Stuffed butternut squash

Traditional Christmas recipes are great, but they’re not known for being particularly healthy or vegetarian/vegan friendly! Christmasses gone past I would have just eaten the vegetables in Christmas meal but I’ve really enjoyed creating new recipes this year from scratch, including this delicious one! This is perfect either as a centrepiece to a meal or some additional veg.

The puy lentils add plenty of protein and mixed with the sun-dried tomatoes give an amazing flavour to the squash. Drizzle in as much olive oil as you like!

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Ingredients:

  • 3-4 butternut squash, halved with seeds removed
  • 150g quinoa
  • 180g whole chestnuts
  • 50g sundried tomatoes
  • 250g read to eat puy lentils
  • drizzle olive oil
  • 50g pitted black olives
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  • Oil the halved squashes and place in the oven to cook for 45 minutes
  • Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the packet
  • When cooked, mix together all the ingredients in a bowl
  • Remove the squashes from the oven and spoon out some of the insides. Mix these bits into the quinoa and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Spoon as much quinoa as you can into the holes in the squash halves and place back into the oven for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and enjoy!

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Vegan Gingerbread

This recipe is perfect for Christmas (and honestly any time of year yes please), and is just so easy to make! This makes so many biscuits and they’re perfect for storing and having as a mid-morning snack. Let me know if you make these – I’d love to see your creations!

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Ingredients:

  • 1tbsp chia seeds
  • 300g plain flour
  • 100g coconut flour
  • 1/2tsp baking powder
  • 150g muscovado sugar
  • 2tbsp ginger
  • 1/2tbsp cinnamon
  • Sprinkle of ground cloves
  • 100g coconut oil
  • 100g dairy free margarine
  • 50ml dairy free milk

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Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  • Mix the chia seeds with 3tbsp water and leave to thicken
  • Mix together the flour, coconut flour, baking powder, sugar and spices in a mixing bowl
  • Heat the margarine and coconut oil and mix together. Mix in the chia seed mix with a fork until incorporated
  • Pour oils into the dry mixture and mix.
  • Add the milk slowly and mix in until the mix is holding together
  • Leave to thicken before rolling out on top of clingfilm (it will be easier to do in 2 batches)
  • Cut out whatever shapes you like and place on a tray with baking parchment (or foil)
  • Place in the oven and cook until browning at the edges, 10-15 minutes (depending how soft you like them)
  • Let cool and ice (or not) as desired!

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Top 8 eco-influencers

This post was originally written for Freda, a brand I’ve been working with for the past month or so. Freda is a sustainable menstrual product subscription service that allows you to choose exactly what you want/need and get it delivered through your letterbox for exactly when you need it. The eco-credentials are amazing, and the brand also works with UK-based period poverty initiatives to provide menstrual products to those who can’t afford them, from school girls, to refugees, to homeless people. An amazing brand with amazing values. Give them a follow!

I’ve always preached supporting the people who you want to see grow. Whether that means sharing their pages, spreading their message or buying their products and services – it all helps! So I thought I’d share some of my favourite eco influencers, big and small. These are the people making waves. Share share share!

Venetia Falconer – @venetiafalconer

Producer and presenter Venetia Falconer is queen of sustainability and eco-friendly living, from food to fashion. Her captions are educational , funny and relatable, which is something we should all be looking for a little more on Instagram. Follow for sustainable outfit ideas, vegan food and a little thought-provoking education. Want more? Subscribe to her podcast, Talking Tastebuds.

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Natalie Glaze – @natalieglaze

Natalie is a model and founder of the eco brand Stay Wild Swim. She always promotes reusing clothes for as long as possible, as well as buying from charity shops. What I love about Natalie is that she’s balanced – for the vast majority of us, a zero waste lifestyle where we live off only what we already have is not possible, but Natalie shows us how to live that little bit more sustainably in everything we do. Follow for beautiful fashion, lots of plants and travel.

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Kate Arnell – @kate_arnell

Zero waste eco blogger and YouTuber Kate posts about all things eco, especially in the fashion industry. She promotes repairing clothes and purchasing on the basis of ‘cost per wear’ – expensive clothes are worth buying if you’re going to love and wear them for decades to come! She provides links and recommendations of plastic-free alternatives to some things you wouldn’t even thing are very damaging to our planet, including chewing gum and plastic toothbrushes. Well worth a follow.

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Clare Press – @mrspress

Clare Press is the sustainability editor of Vogue Australia but based in the UK, where she hosts her podcast, Wardrobe Crisis. She is passionate about conscious living, and being aware of what goes on behind fast fashion. She has also published multiple books on the topic of fast fashion, ethical clothing and issues within the supply chain. Well worth a follow as someone who really knows her stuff both in terms of sustainability and ethics in the fashion world.

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Immy Lucas – @sustainably_vegan

Immy first started her account to talk about living a zero waste lifestyle and veganism. Since then, she’s founded Low Impact Movement, an educational platform that uses social media to help reduce person waste and raise awareness of the issues surrounding our intrinsically wasteful lifestyles. Both pages are worth a follow, and if you like it, you can find her blog and YouTube too.

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Jo Becker – @treesnpeace

“You have two homes, the earth and your body. Take care of them”. You can find this quote in Jo’s Instagram bio, and it summarises nicely what she stands for. Jo actively campaigns for living more sustainably, including calling for a reduction in unnecessary plastic packaging in supermarkets. Did you know that UK supermarkets generate 59 BILLION pieces of plastic annually? This is just one of the many pieces of information you can learn on Jo’s page. Support her work by supporting her pages.

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Zanna Van Dijk – @zannavandijk

Zanna has recently co-founded the Stay Wild Swimwear range with fellow top eco-influencer, Natalie Glaze. Zanna is vegan and regularly donates part of the profits from other collaborations to charities invested in helping the environment. It’s great to see people with larger followings maintaining an eco-friendly lifestyle. Follow for workout ideas, recipes and information about how we can all help save our oceans.

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Gemita Samarra – @gemitasamarra

Gemita is one of those girls that just does it all. Stunt performer, documentary film maker and founder of the My Name Is Human project, she appears to be superhuman. Gemita works tirelessly to help refugees and homeless people, and acts as a voice for both, in between campaigning for everybody to live more consciously. There are some hard hitting truths on Gemita’s page, but unfortunately that’s the reality of caring about the plight of the environment and people less fortunate than ourselves. Follow and learn.

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Staycation – The Peaks and Cotswolds

This post is in collaboration with Mitsubishi who were kind enough to lend us their Outlander PHEV, a car I first fell in love with a couple of months ago. All the pretty pics are by the amazing Caylee Hankins. You can find her website here and find her on Instagram.

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and subscribe to my YouTube for more content.

As we headed into Autumn this year, Fiann and I decided it was getting less and less feasible to go and find sunshine somewhere that was less than 5h away, and so resigned ourselves a little to spending the rest of winter stuck firmly within the confines of Bristol, Dorset and London. However, following a trip to the Cotswolds with Mitsubishi (to trial their new Outlander PHEV), I was suddenly inspired. Just two days away had left me feeling totally revitalised, and heading to the Cotswolds allowed me to visit a new part of the world and fulfil another one of my passions: hiking. 

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Exploring with Fiann is one of my favourite past times

So, I spent a few weeks researching place I wanted to go (within the confines of a long weekend) and came up with the idea of a road trip up to the Peak District. I’d never been but had heard tales of its stark beauty and glorious walks (whatever the weather). So, with some help from Visit England for planning where to go, we picked up our new (super fancy) Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and set off for the Peaks! 

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I was so excited to be able to get back into the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV! HELLO heated seats

The first hotel we headed to (around a 4h drive from London with traffic), was Moddershall Oaks, a boutique spa retreat with a brand spanking new wellness centre called Made. We were promptly upgraded to the Bridal Suite due to a water spillage in our other room (although secretly I think it was all planned by Fiann) and I was super impressed with the incredibly friendly service and staff! I enjoyed a quick shellac manicure before we headed to dinner. I was blown away by the quality of the food at the restaurant – as someone who follows a plant based diet the option is usually singular and involves just removing something from a vegetarian dish and replacing it with nothing. Click here for a full review (and more pics!) of the lovely Moddershall Oaks.

The next morning started with a quick spa session before heading into the Lakes – an easy hour-and-a-bit drive north. We did about half of our driving in electric mode, meaning the petrol lasted so much longer! We especially chose to drive in EV (electric vehicle) mode in the towns – no need for extra fumes out there. 

 

 

Our first hike of the trip began from Hathersage, a cute village about 10 miles south-west of Sheffield, and took us about 10km up and along Stanage Edge and back down to the village. I cannot recommend ‘The Edge’ more – it was beautiful, bleak, windy and spectacular all at once. Not for you if you don’t like wind or hills, but very feasible for anyone as there’s a car park right at the base! 

At dusk we headed via Chatsworth House to our next stop, The Peacock at Rowsley, where we settled in and promptly headed for a nice warming dinner. People clearly come from miles around for dinner here, as it was totally packed! The food was more expensive than I’ve expected (£50 for two courses), but the dishes that I had were truly delicious. Again, there was a decent vegan menu and no expenses spared with the dishes – Fiann and I both got the cep israeli couscous with truffle oil and were both very pleased with it. The £50 also got us an amuse bouche and delicious homemade bread too. Thoroughly well fed, we collapsed in bed for a long night’s sleep before another day of walking on Saturday!

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All prepped and ready to go from The Peacock at Rowsley! Outfit from Underarmour.

Saturday’s walk took us to Castleton, another cute town slightly further north in the Peaks. Here we headed out on a hike up Mam Tor, along the ridge to Rosehill Pike and round. The route was a muddy, rainy and cloudy 15km or so, but well worth every second! See below for the beautiful views XD

Following our walk we drove the 20 or so minutes to Bakewell, a beautiful little town. Slightly starving from our walk, we went to ‘Because I Like It’, recommended by Visit Peak District as the best gluten free/vegan cafe in the Peaks. The vegan toasties we had did not disappoint – perfect for a wet and windy day! It wasn’t cheap (over £20 for two toasties and 2 vegan bakewell tarts), but I would definitely recommend if you’re in the area. The vegan (and gluten free) bakewell tasted just like the original too – perfect fodder to fuel our journey back down south. We headed back to the car to embark on the 112 mile journey to near reading, in preparation for Sunday’s 10km race. The car was ridiculously easy and comfy to drive back down south, and en route we stopped for our first tank fill up. As there had been nowhere to charge our car, the fuel economy was slightly worse than expected by this point, but the next few places had charging ports, so we made up for the lost fuel economy with purely electric driving later in the trip. 

Our race on Sunday was an absolute treat – despite the grey weather and intermittent rain, spirits in the Beverley family were high, and everyone enjoyed the race! It was hilly and seriously muddy (both of which I’ve avoided since cross-country races at university), so Fiann and I were very pleasantly surprised to come in at 17th and 18th out of over 200 runners – I even came 3rd female! See below for the pained faces of an exhausted Fiann and Flora at kilometre 9 of our race.

Exhausted and elated, after chowing down an excellent pub lunch, Fiann and I headed to our last stop together, Dormy House. 

Dormy House is another breed of hotel. Modern but rustic, with beautiful decor and everything you could possibly need – it was just what we wanted after a strenuous day! After plugging our car in at the charging ports in the Dormy House car park, Fiann and I dumped our bags in our room and headed straight for the spa. We spent a good hour in between the outdoor hot tub and the amazing pool and by the time we got round to dinner we were wonderfully relaxed. Dinner at The Potting Shed was great – again, there was a specialist vegan menu, and although it had fewer options than some of the other places, everything we ate was of top quality. I especially enjoyed the dessert! 

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By the time we arrived at Dormy House, dinner was very much needed

Monday morning was spent shooting at Dormy House before travelling down to Bristol to drop off Fiann. En route we stopped off at Gloucester Services – a favourite that if you ever go past you must visit! It is very ‘Daylesford Farm’ style, with freshly baked goods and coffee AND, we discovered, charging ports outside! So, we stopped off for vegan cupcake and coffee before heading on our way to our final stop of the day, a spot I discovered by spending too much time looking for inspiration on Instagram, Coaley Peak. If you’re in the area this is a stunning view point out over much of the Forest of Dean, Severn Vale and the village of Coaley. There’s some old farmland that’s now a wild flower meadow, and the whole area is spectacularly beautiful.

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Making use of the super fast charging facilities at Gloucester Services

Check out these photos from our stunning courtyard suite at Dormy House – taken by Caylee Hankins of ‘@alittlepickmeup’ Instagram. To see more photos and an in-depth review of Dormy House, click here

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Nothing like a cosy living room to brighten up a cold winter’s day. Leggings from Girlfriend Collective – shop here!

Tuesday, our 5th and final day of the road trip took Cayee and me to a personal favourite location, Cheddar Gorge, just south of Bristol and an easy 20 minute drive from Cadbury House, where we had stayed the night previously. The hotel was spectacular – such a cool mix of castle and hotel (see below) with such friendly staff. Refreshed from a great night’s sleep and a good breakfast, we started early and were able to catch these beautiful shots. Unfortunately it meant that we were unable to make the most of the spa at Cadbury House, which several people told me was amazing – I will be returning to make full use of it another time though, as the hotel was lovely!

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The beautiful outside of Cadbury House – half castle, half hotel!

We were lucky with the weather in Cheddar – the morning was bright, clear and freezing, and the light so beautiful that we captured everything we wanted by lunch time! So at that point we went into the town for a delicious vegan buddha bowl at one of the many tea rooms before starting the journey back to London.

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You HAVE to visit Cheddar Gorge if you get the chance!

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Outfit from Sweaty Betty – shop the top and the bottom.

Our journey was amazing, and took me to places I’ve never been before, as well as revisiting old favourites. It was a pleasure to drive the whole way in the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and despite having driven it before, this was my first real chance to know what it would be like to own the car! I thought I’d write a list of my favourite bits of the car, as well as some considerations to take into account:

Pros

  • The car is insanely smooth to drive. Without a doubt the nicest car I’ve ever driven, with plenty of space inside, loads of controls and everything you could possibly need (and a whole load of stuff you didn’t realise you wanted but now won’t be able to live without!)
  • When driving around the city, it feel great to do it all on electric vehicle mode. If you know where your charging point is, there’s no reason you’d have to top up the petrol unless doing much longer journeys. Since electric is much cheaper than petrol, there’s a huge potential saving cost there! Nt to mention you’re doing wonders for the environment (and congestion charge is not a thing). 
  • Some service stations have fast charging ports, which are great, if you are happy to wait while it charges. Thankfully it’s pretty speedy – we got to 80% charge in about 25 minutes. Perfect timing for a wee, coffee break and a stretch. 
  • You can plug the Outlander PHEV to mains supply, so as long as you can park near a building with a plug, you can charge up your car anywhere. 

Cons

  • If you don’t use the EV mode, the car becomes much less efficient. The miles per gallon drops right down.
  • Unfortunately there just aren’t enough places with charging ports around the UK. Dormy House was great and had charging. Cadbury House did too, but they weren’t compatible with the Mitsubishi – it appeared that they were for Teslas only, which was a real shame! Other places had a mains supply but parking near it was sometimes tough. However, I can imagine this wouldn’t be an issue if you were mostly driving to and from home, or another place you knew had charging ports!
  • The mains lead (to charge your car on mains power) is quite short, meaning that an extension lead might be need to be used if you’re unable to park right next to your mains supply. 
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Fiann, me and our trusty steed

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Looking forward to our next adventure!

Moddershall Oaks

I stayed at Moddershall Oaks as part of my recent UK staycation with my boyfriend and partner in crime, Fiann.  Moddershall Oaks is primarily a country spa retreat that also doubles as a boutique hotel. The spa is situated near Stoke, so after a long drive from London it was an absolute treat to settle right in!

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The centrepiece of Moddershall Oaks spa – the pool

I enjoyed a shellac manicure as soon as I arrived, and the manicurist was so lovely I almost wished I could have stayed chatting to her for longer! But dinner called.

The food at Moddershall Oaks did not disappoint. As soon as I leave London I always expect the term vegan to be met with disgust, confusion and often the offer of a fish dish. However, the restaurant had a specific vegan menu with multiple options for each course, rather than the usual pile of vegetables without any bulk. Fiann and I each had different dishes for starter and main, and both were spectacularly delicious – something I definitely wasn’t expecting!

Our room was beautiful – originally we were supposed to stay in one of the smaller ones (which was still very sizeable), but due to some spilled water we were quickly upgraded to the Bridal Suite, something I maintain must have been organised by Fiann! The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful which made the stay all the more relaxing.

 

Breakfast in the morning could have done with a little more options for vegans, but they cooks helpfully agreed to make a vegan version of a cooked breakfast for me (mushroom, spinach, roast tomatoes on toast).

Sadly I never got to try out the hotel’s new wellness centre, Made. Faced with an entire day of hiking, I didn’t fancy fitting in another workout, but Fiann (ever competitive) headed over the moment we arrived at the hotel and said he was impressed, so it must have been really good. The centre itself opened in August and provides classes and activities for everyone, and is the first of its kind in Staffordshire. It’s great to see a wellness centre that places balance and wellness, rather than punishment and restriction at the heart of its ethos!

Instead of going to the gym, Fiann and I instead explored the spa on our second day. Our favourite part was the shared hot tub right outside our room. We got the whole thing to ourselves which was a lovely way to warm up and prepare for a long day of hiking ahead!

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Enjoying the hot tub right outside our room!

Moddershall Oaks was a really friendly, welcoming hotel that I would recommend to anyone wanting to stay in the area. It could do with a few more modern elements but the wellness centre is an amazing step forwards and really unique! I would 100% return in the future to enjoy the spa and try out one of their classes. Do let me know if you visit – I’d love to hear what you think!

Dormy House

Fiann and I stayed at Dormy House as part of our UK staycation. The hotel is part of the Farncombe Estate, a group of hotels within a short drive of one another, each with their own defining rustic charms, but a definite connecting thread between them.

I previously stayed at The Fish Hotel, another of the hotels on the estate. I loved it so much that I decided Dormy House would have to be next on my list. I was not disappointed! Foxhill Manor will have to be next – watch this space!

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The front of Dormy House, in full Christmas attire

Dormy House is another breed of hotel. Modern but rustic, with beautiful decor and everything you could possibly need – it is the perfect place to relax for a long weekend or staycation. We stayed in the Courtyard Suite, a little quasi-apartment with a room, living room and bathroom, complete with all the necessary amenities. Whilst I didn’t see the other rooms, the suite was the perfect size and I would definitely recommend it for a little extra room compared to your bog-standard hotel!

Of course we immediately visited the spa on arrival – having run a 10k race earlier that day, we were dying for something to ease our weary legs, and the spa hit just the spot. First stop was the outdoor hot tub next to the fire. We had the place to ourselves and it was the ultimate relaxing experience. The spa also has a huge variety of different rooms with various purposes, from a beautiful sauna overlooking to pool, to an ice bucket for some swift cooling. We spent a good 40 minutes in the spa before heading to dinner.

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The beautiful pool at Dormy House

Dinner at The Potting Shed was great – there was a specialist vegan menu, and although it had only two options for each course, everything we ate was of top quality. I especially enjoyed the dessert!

We didn’t get to explore much more of the estate in the short time I had, but I would love to be able to return sometime for longer. Fiann and I felt there was so much more to do by the time we left (not least just enjoying the hotel sitting room and fire with a good book)! Other than potentially getting more vegan options on the menu for breakfast and dinner, I would give this hotel a full 10/10 for having everything we could possibly want and more. See below for some more pics by the incredibly talented Caylee Hankins who you can find here or on her Instagram.

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The front sitting room was beautifully decked out for Christmas!

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It’s never wrong to order another coffee when they’re that good

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We never wanted to leave our perfect little sitting room in our suite!

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Enough space to swing a cat (or dance like nobody’s watching)

Train like an athlete

Health and fitness is everywhere – from your food being marketed as ‘high protein’ or a ‘post workout bar’ to your favourite influencer dancing around in an Ivy Park tracksuit. It’s inescapable, and as someone who used to be teased for eating healthily and enjoying the school PE classes, it’s exciting.

However, I find myself questioning more and more how much these people and brands are actually focussed on fitness and health. I 100% believe that brands focussing more on health is generally a good thing, even if that’s just jumping on the bandwagon in an effort to look ‘cool’ or sell more products, but I worry about the amount of people buying into things that will make them LOOK more #fitness without actually providing them the actual fitness to back that up.

I am probably biased – I have been doing ‘fitness’ since I was about 15, always in the form of functional training, whether training for the national schools squash championships, BUCS cross country or my latest boxing match. But seeing people take part in a 12 week plan to ‘grow their booty’ (without any focus on actual fitness/strength) and then give up is frustrating for me. The amount of emphasis placed on looks (often at the expense of performance) leads me to worry about the longevity of the West’s ‘passion’ for fitness. It reminds me of when I was growing up and the Kate Moss ‘heroine chic’ look was in – you didn’t have to take heroine, as long as you looked like you hadn’t eaten in 3 weeks (thinking about it, this was probably for the best, but since fitness is actually very good for you, it would be nice if people were as dedicated to BEING fit as they are to LOOKING fit). 

It’s easy to imagine my view comes from a place of ‘I was here first, everyone else is just pretending’ but that’s genuinely not it. There are a number of reasons for my concern, and all (I believe) are legitimate. 

  1. When you train for aesthetics, the emphasis gets placed on your looks and how much working out can make you look a certain way. For every person who sticks to fitness after discovering the other benefits, there is someone else who quits after they become disillusioned about the lack of a six pack they were promised after 90 days. Fitness isn’t looking a certain way, it’s about a bunch of internal factors that we can’t even see. 
  2. There are a lot of actual, real life athletes on Instagram, whether they’re competing for the country or working overtime to allow them to self-fund their training and competition fees. However, brands are often choosing to work with people who ‘look’ a certain way over those who actually DO a sport. As someone who works in the fitness modelling world, I see this all too often. Of course, aesthetics are important, but I’ve been told I’m ‘too muscly’ for a job that literally requires lifting weights. Who could look more like a person who lifts weights than someone who got the body they have by literally doing just that. It would be nice to see a little more championing of people who actually DO a sport. 
  3. I like to think that we’ve moved past the point of extremes, because health is sort of by definition ‘balanced’. However a number of fitness guides and classes encourage plenty of extreme behaviour to look a certain way. Sure, they work, but are they ‘healthy’? Training like an athlete (i.e. functional training) focusses on performance and all-round fitness. Runners lift weights, rugby players practise sprints and everyone works on mobility and balance. Training purely for aesthetics can lead to serious physical problems further down the line, especially from poor form and over training certain areas. This is something I’m still working on too – it’s the only way to make training sustainable.

Thankfully training purely for aesthetics often becomes the gateway drug for all the other benefits of exercise, and those who start working out to lose weight can discover a plethora of other benefits. Other factors become the driving force behind working out, and at this point a person’s fitness becomes way more balanced (I’m sure a number of you can relate)!

It’s not entirely necessary to want to run a marathon or to achieve a triathlon PB, but training like an athlete can leave you feeling mentally healthier, accomplished and physically sound well into your older age. Rest and recovery is a key part of an athlete’s training plan, and whilst reducing workout intensity might not give you THAT body in 90 days, it sure as hell will keep you motivated enough to continue working out long, long past then. 

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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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