MUST visit Montenegro. Top tips would be to stay in Tivat or Becici, the small town just outside of Budva where our lovely hotel was situated. Plan to visit outside of peak season – the best months are apparently May and September, but the good weather continues well into October (it was 26 degrees and beautifully sunny everyday the week we were there).

  • Visit Kotor and climb the ruins.
  • Say hello to every cat you see.
  • Eat lots of food. Being vegan is hard.
  • Visit Durmitor National Park, drive the serpentine road and visit Lovcen for stunning mountains and views.
  • Visit Sveti Stefan to see how the other half live. Since you won’t actually be allowed in (without paying), climb up to the viewing spot past Praskvica Monastery views.
  • Follow @gomontenegro and @wtdmontenegro for more inspiration of what to do and where to go!

Fun fact: The Splendid conference hotel name was actually used for the 2006 James Bond film “Casino Royale” (Hotel Splendide), although the vast majority of the film was actually shot in the Czech Republic. They even have a casino on the top floor that people visit from far and wide called ‘Casino Royal’. I like this fact.

Nb/ Hotel Splendid very generously offered us our three nights stay free of charge. However as always, all thoughts and views are my own. We will be back soon without a doubt!

Anon II

This piece is part of #mentallywealthy, a series of blog posts written by men and women who have suffered, or are suffering from mental health problems. The aim is to open up the conversation around mental health and give a voice to those suffering. To see more from this series head to the ‘Mental Health’ tab on my blog. 

It’s not about getting skinny; it’s not about looking a certain way. It’s about not being able to control the external world that surrounds me and so instead I control my internal world, or at least I think I am. Imagine waking up and taking 20 minutes to get out of bed because you feel too faint, too weak, too drained to carry yourself. Imagine having to start your day with the agonising thought of how much weight you’ve lost and having that determine your actions and self-worth for the day. Imagine having your twin sister have to bathe you at your worst point, witnessing your skeletal frame. Imagine having your little sister have to monitor your snacks and meals at school. Imagine having your parents and grandma cry at the sight of you and the thought that you may die in your sleep.

The worst point of my anorexia left me bound to a wheelchair and hooked to an NG tube. I became so frail I couldn’t walk, and I’d abused my body to the point where it couldn’t digest ‘normal food’ anymore. The internet glorifies anorexia in some way and the recovery alongside it. It doesn’t show you the god-awful side effects that come alongside it. An eating disorder is not skipping one meal, thinking you are fat or wanting to lose a few kilograms. It is a mental disease, one that controls your life and overpowers everything else that you once cared about. It transforms you into a different person, stealing your personality, happiness, friends and family and replaces them with fear, anxiety and loneliness. I have had so many occasions where I know I have an abundance of support around me but that voice in my head convinces me that I don’t need help and that it’s better to keep my struggles to myself. It doesn’t appear out of nowhere, it grows from so many different sources; for me personally being perfectionism, a fear of growing up and change, and living up to expectations. It drains your body, mentally and physically, and slowly but surely kills you … literally. Anorexia is the rotting away of your body, the emaciated skeleton you become, the complete withdrawal from life, the numbness of all feeling apart from guilt and crying. It is your fingers turning blue, your legs giving in whilst you walk, the endless hours of body checking and exercising, and nothing but emptiness seen in your eyes.

I have been suffering from anorexia nervosa for almost 7 years, in and out of hospitals, transferred multiple times between treatment teams and consultants. It terrifies me to think that all of my teenage years have been lost to this illness. I was diagnosed when I was 13 years old, and this year, I’ve turned 20. I never thought I’d reach this age and still have my eating disorder. Two seconds ago I was a teenager, just falling into the depths of anorexia, thinking I’d magically get better and be successful in life. Yet here I stand, 7 years later, still suffering, still counting every calorie, weighing myself multiple times a day and still consumed by my eating disorder.

I don’t know if I will ever recover, and if I do then when that’ll be. To anyone else suffering, You don’t have to be alone, find someone, anyone who will listen to you. Sure, there will be nights when you feel alone, some nights where you actually need to be alone but don’t leave yourself with no option but to be alone. Having someone there for you doesn’t mean they’ll understand what you’re going through, but just having someone to listen, to hold you whilst you cry, will give a sense of longing security. Don’t fall victim to your anorexia, don’t become part of the 1 in 5 who die from anorexia.

Read another post here.

How I keep motivated

It’s a question I get asked time and time again – just HOW do I keep motivated? Mostly it’s in reference to fitness, but we require motivation in all walks of life, from work, to household chores, to the gym.

I don’t believe there’s any secret to motivation – it all comes from practise, prioritising and learning to do what you love and love what you do. Regardless, here are my top tips for staying motivated day to day.

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Learn to love what you do

Easy to say, harder to do. But when you love what you do, motivation to do it comes easily, 75% of the time. The reason I didn’t say ‘do what you love’ is because I know it’s not feasible for people to constantly be doing things they enjoy – if we did, no one would have issues with motivation. The trick here is finding things you love about what you do. Finding meaning in your work has been shown to lead to the highest levels of job satisfaction, whether you find meaning in helping other people (customer services, doctors), teaching the next generation or earning money to help support your family. The same goes for exercise – if you don’t particularly enjoy the gym but have no alternative way of exercising at this time, think of the specific benefits of what you are doing. I love doing mobility work because I know it’s going to help me move long into my old age. Find meaning in your workouts, and change your mindset from ‘I have to go to the gym’ to ‘I get to go to the gym’, rather than ‘I haveto go t the gym’. No one has to go to the gym, it’s a choice that’ll make you feel good. If it doesn’t make you feel good, really question why you’re doing it and think about looking for other alternatives.

 

Get into a habit

Habitually doing something means that your brain doesn’t have to make the decision to do it everyday, it’s just habit. That makes it so much easier, because it’s just the status quo. Of course, forming the habit in the first place is harder, but use the other tips on this page to get started. You won’t regret it!

 

Find a friend

You become the average of the closest people to you – a cliché but 100% true. We adopt habits and lifestyles of those closest to us, which is why a toxic friend can be so damaging. Try to surround yourself with people who are also trying to better themselves, whether that’s working hard at work, eating a healthy diet or heading to the gym everyday. In those days you lack motivation, just hearing that your friend is going to the gym after work can be enough to motivate you to head there too, even if just for a short session. Since hanging out with my fitness-focussed friends in London, I’ve taken up several new sports, have been eating healthier and I also now drink less!

 

Rest up

Motivation can be hard to come by when you’re utterly exhausted and/or burned out! You can love something and still not be motivated to do it if you’re too tired, and for that reason I would really recommend incorporating rest into your routine. Whether that’s a mental break from your job or a physical break from exercise, rest is equally as important as working out itself! Realising the difference between being physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted is also of utmost importance. If you’re not going to the gym because you’re too tired after work, chances are you’re mentally drained, not physically drained. Tired from a toxic colleague? You’re probably emotionally exhausted, and no amount of coffee is going to sort that. In these situations, working out can be one of the best things you can do, as it gives your brain a total rest from the day. Realising the difference between these three types of tiredness really helped my motivation to do things. It’s sometimes as simple as realising that you’re actually not tired, you’re just fed up!

 

Discipline

A lot of ‘motivation’ is actually discipline. The above tips help a lot when it comes to actually wanting to do something, but discipline makes up the other proportion of getting things done. People who make real progress are those disciplined enough to get into good habits. I will never say that discipline should come at the expense of enjoyment, but it takes some trial and error to realise that sometimes it takes doing something you don’t want to do now to be happier later. Discipline also makes the rewards of doing boring/painful things so much better! Seeing progress after working hard for something is a feeling far better than lying in bed everyday rather than gymming (obviously there is a time for this too!).

 

Forgiveness

We all lack motivation from time to time. In reality, whatever you see on Instagram, I am not always motivated, and although I find it relatively easy to get myself to the gym, other work (such as writing blog posts and editing YouTubes) requires huge amounts of motivation to get myself to do. I started this post about 6 weeks ago, for example – we’re definitely not all perfect, and forgiving yourself for that is SO important for your long-term happiness.

 

As with everything, motivation is about the fine balance between doing what you want to do now and remembering what you want to happen later. The great thing is that it can be practised and improved, so no need to worry if you feel like you lack motivation! The above tips will hopefully help you find something that it’s easy to be motivated to do, and then progress will come 🙂

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Best (vegan) cafes – Paris

After a gorgeous weekend in Paris, I thought I’d write up all the wonderful suggestions you all sent us for vegan cafes in Paris. Whilst we couldn’t (by any means) visit all of them, so many of you have asked me to pass on the suggestions, I’m just going to write them all up with a little blurb about their general vibe. They’re not all 100% vegan, but in Paris ‘vegan options’ is still pretty good going!

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Versailles is not very vegan – bring your own picnic!

Cafés

 

Cloud Cakes

This cafe was recommended by 3 lovely people so it has to be good! This is a café that also serves light meals and vegan pastries until 7pm Monday – Saturday and Sunday for brunch.

Wild and the Moon

After receiving more recommendations for wild and the moon than any other place, I knew I had to visit! Fiann and I headed there for brunch on Sunday in the 11tharrondissement. They have multiple cafes, but this is the newest one, so we wanted to check it out. It had beautiful clean décor, plenty of plants and a good number of food options. It was a little pricey compared to what I’d usually spend on breakfast, but the food was indeed delicious, and good vegan food seems to be a bit of a novelty in Paris. I had a smoothie bowl (€10) and Fiann had a focaccia with beetroot hummus (€8.50), before sharing one of the nicest banana breads I’ve ever eaten (aside from mine of course!). Their smoothies are also to die for (they make their own nut milks). Would thoroughly recommend for food, but don’t expect to spend less than €15pp if you want food and a drink! See below for our delicious food.

Ob-la-di

Open 8am – 5pm Monday – Sunday serving coffees, teas and brunch/lunch food. Looks quaint but not cheap (yay Paris). Standard avo-toast affaire, but looks like it has pretty good reviews and apparently is one of the ‘most instagrammed cafes in Paris’.

Café Berry

Situated in the Marais, Café Berry serves healthy vegetarian food and drink and has received many great reviews since its opening in the last year. Looks cute, and I kind of wish I’d been when I was there!

Umami matcha café

Open 9am – 7pm Tuesday to Sunday, Umami matcha café is perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch and afternoon tea. It has 4/5 stars on Tripadvisor and looks like it is great for snacks and matcha, but the reviews about their savoury meals are mixed. Based in the Marais. Not vegan but vegan options.

Oni coffee shop

Based next to Strasborg Saint-Denis/Gare du Nord, this is a new café on a busy street. Out of 40 reviews it has 4.5 stars on Tripadvisor – all pretty positive! It offers lots of homemade cakes, as well as vegan and gluten free options. Expect €4 for a latte and 9€ for a sandwich/tartine.

Holybelly

From my research, Holybelly looks like a very interesting coffee shop. It has great quality coffee (reflected in the price) and 4.5 stars on tripadvisor (out of 802 reviews). The reviews suggest that there might be a bit of a wait, and it’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for here, and the service and quality of food is really good. If you are vegan, double check that your food is cooked without butter, as it’s not a specialty vegan restaurant.

Peonies

On google this simply says ‘coffee and flowers’, which I both love so not sure why I didn’t go here! It looks like a really cute café with good décor, situated near to Gare du Nord. Vegan options are offered but it’s not a speciality of theirs. Gluten free options offered too. Open 9am – 7:30pm Tuesday – Saturdays and reduced hours on Sundays. s

The hardware société

This café is based in Monmartre and has received great reviews for its food! The tripadvisor does not say that vegan options are available, but the vegetarian food looks amazing. Open 9/9:30am – 4/4:30pm everyday except Tuesday and Wednesday (when it is shut).

VG patisserie

VG patisserie is ‘vegan cake heaven’ and has received amazing reviews all round. It’s strictly desserts, but perfect if you want to pop in for a snack if you’re in the 11th arrondissement. Honestly I have no idea why we didn’t go here, it looks incredible!

Café Ginger

We went to café ginger after arriving at Gentle Gourmet only to find it inexplicably shut! I’m happy we did though, because this is an adorable small café/lunch restaurant that locally sources organic vegan produce to create 3 ‘plats du jour’. I have an aubergine ‘parmigiana’ and Fiann had a spring roll. Mine was insanely delicious (it is a favourite dish of mine), with plenty of vegetables on the side. I think our lunches were around €13 each I think. Despite being more than I’d usually spend for a lunch, I was super impressed with both the service and food!

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These delicious plates where from Cafe Ginger – 100% recommend if you’re in the area

 

Restaurants

Hanoi

This is not a vegan restaurant but apparently has a ‘large selection of vegan options’ so made it onto the list. It is an Asian cuisine restaurant open for lunch and dinner everyday. The reviews all comment on the really excellent food for a decent price. This is situated in the Marais.

Wynwood Paris

Wynwood is a restaurant and coffee shop open for lunch everyday and dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It is another restaurant with ‘vegan options’ (as well as catering to other dietary requirements) and has excellent reviews on Tripadvisor.

Jah Jah by le Tricycle

This is one of the few restaurants on this list that specialised in vegan (vegetarian and gluten free) foods. It is open everyday except Tuesdays for lunch and dinner is available Wednesday – Saturday. The cuisine is based on African foods, but crosses borders with Indian, Japanese and West Indies hybrid dishes.

Gentle Gourmet

This is another of the few vegan restaurants in Paris (though with the occasional addition of non-vegan products, which are marked clearly on the menu). The food is of top quality (with a price to reflect that). It appears to be open for dinner everyday (except Mondays) and lunch too on Sundays, but Fiann and I tried to visit within these hours only to find it inexplicably shut. Maybe best to call up in advance!

Brasserie Lola

Fiann and I went to Brasserie Lola as it was close to where we were staying (near La Motte Piquet). The place was friendly and had lots of locals, which was great. It used to be a solel;y vegan restaurant, so we were slightly disappointed to see only three vegan mains options on the menu. The vegan burger was incredible, but my tofu pad thai left a lot to be desired (it was over-sweet with pasta used, rather than noodles). Would probably not go back because of the price, but would consider getting the burger again!

Las du fallafel

This restaurant serves middle-eastern/Mediterranean cuisine that has received excellent reviews. It is situated in the Marais, but despite all the competition from other falafel stands, this (apparently) is the one to go to. This is more of a take-away lunch place than a sit down restaurant but is open late.

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Paris is an amazing place and whilst they’re not known for their vegan cuisine, there’s far more than when I lived there 5 years ago!

Nootropics – mind-bending chemicals or natural brain boosts?

I was asked to write this post by the boys at Motion Nutrition, a brand that focuses on the science backing each and every one of their products. I’ve been using them for around two years now because of this, and thought it’d be really interesting to do my own research into these new products called nootropics, two of which Motion Nutrition sell – Power Up and Unplug. Below you’ll see what I found!

There has been a swathe of articles recently on ‘smart drugs’ – drugs taken to increase alertness, productivity and performance, with concerns that teens and adults are relying on these to perform effectively at work/uni/school. In reality, ‘smart drugs’ can incorporate a wide variety of drugs, from amphetamines to coffee, meaning they can hardly all be painted with the same brush.

So what are they exactly? Smart drugs, also known as nootropics – from the greek ‘nous’ (mind) and trepein (to bend or turn) – are substances that improve cognitive function, for example memory, creativity and/or motivation. Their appeal is obvious – imagine how much we could do if we never procrastinated, never got distracted. And so, more and more people are turning to nootropics of various forms to improve themselves. The question then arises: is it wrong/dangerous for people with no medical reason (such as ADHD) to take such substances? Are there any that can be taken safely and effectively by anyone or should there be a blanket ban for those without a prescription?

Nootropics come in various forms and include caffeine, which the majority of adults take in some form on a day to day basis. Caffeine (a xanthine and stimulant) has been shown to improve alertness and performance for many tasks, but has the obvious negative effects when taken in excess. Amphetamines, also stimulants, have been shown to improve a range of functions, even in people without medical need for them. As with caffeine, excessive usage can lead to detrimental effects and addiction, but this is extremely rare when used at prescribed therapeutic levels. There are other types of nootropic too, all following the same sort of pattern – all stimulants improve cognitive function in the general population when used as therapeutic (low) doses and all impair cognitive function (and have other side-effects of various forms) when taken in excess.

So why am I bringing this up now? I recently came across Motion Nutrition‘s new nootropics range (power up and unplug) and was intrigued. They’re not the first to commercialise alertness (hello red bull), but, knowing that the men behind the brand are very into their evidence-based products, I wanted to do a little more research to see the evidence behind some of the ingredients commonly found in these ‘over the counter’ nootropics. Skip to the bottom for a summary 🙂

  • L- Taurine

L- taurine, commonly written simply as taurine* is a non-essential amino acid (i.e. our bodies can produce it). Taurine can be deficient in some people, and therefore supplementation has been tentatively recommended, especially in people who do not eat meat (the main source of taurine). It has a whole host of jobs in our bodies: helping the passage of nutrients in and out of our hearts to improve cardiovascular function and acting as a potent anti-oxidant to remove free-radicals. It has also been suggested to be an anti-diabetic compound. Side effects have only been found at levels somewhere between 3000mg and 1000mg/kg body-weight.

The mental benefits of taurine are debated, but studies seem to show that it can promote brain-cell growth as we age, as well as physical performance. Taurine has also been shown act like GABA, one of our neurotransmitters, helping to decrease anxiety and improve concentration and focus. Verdict? Tentative positivity when looking for improved memory, physical performance and focus.

  • L- Tyrosine 

Tyrosine is a neurotransmitter precursor, meaning that it helps build the chemicals in our brain that relay signals. In healthy people, supplementation of tyrosine doesn’t seem to have many effects in normal situations, but does appear to improve memory when multitasking.

Multiple studies suggest that tyrosine could improve mental performance and memory under stressful conditions, although the effect is less clear in less stressful situations. It may also improve cognitive performance in sleep deprived people, helping them stay alert for longer.

  • Ginseng

Ginseng has been used historically for multiple purposes, although current literature is mixed about its efficacy. Multiple preliminary pieces of research hint at its usefulness in improving memory and fatigue reduction, with around two thirds of studies finding a cognitive enhancing effect. A lot of promise has been seen on the effects of ginsenosides (a compound that comes from ginseng), but more research needs to be done.

  • L- Theanine

A major component of black and green tea, L- theanine improves alertness and relaxation simultaneously, creating the much sought-after ‘focused’ state of mind. Some studies also suggest that it takes the edge off caffeine-induced arousal, limiting that ‘wired’ feeling. It appears that L-theanine works synergistically with caffeine (they work together) – the two together improve reaction time, memory and endurance.

  • Biotin

Biotin, a vitamin, is naturally found in some foods, such as eggs, milk and bananas. It helps make up some enzymes in our bodies that break down our food, and a deficiency can lead to things like brittle nails, exhaustion and depression. It contributes to normal functioning of the nervous system, although there has not been lots of research into biotin supplementation. If you don’t eat animal products and suffer from brittle nails, hair or any of the other above effects, you could be biotin deficient.

 

*The L- before some of the words refers to the levorotatory ‘enantiomer’ or direction of rotation of the compound. The alternative is D- (dextrorotatory, or right turning). Whilst the compounds are chemically the same, the effects in the body can be completely different. As a quick (and very interesting) aside, one of the reasons thalidomide (the pregnancy sickness drug that causes huge birth defects) took so long to come off market, was because it had 2 enantiomers (forms), one of which had no side effects, and the other of which was highly toxic. I could talk about this all day…. but I won’t! The point is, the L- is very important, but sometimes missed out in writing (as I have also done, to save time).

There are more ingredients frequently found in nootropics but these are five of the most common. I would always recommend doing your research on the constituents of a supplement before taking it – WebMD has some excellent information that makes it really easy to understand the level of research behind each ingredient and what it does 🙂

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TL;DR

So are nootropics the drugs of the future, or are they mind bending chemicals, as the papers would have us believe?

My conclusion is that whilst more research needs to be done to be 100% sure, there is some really exciting research out there to suggest that we could be fuelling our brains better. For people who struggle with concentration, memory and focus, or work in a stressful and distracting environment it might be worth playing around with the approved products on the market to see if anything works.

Of course, the majority of the differences in brain function will come from living a healthy lifestyle – nothing is going to make a bigger difference than prioritising sleep, eating well, quitting smoking (if you do) and exercising. But for those of us that do our best to do all of the above, nootropics present an exciting possibility to work at our very best. I think it’s important to remember that we’re not living the film limitless (if you haven’t watched it, it’s an easy-watching film about the development of a new drug that essentially gives you super-cognition) – we’re not (yet) able to function at levels higher than humanly capable, but wouldn’t it be nice to always be on top form, always have laser focus, always power through your work?

I think there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic with nootropics, and no doubt with the emergence of more on the market, the science will only get stronger and the supplements better. It’s important not to scare-monger about products such as this, because fear mongering will only lead to less research, which is always a bad thing! More research = knowledge, and as we all know, knowledge is power. For now, look out for ones with scientific backing and watch out for glorified caffeine pills. Happy shopping!

I’d love to know what you think, and whether you think it’s right to want to improve performance or if you think we should accept our brain’s natural limits. Comment down below or message me on Instagram!

#4 Inspire Interview Series – FLORA BEVERLEY – SCIENCE MEDIA & PR for Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists & FITNESS INFLUENCER

LegallyGymLiving

Welcome back to the fourth installment in the Inspire Interview Series! This installment has the longest title EVER but I didn’t want to short-sell the formidable multi-talent of today’s interviewee…!

white blank notebook Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

It’s been so exciting to talk to a range of amazing people who are all doing incredible work in varied fields… and naturally a running theme through these interviews is also how they balance their drive to achieve with taking care of themselves physically and mentally. (If you’ve missed any, do check back on Kris Pace, KOBOX brand director, Venetia Falconer, TV Presenter, blogger & influencer and Leyla Cooper, Founder & CEO of Pretty Athletic).
13672581_10205346599578896_274304170_n[1] Photo credit: Flora Beverley – http://www.foodfitnessflora.blog

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…

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Problems with plastic

We all know we should be using less plastic and reusing what we have as much as possible, so I’m not going to preach on here. However, I thought I’d do some quick-fire facts about our incessant plastic consumption since it was world ocean’s day recently (8 June).

  • Every piece of plastic that has ever been made still exists
  • 160,000 plastic bags are used globally every second
  • Plastic takes around 700 years to start to degrade (depending on the type of plastic)
  • When plastic degrades it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, which make it easier for them to contaminate the environment
  • Marine animals often mistake plastic bags for food, meaning they eat them, which over time can kill them
  • In the last 10 years, we have produced more plastic than in the last century. Our consumption is not going down (yet)
  • There is set to be more plastic in the oceans than fish by 2050

Plenty of reasons (although by no means all of them!) to reduce plastic consumption. Of course, NONE OF US ARE PERFECT, so this is all about reducing consumption as much as possible in a way that you can sustain. The more you do the better, and over time we should all be looking at our consumption habits and trying to do better. BE better.

Pretty much all industries are culprits in the excessive plastic use department, but both social media and wellness are pretty bad, with all their plastic bottles, straws and whatever else. So here are some simple ideas on how to reduce your plastic consumption. Tell your friends, make it cool, blog about it! Only in spreading the word and doing our part will we make a difference

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When your swell bottle is so instagrammable it makes it into every one of your photos

1. Don’t use plastic straws – such a simple thing, and yet it can make a huge difference. Plastic straws make their ways into our oceans by the tonne, and are an environmental disaster. They’re totally unnecessary and easy to cut out. Of course it’s easy to forget to ask for your drink without a straw, but try to make a habit of it when you’re ordering something. You can buy reusable straws if you’re keen on them, and they’re pretty easy to carry around with you!

2. Buy a reusable water bottle – if you’re getting a water bottle every time you head to the gym/to a class, you really need to rethink this. Buying and carrying around a reusable water bottle is SO easy, and also encourages you to drink more water, which is also a great thing. We’re lucky in the UK that tap water is totally potable, so refilling is easy and free. If you’re looking to make one change, this is a serious one to consider!

3. Carry a rucksack or have canvas bags in your everyday bag – I was going to say ‘don’t use plastic bags’, but often we forget and have to purchase those pesky 5p single use bags anyway. Carrying around a canvas bag in your handbag means you’re not ever caught short on that quick trip to the shops. Or, if you’re keen on walking everywhere like me, a rucksack has a multitude of benefits, and doubles up as a great way to carry your shopping! Here’s a great one that doesn’t make you look like a pleb (like me).

4. Say no to microbeadsMicrobeads are tiny plastic beads found in all sorts of beauty products. Thankfully, they are banned in some countries (including the UK), but when buying things overseas, this is something to be aware of. They are a complete disaster environmentally.

5. Don’t get takeaway (coffee) cups – annoyingly, these are 100% NOT recyclable, because even though they feel like paper, the inside is actually lined with plastic, making them one of the worst everyday plastic offenders. If you get a reusable cup/thermos, not only can you feel good about it/yourself, but a lot of companies actually give you money BACK, meaning over the long run you’re saving too! Here are some great coffee cups and my personal favourite – a swell bottle (or chilly’s).

6. Spread awareness/talk to local businesses – Making changes in your life is a great way to make a difference, but spreading the word can increase the difference you make. Encouraging businesses to stop using plastic straws, takeaway cups and plastic cutlery is a great thing to do, and could even save the businesses money. Why not speak to someone at your workplace to see what can be done there? My work has been taking steps to increase its sustainability (no plastic dishes, meat free Monday, no straws etc). It’s great to be a part of the change!

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Vegan pad thai

I whipped up this recipe the other day simply because I had a bunch of ingredients that worked together, but it was amazing and whilst it’s not the traditional pad thai, it worked well and was absolutely delicious! And so many of you asked for it, so here it is 🙂

Some pad thai is quite bad for you because of the amount of sugar, oil and salt present, but in this recipe the quantities are reduced (just because I don’t think you need it all) and veg content increased (because veg). If you prefer wholewheat noodles go for those (as I did), but white rice noodles work well too. Play around with it! Tofu works well as an added bit of protein.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 150g of rice noodles (I used wholewheat)
  • 2 white cabbage leaves
  • 2 spring onions
  • 60g bean sprouts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Chopped ginger, to taste
  • Handful of peanuts, chopped
  • 1 lime
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1tsp mirin (or rice wine vinegar)
  • 2tbsp soy sauce
  • Chilli (optional)

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a large wok until very hot. Thinly chop the cabbage leaves and start to fry.
  • Chop the spring onions and place in the pan with the bean sprouts, ginger and garlic, tossing constantly.
  • Once softening, turn the heat down slightly and cook the noodles according to their instructions
  • Mix together the soy sauce and mirin in a small bowl
  • Once the noodles are cooked, add them to the wok and stir, adding the soya sauce mixture last
  • Serve and top with a generous squeeze of lime and handful of nuts (and chopped chilli, is using).

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    Please excuse the poor quality photo – I wasn’t expecting to write the recipe up!

 

Summer favourites with Philips

This post is sponsored by Philips, a forward-thinking tech beauty brand that I’ve been using since I was younger. I always associated Philips with electric toothbrushes when I was younger, but growing up, the gadget lover in me has become obsessed with pretty much everything they’ve released related to beauty! I love that behind every Philips product is a suite of research, so you really know you’re getting a quality product. Also, as someone who prioritises sleep over pretty much everything else I really appreciate anything that makes my beauty regime easier, which is why I’ve partnered with Philips to share with you my beauty essentials for this summer.

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Philips Lumea Prestige IPL hair removal device

The first time I tried IPL was when I was a teenager, using it sporadically over the summer but never really following any sort of plan (the sort that’s required to get any results). THIS summer however, I’m super excited to finally be smooth as a dolphin on my legs. Like I said, I like to minimise my beauty regime, so a couple of IPL treatments for long lasting smoothness is exactly what I’m looking for! If you’re forgetful like me, the Philips Lumea IPL app will remind you of your next treatment slot, so you can be assured that you’ll get the best results possible.

The Lumea Prestige compared to my old IPL device is like a space-ship to an old 2CV – it’s beautiful, relatively compact and really works. Onto the good stuff.

IPL, or intense pulsed light works by inducing a ‘resting phase’ in the hair follicle, causing a reduction in hair regrowth. With treatments spaced 2 weeks apart over a 6 week period it’s possible to get rid of pretty much all hairs in the treatment area – up to a 92% reduction in hair growth! After that, treatments are only needed every month or two if hairs start to grow back. Helpfully, the device has a ‘SmartSkin sensor’ which assesses the skin tone and automatically uses the correct setting, so you get the best results. I’ve been using the product on my legs (goodbye shaving cuts!) and for me it gave setting number ‘4’. Check out the brand official page here for skin and hair type suitability.

The product comes with full instructions and all the necessary kit, including different heads for the device, for underarms, bikini and face. It can be used with or without a cord so it’s super convenient. The app gives step-by-step instructions too and creates a personal treatment plan, so you’ll be getting professional level results without that price tag, which I think is amazing!

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Philips VisaPure Advanced three-in-one at home facial cleansing device

As a busy person with relatively little free time each evening, I really try to max out my ‘me’ time when I get it. The VisaPure Advanced has been a welcome addition into that routine. Not only is it absolutely beautiful (and it really is), it also has multiple functions to help you streamline your routine. Usually multi-functioning products scare me a little, and complicated controls really throw me off, but the ‘intelligent head recognition’ design means that whichever head you put onto the main body, it does the correct programme for that head, so no complicated controls!

The whole cleansing programme only takes a minute, with the brush head pausing between different areas of the face – so you do the right cheek, then it pauses, then the left cheek, another pause, then forehead and nose, so you end up doing the whole face correctly. I use a little cleanser and a splash of water every evening, which removes all makeup from the day. I love this because it means I don’t have to keep buying expensive (and wasteful) makeup remover wipes! This cleansing device is also 10 times more effective than cleansing by hand, which explains why my skin is so much brighter after using the VisaPure Advanced for just over a week.

The other heads I use maybe twice a week for a little extra ‘me’ time. The fresh eyes attachment is very cooling (especially useful if you’re tired and/or have puffy eyes as it encourages lymphatic drainage from the area) and the face massager just helps me relax and I feel like it’s doing a lot of good. It’s based on Japanese massaging techniques, which probably explains the relaxation factor! It’s the perfect excuse for a mini facial in the comfort of your own home.

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The VisaPure Advanced has three different heads for the perfect mini-facial at home!

Philips VisaPure Mini

Just like the VisaPure Advanced, the VisaPure Mini has been incorporated into my everyday routine as my go-to facial cleanser for on the move. As someone with oily skin, I love that it reduces oil levels without drying out the skin which is really important for me. When you spend a lot of time at the gym, oil and sweat can build up, but over cleansing can leave your skin dry. The VisaPure Mini is perfect for that – it offers the perfect level of cleansing after a gym session or before bed. It’s also super easy to stick in your gym bag because it’s so compact! It also lasts for about 45 uses before re-charging, so it’s good to keep in your gym bag for several weeks before needing to take it out to charge or for travelling.

I would recommend this product if you’re looking for something easy to travel with that improves your skincare regime (it’s 6x better than cleansing by hand!) but that’s also really good value.

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Perfect for your gym bag or travels, the VisaPure Mini is a very welcome addition to my life

Philips Anti-Pollution brush head

If you live in a big city, you’ll probably be aware of the amount of pollution we encounter everyday. Pollution is not only bad for our lungs and arteries, but it also clogs up our skin, dulling it. It’s always amazed me how much grime can collect on the face after a day out in the city! The Philips Anti-Pollution brush head has been a life saver for me. It connects to the VisaPure Mini and the VisaPure Advanced, so it’s really easy to take wherever you think you’ll need it most.

I hadn’t noticed the amount pollution had been dulling my skin until I used this brush head, but the amount of people who have told me my skin is glowing after just over a week of use is proof enough for me! The combination of the charcoal sponge and soft bristles work to dislodge particles from the pores, meaning your skin will look SO much clearer. 10/10 would recommend with either the VisaPure Advanced or Mini based on my experience!

I hope these reviews help you choose which product will help you step-up your summer beauty game! I for one, cannot live without them!

TL:DR

My recommendations: if you’re looking for an easy facial cleanser that basically does all the hard work for you, get the VisaPure Mini – it’s super transportable and easy to use. The Anti-Pollution brush head has been a godsend for brightening my skin, so if you live in a city, I would recommend this too.

If you want something a little more luxurious for some serious ‘me’ time, the VisaPure Advanced has everything you need, with 3 different heads for cleansing, eye cooling and facial massage. The intelligent head design means that it basically does all the work for you, so no fuss trying to get the right settings!

For long-term hair removal without the price tag of laser (and yes, they are two different things), the Lumea Prestige IPL device is amazing. Matched with the Philips Lumea IPL app and smart skin sensor it will help you get the best results you can. It’s super quick too, with 92% reduction in hair growth within 6 weeks when used properly! Honestly this has been a vital addition to my routine, and I can’t wait to be hair-free soon!

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Enjoy your summer, whichever product you choose!

 

Anon I

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States, and yet due to its secretive nature, we so rarely talk about it. As part of my #MentallyWealthy series I wanted to include a variety of mental health issues, which is why I am sharing this story with you. Thank you so much to A for sending this in, I hope it helps someone in need 🙂 

 

I first started binge eating in 2013, around 5 years ago now. At the time I was 16 years old, had just left high school to study ballet full time, attend auditions, compete, and focus on pursuing my dancing career. Being in the ballet industry, I was highly aware of my appearance, and I worked hard to maintain a very lean physique to adhere to what companies wanted.

The first couple of months went well; I trained hard and progressed to the upper stages in my competitions. I would spend half the day at home doing online studies, then train until the late evening. But as time went on, I started to snack on less-nutritious food, and this lead to a small amount of weight gain. It eventually drew the attention of certain people around me and they felt the need to comment on it. I was happy at the time, but drawing attention to what was wrong with my body made me think I wasn’t good enough, and that I needed to “be better” by eating less and losing weight. This line of thinking back-fired and the restriction lead me to start sneaking the foods that I really wanted to eat in private when I was at home alone.

Cue the restrict-binge cycle. I would frantically raid the kitchen for things I deemed “unhealthy” that I could take without my family noticing. It didn’t even have to taste that good; if it was in abundance and a “forbidden” food, I would eat it. After the frenzy of collecting this food, I would take it up to my room where I was in a safe space – no one would discover me there as long as I kept the food hidden. My heart would be racing, palms sweating, my stomach would have a weird butterfly feeling, and I would almost feel high off “not being caught”. I would then begin to feel relaxed – the thought of consuming all this food that I had “forbidden” myself for so long was enticing, a huge release from my self-imposed restriction. During the binge I would feel happy, content and detached from my feelings, because I was finally allowing myself to be “free”. I’d keep eating to the point of feeling sick and my stomach couldn’t stretch anymore. When I couldn’t physically eat another thing, I would wake up out of the “dream-like” state I had been in and feel embarrassed, ashamed, and extremely disappointed within myself over my “lack” of self-discipline. Then I would binge again to make myself feel better. It was a vicious cycle.

After 6 months of training full-time, I travelled to the U.S. for a 2 month elite summer school at a well-known ballet company. I was advised to take this opportunity to “lean out”, and I was determined to take on this advice to stop my bingeing for good. Upon arriving there, a lot of factors worked against me. I was the only Australian in my level and despite attempts to make friends, I was scared to put myself out there socially. My roommate and I didn’t particularly get along, making me feel even more alone. This feeling of isolation was not a good combination for my eating habits. Everyone would go out to enjoy some ice-cream a couple of times a week and have a cookie after dinner, but because I’d restricted myself I felt like I couldn’t engage in these activities with them. Instead, I would hide in my room and binge on the foods I’d bought from the supermarket, giving me a sense of comfort from the foreign environment I was in.

At the end of the two months, I was desperately missing home and very lonely. I hadn’t lost the weight I’d wanted to, and felt like a failure going back, despite the fact I’d been chosen to perform in many lead roles and gained the interest of the company directors. I saw myself as not good enough because of this. Upon arriving home I tried to use extreme methods of restriction to lose the weight. Of course, it didn’t work – I would feel so deprived I would binge even worse than before. This continued to the end of the year – the pursuit of a dancing career was becoming too much for me and after my experience in the U.S. I decided to go back to school.

Since then, my relationship with food has been up and down – my weight has yo-yoed many times and I still struggle with bingeing to this day. It took a hit a couple of years ago when an immediate family member was diagnosed with a terminal illness. The stress of the situation was a lot to bear at the time, and having the responsibility of looking after her during treatment took a great toll on my mental health.

A big change happened at this point. I had to take her place on a trekking trip the following year and in order to do that I needed to get fit. I started walking long distances to get my endurance up, and then train with a heavy pack to prepare myself for the altitude. This didn’t end my bingeing habits for good, but it gave me something positive to focus on that didn’t require good aesthetics, helping to clear my mind and improve my mental state. What has changed for me since then is my relationship with myself. While I go through phases of not having good self-esteem, the “illness” has taught me how strong I can be and that my appearance does not define who I am as a person and what I can achieve. If I could go back to my 16-year-old self and tell her anything, it would be to stop being so mean to herself and just be content with the way she is! She doesn’t need to adhere to unnatural body standards to be great at something, because she is so much more than that.

In terms of how it’s affected my relationships, the urge to binge previously overruled my desire to see my friends – I would cancel plans to then binge at home because it felt comfortable. I lost a lot of friends because of this, and I will be the first to say that the binges weren’t worth all the good times I missed out on. My family has had to cope with my bad moods, anxiety and depressive tendencies surrounding the binge-eating cycle, with me constantly hiding in my room not wanting to talk to anyone. And to my partner, while I don’t seem to worry about what he thinks of my weight, I still fret over whether he will think I simply lack self-discipline, or that I have too much “emotional baggage” to deal with. I’m trying my best to overcome these thoughts, but some days it’s easier said than done.

So while I am still struggling with this, it’s made me stronger and more empathetic towards other people and whatever they may be going through behind the scenes. I’ve learnt a lot about myself, and I know what kind of person I want to be in the future. There’s nothing else to do now except keep chipping away at the “recovery” stone and focus on getting better!
To all of you who are suffering from binge eating and feelings of guilt – you are not alone. 

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