A trip to Fes – Riad Fes & Hotel Sahrai

Recently I was lucky enough to be taken on a press trip to Fes, Morocco’s second largest city, to review two sister hotels in the area. Having been to Marrakech twice, I was excited to visit somewhere new in Morocco and with its rich and interesting history, Fes seemed like the perfect choice!

Some background: Fes was founded in the 8th Century and for a while was one of the largest cities in the world. Now, with a population of 1.2 million, Fes is known for its medina, probably the largest pedestrianised site in the world, and its university, the University of Al Quaraouiyine which was founded in 859 and the oldest continuously functioning university in the world.

This trip was gifted but as always all views are my own! We flew directly from Gatwick with Air Arabia. All images by the incredibly talented Tamsin Hurrell. Follow her on Instagram!

 

 

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Riad Fes

We arrived late in the evening to Fes airport, and after a short drive arrived at our first hotel, Riad Fes. Despite being late, after a short walk down a dark alleyway, we found ourselves in the most spectacular courtyard. We later discovered that the Riad had previously been someone’s home, and the original architecture had been painstakingly removed, cleaned and replaced, each tile by hand!

Our room was beautiful and overlooked the pool (a rare feature for hotels within or surrounding the medina). When the hotel had been bought, the surrounding houses were purchased too, making the hotel significantly larger (and maze-like!) than a traditional riad. If you ever visit Riad Fes you will be blown away by the architecture – I know I was!

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Breakfast buffet

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty buffet breakfast, we headed into the medina for a 3h tour of the sights. The first thing I noticed was the number of chickens for sale on every corner – meat eating in Morocco is very much a matter of pointing at the one you want to eat and then taking it home with you. Being vegan this was quite tough to watch, but I also noted that the chickens all seemed in much better shape than any commercially raised chicken I’ve seen in the UK. The reality of eating meat may be tough to witness for some, but the same thing happens here in the UK, only under much more intensive (and often cruel) production methods, out of sight.

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Walking round the medina was incredible – having visited Marrakech’s medina multiple times, I was blown away by the size of Fes. One of our first rules was ‘if you get lost, stay where you are. If you move, you will only get more lost’. Needless to say, I stuck to the group closely! Within the medina are thousands of stalls, run by locals selling all sorts of products, much the same as Marrakech. However, each city has its speciality – a key product to trade between cities (and now around the world). In Fes, it is the tanneries, producing leather that is now exported across the world.

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The tanneries operate in much the same way as they did when they were first built in the early centuries. Stone wells contain liquids designed to strip hides of fur and flesh, before being softened in ammonia (which I am told is bird poo!) and dyed. They’re visually appealing for sure, although perhaps not for everyone.

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You are offered mint to smell as you head up to the tanneries

Hotel Sahrai

Following our tour of the medina, including the oldest continually running university in the world, we headed back to the Riad to be transported to our second hotel, Hotel Sahrai. Both hotels are owned by the same group, but they couldn’t have been more different! Where Riad Fes is traditional and cosy, Hotel Sahrai is expansive and modern. Situated on a hillside outside the medina, the views are also amazing, looking out onto the huge city of Fes.

 

 

We were lucky enough to be able to try their Namaste yoga package, providing yoga sessions morning and evening for hotel guests – the best way to wake up and warm up into the day! I’m not an avid yoga fan but when it’s on the roof terrace of a gorgeous hotel in the early Moroccan sun I can make exceptions!

Here are some pics from around the gorgeous hotel – you can see why I loved it so much 🙂

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The pool overlooks the medina

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Enjoying the second, smaller pool with Tamsin

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Have you ever visited Fes? Comment below or head over to my Instagram!

Being busy – #goals or self sabotage?

NOTHING….is becoming rare and precious. Everything is hype, noise, desire, desperation, speed and greed. We in the modern world are good at ‘doing,’ but anemic at ‘being.’ Entertainment, busy-ness, texting while walking or even driving…’Efficiency’ is an addictive myth based on our fidgety fear of opening up. We can not ‘do’ properly until we can, first, ‘be’ fully. Practice doing nothing – then – we can accomplish…ANYTHING. — Project Happiness

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I have a habit of being deeply aware of my feelings and questioning why I feel a particular way in any given moment. I think it’s a way of processing emotions constructively, although it also inevitably leads to overthinking from time to time, but that’s another blog post. It occurred to me whilst walking down the road the other day that I was feeling guilty for not working. Despite starting work at 6:30am (as I often do), after finishing at 3pm I immediately felt lazy for not going back to work. The problem has always been present – during holiday at school and university, in my gap year, straight after I finished university – I have always felt the need to be busy. And if not actually busy, to the average onlooker I need to appear busy, because I equate busyness (and often stress) with success. And I’m not alone.

“We think that the shift from leisure-as-status to busyness-as-status may be linked to the development of knowledge-intensive economies. In such economies, individuals who possess the human capital characteristics that employers or clients value (e.g., competence and ambition) are expected to be in high demand and short supply on the job market. Thus, by telling others that we are busy and working all the time, we are implicitly suggesting that we are sought after, which enhances our perceived status.” – Harvard Business Review.

As a society we believe that people who are the most busy are also the most important – it’s so ingrained into our psyche that it’s almost inevitable that when you ask a work colleague how they are, the response might be ‘busy, but good’. The ‘busy’ response is a signal – I’m being successful and getting things done. But does busyness equate to success? The research suggests not.

Being busy often instead equates to being stressed, anxious, sleep deprived and less productive, meaning that if that’s your permanent state, you’re unlikely to be as healthy as you could be. The reduction in productivity is because of multiple factors. Being busy often means multitasking, and according to research there is no such thing as a good multitasker.

Since it takes the human brain around 25 minutes to focus on a task at hand, choosing to flit between multiple tasks can mean that we never actually focus properly on anything with a work day or even week. These distractions can come in all sorts of forms, but emails and phones are especially bad, as they disrupt work flow and take up important mental bandwidth. Switching from one task to the next means it takes us around 25% longer to do things i.e. you are not being more productive!

Attempting to pack full your schedule – which, let’s be honest, with work, meetings, work events, social events, workouts and fitting in family time, is not hard – means you are unlikely to be working as efficiently as possible. Back in 1930, the average working week was around 50h, and it was expected that by now, due to technological advances, this would have reduced to around 15h. However, in the UK we work on average around 42.8h per week, which is longer that the averages around Europe, despite the UK being significantly less productive than comparative countries. Is this lack of productivity despite our long hours, or is it because of them?

The issue starts from the top – there is no real limit on the amount of work you are expected to do, and it’s easy to feel like putting in extra hours (and being seen to be doing it) could push you ahead. Since the 2008 financial crisis, UK employees are working longer hours for lower pay, because job security is low and competition is high. Bosses would rather see tired employees sit at their desks and be unproductive than go home, recharge mentally and physically and work harder tomorrow. In the UK (as well as many other countries) there’s no mechanism by which employers start to measure productivity rather than hours, and therein lies the problem. You sit at your desk longer, or rush around looking busy and productive and you’re seen as more important and a better employee, over the person who sticks to their hours and gets more done.

As someone at the beginning of her career, I am concerned by these statistics. I know how to be productive, and the vast majority of the time it doesn’t involve working long hours or sitting at my desk for long periods of time. Being freelance you might think the issue is better and in theory, I do have more freedom to change my hours. However, in the gig economy today, it’s pretty much impossible to stop without feeling like someone else could be taking such needed work that could be yours.

Just remember this: talking about all the things you’re going to do actually makes you less likely to do them. The chat makes you feel good enough about yourself that you actually become less motivated to do what needs to be done. Since so much of being busy is talking about how busy we are, a good step to being productive and taking more time off is to do your work with your head down and stop when you’re done. And stop telling everyone how busy you are, it’s making the problem worse.

When you stop trying to be ‘busy’ all the time, you free up space to become something better than busy. You become more effective, happier, more relaxed and, probably, the envy of all those ‘busy’ people.

Images by Caylee Hankins.

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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FAQs on Instagram DM

Where do you work/what do you do/how can I get into it?

Edit: I now work freelance in social media consultancy and as a blogger 🙂 Left this up in case you would like to go into science comms! It’s an amazing job and I would recommend it to anyone.

I work in science media and PR – in short I act as a go-between between scientists/doctors and journalists, to make sure the journalists understand any important research coming out, and to make sure that exciting new research is getting into the press. I absolutely love my job – I think it’s so important that the public understands scientific and media research, and it empowers people to make their own decisions about how they want to live their lives.

I am currently working at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which works on women’s health globally, but especially in the UK. I run their twitter account and do a bunch of other stuff too, to do with communicating Obs and Gynae research and news to the general public.

If this sounds like something you’d enjoy (science communications could be to do with anything from environment to medicine to engineering), then I would really recommend getting some work experience, including writing about relevant topics for your student or local newspaper and maybe starting a blog on your favourite topic, if you enjoy writing. Show how keen you are – I did months of unpaid work experience just because I loved it and wanted to show that. I would also recommend joining ABSW and STEMPRA to hear about job opportunities and get the chance to talk to people who have the job you want to get 🙂

Are you vegan?

No, not technically. However, I find labels unhelpful – I would call myself ‘plant-based’ if I had to label how I eat. I have been pescetarian since I was 4. I gave up fish in 2017 for environmental reasons (I studied marine and conservation Biology at uni and couldn’t really ignore what I had just learned). Shortly after that I also cut down significantly on dairy and cut out eggs totally. Now, when I have the choice I eat fully vegan, but at dinner parties and for the occasional office cake I’ll be vegetarian. In my eyes, every small step someone makes to make better decisions is a step in the right direction.

I share a lot of vegan food on my instagram to show people that there are a lot of vegan options out there, even if you don’t associate with being vegan, or even vegetarian. Read my blog post on the topic here.

Do you have a YouTube?

YES! I finally have YouTube after around two years of deliberation. Check it out, watch and subscribe – enjoy!

Check out my twitter, instagram and blog too.

Can you help with my dissertation?

I would love to be able to help you out! If you email florabeverley@gmail.com I will get back to you as soon as possible. However, please know that I am very busy so it won’t always be possible for me to help if it needs a long sit-down interview or phone call. I hope you understand!

How do I lose weight/tone up/look like you?

I’m not a dietitian or a personal trainer, so I don’t like to give out personalised advice. I couldn’t anyway, since I know nothing about your diet, activity levels, metabolism or anything else. My Instagram aims to help you find enjoyment in living a healthy lifestyle – I am not going to give someone a personalised plan to ‘lose weight’. Please do, however, read my blog posts as a lot of them are quite informative!

I look like I do through a combination of working out doing what I love, eating a diet that I enjoy and genetics. Even if you followed everything I do to the letter, chances are you’d end up still looking pretty different to me. Also please know that I have been on the fitness scene for around 8 years – results take time!

How often do you workout?

I have written down 3 weeks of my workouts here for your perusal. However, please read above for what I think about copying workouts and expecting the same results – that’s not how it works sadly.

What are your favourite brands?

I’m not sponsored by any particular brand at the moment, but I love sharing other brands that I use. Favourites include Sweaty Betty (super stylish AND they do everyday clothes like my favourite two jumpsuits), Lululemon (you can’t beat the align pant or the fit of their leggings) and Adidas. My favourite shoes are the Adidas ultra-boost, but I also have great running shoes from Asics (Gel-Nimbus 20) that are super comfy and feel more supportive than the boosts.

Can you promote my product?

This one annoys me sometimes, because I have very clearly put my agent’s email address TWICE on my bio, and I have her for a reason. If you DM me, chances are I won’t see it, or if I do, I’ll forward it on to Mel anyway. I can’t promote everything everyone asks me to promote, and whilst I love promoting products I enjoy using, I try to limit even those, so have to prioritise paid collaborations.

If you’re a charity, however, please DO get in contact with my agent even if you can’t pay – I’m always keen to help out charities, esp if they’re close to my heart. If you went to school with me and never spoke to me once, chances are I won’t be helping out your new business idea though, sorry.

I hope that helps answer your questions! Follow and DM me on instagram or twitter to find out more 🙂

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Flapjack

I didn’t know what to call this recipe because ‘flapjack’ doesn’t really do it justice. It’s reduced sugar (because I find syrupy flapjacks almost unbearable) and vegan, and also is more nutrient dense than ‘normal’ flapjacks, thanks to the addition of prunes and seeds and the use of unrefined sugar rather than golden syrup. It’s slightly crumblier than most flapjack recipes but I’m working to fix this. Either way, it tastes bloody good!

Let me know if you make it and I can share on my instagram.

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Ingredients:

  • 250g oats
  • 3tbsp linseeds/seeds of choice
  • 1 heaped tbsp flour of choice
  • 100g vegan butter (I used vegan Flora for this)
  • 25ml oil
  • 50g dark brown demerara/muscovado sugar
  • 3tbsp honey/syrup
  • 5-8 prunes, chopped
  • 1 heaped tbsp peanut/almond butter

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade
  2. Put the oats, flour and linseeds in a large mixing bowl
  3. In a saucepan, heat the butter and oil until melted
  4. Add the honey and sugar and mix in the peanut butter. You may need to remove some of the lumps
  5. Add the chopped prunes and mix, before pouring into the mixing bowl with the oats
  6. Place in a small dish lined with baking parchment and pack down hard (I do this with the back of a metal spoon)
  7. Cook for 30 minutes until browning at the edges
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Perfect with a nice cup of coffee

How to avoid a plateau

Are you going to the gym a lot, eating a healthy diet and still find yourself unable to tone up? Maybe you made a bunch of progress early on, but now it’s just not happening. This is called plateauing, when you’re putting in the same amount of effort before but just not making the progress. It can be caused by a number of factors, individually or combined, and is often the cause of people losing motivation in the gym.

Here are a few of the ways you can avoid for plateauing, or kick-start progress again. Of course, everyone is different, so it’s worth taking a long, hard look at your training plan to see why your progress isn’t what you hoped.

 

Progressive overload

Progressive overload is the technique of making your workouts harder each session. If you’re lifting weights this means instead of doing 12 reps of 50kg squats every week, you increase the weight you’re squatting by a small amount every session. Obviously this can’t continue forever, but it ensures your body doesn’t get used to the same session without growth. Workouts have to be challenging to encourage growth, and once your body adapts, they are no longer encouraging the progress you’re looking for. If you’re a runner doing intervals (just as another example), reduce rest time between intervals, or increase the speed at which you aim to do each interval. The best way to ensure constant overload is to track your workouts closely – if you’re serious about progress, record your lifts/time each session and aim to improve on this. The number of girls with notepads in the gym recording their sessions now a) makes me very happy and b) shows me that they are taking their fitness and progress very seriously.

 

Variety

For similar reasons as above, if you’re doing the same workouts day in day out, your body is going to get used to it and stop developing. After a while doing the same thing will do nothing to change your physique, and can cause burnout. Why not try cross training – incorporating other workouts into your routine – to kick-start progress again? If you’re into lifting weights, try some form of cardio (trust me, you just need to find the right one!), or join classes at your gym for new exercises. If you lift light, lift heavy (with fewer reps). If you lift heavy, try lifting lighter but more reps. Hell, try reformer pilates – if you’re used to being strong, this will definitely give you something to work on! The idea is just to mix it up. It’ll likely restart progress, stop you getting bored and reduce the chance of injury too! It’s a win win (win). Read why cross training is so important here.

 

Rest

Have you been steadily increasing the number of hours you exercise for per week in an attempt to continue your progress? When progress slows it can be tempting to eat into your rest days, chasing progress. However, this can actually harm your progress. Not giving your body enough time to rest can prevent muscle fibres from rebuilding after sessions, and cuase the sort of fatigue that’ll mean you can’t workout as hard as you could before. So instead of working out 4h a week really hard, you end up doing 7h of half-arsed work, exhausting yourself in the process. In this way, rest can improve your progress if you’re trying to kill it in the gym day in day out. In addition, the stress of working out everyday when you’re not ready for it can increase levels of the hormone cortisol (the stress hormone), causing water retention, cravings and a widening waistline. The number of rest days you should take totally depends on your body, your training style, your goals and other factors in your life (sleep/work!), but take a read of my post on rest days to try to figure it out.

 

Fuel

If you’re trying to make quick changes to your body it can be really (really) tempting to reduce your calories as low as possible. However, the lower your calories, the lower your calorie burn. This is not to say that we should all be stuffing our faces, but for some reason people often equate health to eating as few calories a day as possible, and really that can be very counterproductive. I started my fitness journey on a very unhealthy diet of between 800 and 1200 calories a day, thinking that everything I ate had to be burned off. Sure, I was fit, but my body wasn’t nearly as toned or strong as it is now. The lack of food also caused me to crash half way through workouts, meaning that I was working far less than I could have been, and burning fewer calories in the mean time. My fitness and physique didn’t progress until I doubled my calories – I now eat between 2200 and 3000 calories a day, approximately, which fuels even the heaviest of my sessions, and provides my muscles with plenty of building blocks for growth after I workout. If you’re into calorie counting, that’s fine, but if you can eat intuitively to give your body everything it needs, even better. If you listen to your body you’ll be able to tell if you’re eating enough. The chances are, a lot of you probably aren’t!

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One thing to make sure is that your goals are realistic – when you first get into exercise you tend to make much more progress than later on, especially if you were overweight or unfit to begin with. This progress can’t continue forever, and sometimes plateauing is a sign of your body getting to its ‘happy place’ in regards to muscle mass and fitness levels. Don’t be disheartened when your progress slows. If you’ve followed all the steps above, there’s a chance your body is content with where it is, and there’s not much you can do to change that (healthily). Have you experienced plateaus in training? How did you resolve it? Comment on my Instagram and have a look round here for more health and fitness tips.

This post was originally written for Xen-do martial arts

St Pancras Renaissance Hotel spa

I first went to the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel when I was 18 – I was actually singing at a Christmas luncheon for charity! It was so nice, then, to be able to head back for the first time since then last week. After a very long week of work and events, it was much needed! I went with my boyfriend, of course, and am excited to share the experience with you.

There’s no doubt that as soon as you walk up to the renaissance hotel, you’ll be awestruck by its beauty and scale. The spa is on a lower level as soon as you walk in, but you still get to experience the beauty of the inside of the hotel. Upon arrival we had a very short wait while we filled in some health questionnaires, and were then shown around the spa. It’s all situated along a corridor (a pretty one at that), with the spa at one end and relaxation room at the other.

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We started our afternoon with a 30 minute Moroccan massage, which is an oily back massage. Having been climbing the day before, my back was stiff enough to be extremely sensitive! I feel like the massage might have been better suited to someone who hadn’t worked out the day before – for me it was not so much relaxing as painful, which when coupled to the (otherwise wonderfully) heated bed, made the massage probably a little less relaxing than it should have been. However, the products used smelled amazing, and  the experience probably would be perfect for other people.

The pool was gorgeous – dark, lovely decor with chairs around the outside for relaxing on. It was the perfect temperature with plenty of bubbles for the full experience. However, I think when I went it had been over-treated, so was a little stingy on the eyes, sadly.

All in all, there’s no doubting that the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is somewhere you should visit, if only for the decor! The spa is very relaxing, but there were some small improvements to be made. It wasn’t as good as some day spas I’ve been to, but for a hotel spa, it is really lovely and does just the job of relaxing you before your next engagement.

Verdict: if you’re staying at the hotel, the spa and gym are definitely worth a visit. Book a treatment and enjoy! I wouldn’t put it on the top of my list of day spas, but then again, that’s not its job. Let me know what you think when you visit!

Click here to read more about the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and its spa.

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The decor of the hotel is all part of the experience!

My year in review – 2017

I like to take time around Christmas to think of the things in the past year that I’m proud of. Reflection on your achievements can help you appreciate even the smallest of things: contentment at work, good times with family, new skills learned – the list goes on. With that in mind I thought I’d do a little summary of the things I’ve achieved this year. Whether you write yours down or just think of them in your head, it’s something I’d really recommend doing!

 

Social media
This is the year I grew from 10,000 followers (25 December, 2016) to my current 57,000. Whilst follower number isn’t everything, I think this year’s growth has been a true reflection of the pride, time and effort I’ve put into my content. Creating weekly blog posts, including recipes, thoughts and advice is tiring but something I’ve learned to balance in my life – it helps that I love doing it! My aim of creating weekly content has been upheld (most of the time!) and it’s so worth it when I’m able to help people in more than the length of an instagram captions or twitter’s 280 characters (another new thing this year!).

In January I signed to W model management, an agency that I had applied to (twice) and been rejected from (twice). For them to approach me and ask me to be on their books as a ‘fitfluencer’ and model was literally a dream come true. The extra help allowed me to focus on my finals and dissertation at university and build excellent relationships with brands that probably would never have noticed me on my own. It’s been a strong learning curve for me – from having to reshoot campaigns 5 times to learning when to say no to collaborations, this year has taught me a lot about working with people. Most of all, it’s shown me that the best people to work with are those who are really, really passionate about sharing what they do, and that’s something I’ll be aiming to do more of next year.

My Twitter has grown from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand followers, but in reality I’m still just a little confused about twitter. My favourite thing is that whilst instagram is all ‘highlight reel’ and sometimes makes you super depressed, twitter is where people seem to head when they want to complain about life, which is strangely refreshing. I like twitter, but I still don’t really get it.

This year has been a whirlwind year in regards to social media. It been amazing to have the opportunity to share my voice and (hopefully) help others along the way. I’m so excited to see what 2018 will bring for the brand ‘food fitness flora’, and I hope all of you will still be here to share it with me!

See my most popular recipe and blog post of this year.

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Personal life
This year was a great year for family and friends. Without going into depth, it’s been so interesting to realise that some people are always there for you no matter what, and others are along for the highlights and mysteriously disappear when things get tough. It’s also been so lovely to meet a bunch of new people, through countless events and various things in common. I am forever grateful for social media – who could have known that instagram would lead to some of my closest friendships (Maiken I’m looking at you, even though I know you never read this).

I moved back to London after my degree, and have been living at home while I’m getting on my feet. It’s been so nice after 10 years of boarding school and three years of university to finally be able to spend some time with family – there really is nothing that can replace it! Shout out to my sisters for still being as crazy this year as last. You are all wonderful and the variety of things you all do and succeed in (and the ones you don’t) never ceases to amaze me.

I can’t write about my personal life without mentioning my wonderful boyfriend, Fiann. Fiann and I have been together for over 2.5 years now, and without wanting to sound soppy, I am forever grateful for everything he does. For anyone who loves a nerd and pretty rocks as much as I do, check out his instagram (and look out on BBC One at 8pm on the 7th Jan for a great surprise!).

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He’s not bad really

 

Education
This year I graduated from Bristol University, where I was doing a bachelors in Biology. It was really tough (as anyone who has done/is doing a degree will know!), but something I’m so proud of. I loved the subject throughout the three years, which I’m learning isn’t all that common, and when I left with a strong 2:1, I was happy. My academic performance wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be, but I also learned that at university, grades really aren’t everything. The experiences I had at uni are worth more to me than any grade I could have got, and I hope that anyone else struggling to achieve what they were aiming for will still make the most of the experience. For me, university was about learning to balance 7 million different things – friends, work, sports, music, social life, family life etc – whilst finding who you are as a person. It wasn’t easy, but boy was it worth it.

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Graduation

Work
In my last year of university I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do (work with scientists and journalists turning science into terms everyone could understand), but didn’t know if that was even a job. After finding out that science media and communications was definitely a thing (and a very important thing at that), I set out to find myself some work experience. After leaving uni in June, I got an unpaid internship at the Society for Endocrinology in Bristol over the month of August. I loved the work but struggled staying in Bristol when all things blogging were based in London. Half way through my internship I got called in for an interview at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, for a job as ‘media and PR officer’. Upon arrival at the college I was filled with amazement at how beautiful the building was, followed shortly by terror, because I felt massively under-qualified for a real job in the real world. After a very fun interview I was convinced that they were looking for someone more professional (and probably older) than I was, which is why I was unbelievably surprised when the very next day I got a call back offering me the job. I’m now working at the RCOG, working with scientists and journalists debunking pseudoscience, making sure everyone is in the know about women’s health and keeping engaged with the public via social media. The blogger work/work work balance is a hard one to get right (this last week has been 15h day after 15h day), but it’s made so much easier when you love everything you’re doing. People ask me why I don’t work full time as a blogger, but helping women throughout their life through education and information is literally a dream come true for me, and that is exactly what I’m doing.

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Work Christmas party (you can see why I fit right in)

This post is as much for me as anyone else – the last year has been a total whirlwind of change for me, from leaving uni to starting a new job, all whilst focusing on my social media accounts too. Always make time to celebrate your successes, no matter how big or small, and learn from your mistakes so you can succeed next time. Merry Christmas everyone, enjoy this time to reconnect with family and spend some time away from social media.

 

“Celebrate your success and find humour in your failures. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Loosen up and everyone around you will loosen up. Have fun and always show enthusiasm. When all else fails, put on a silly costume and sing a silly song” – Words to live by from Sam Walton.

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That’s me over and out for the year – have an amazing christmas everyone! 

10 reasons to lift weights

When I first started playing sports, the idea of a girl lifting weights was laughable. The only girls who did were the rowers and field athletes– everyone else thought it was manly, and my secondary school weights room was literally only for boys. The main gym was mostly cardio equipment, and without a doubt cardio was what was expected of the girls, if they went to the gym at all. Seven years on and the attitudes towards women being fit and healthy rather than skinny have changed so much. The rise of social media stars who incorporate weights into their routines has undoubtedly helped. But what are the benefits of lifting weights, and why do people swear by them for getting in shape?

Nb/ As a disclaimer I’d like to say that I also condemn those who shame anyone who does cardio – there are health benefits to all exercises, and I for one love a good sweat session. However, this post will be focussing on the health benefits of lifting weights. If you’d like to read more about cardio, please check out my post on how to get better at running.

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I got into weights late in the game because I was afraid it’d make me ‘bulky’ – it didn’t and won’t for you either!

  1. It’ll strengthen your bones

Most of us don’t think of our bones as living things, but they are. They respond to how we live, especially when we are young. As we get older, our bones lose density, becoming more brittle and prone to osteoporosis (this is why older people are more likely to break and fracture bones). If you lift weights, your bone density increases, meaning you’re in a better position to protect yourself from these issues later in life.

 

  1. It’ll make you happier

Whilst all physical activity is great for mental health, strength training has been linked to lower levels of anxiety and depression, as well as fatigue. In addition to the benefits of just getting moving, watching yourself progress with strength training can help you focus in other areas of life and give you a sense of achievement.

 

  1. It’ll give you a higher BMR

Your BMR is your basal metabolic rate. It’s the rate at which you burn calories when you’re doing absolutely nothing. So not only will lifting weights burn calories when you’re doing it, lifting also increases your muscle to fat ratio, meaning that you’ll burn more calories just lying there. And guess what that means… More food!

 

  1. It helps other sports

If you’re not lifting weights because you’re focusing on other sports, you could be harming your progress rather than helping it. Lifting weights strengthens both supporting muscles and the muscles you may use for your sport, meaning that whatever you do, lifting weights can help you do it harder, faster and better. It’s one form of cross training you don’t want to miss out on.

 

  1. It doesn’t take a long time

If you’re short on time, having a 30 minute workout is perfectly fine when lifting weights. My glutes sessions are around 40 minutes long, but when time-restricted 30 minutes works absolutely fine. Lifting can work around your schedule in a way that running a 5k can’t.

 

  1. Muscle is denser than fat

But what does this actually mean? It means that if you do lots of strength training and gain some muscle, it’ll take up less space than fat does. This is what allows people to get leaner leaner when they weightlift. You may not weigh less, but you’ll definitely look like you do! This is also why lifting weights as a girl certainly won’t make you look bulky. Whilst you probably shouldn’t be doing something purely because of aesthetics, there’s nothing wrong with wanting some toned curves!

 

  1. It’s good for your heart

Cardiovascular exercise is undoubtedly excellent for your heart health, but lifting weights has similar benefits. It can lower blood pressure as effectively as cardio and can mean you’re at lower risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack. The American Heart Association recommends at least 2 strength training sessions a week.

 

  1. It doesn’t require much space

Whilst getting to the gym is useful if you want to lift heavy, if you’re short on time and space, you can do bodyweight resistance training at home. Also when your gym is super busy, getting on all the machines can be a nightmare, but grabbing some dumbells and a small space for a mat is sometimes all you need. Lack of time/space isn’t an excuse here!

 

  1. It’ll help you sleep

All exercise can help with sleep – those who exercise frequently report the best sleep, both in terms of length and quality. In addition, getting good sleep helps with muscle growth, so the two work together perfectly. Do more of one and you’ll get more of the other. It’s a win-win!

 

  1. You’ll live longer (and heathier)

All of the factors above lead to a reduced risk of disease, meaning you’ll live longer, healthier and happier. What’s not to love?!

 

I hope you find this post helpful! To see more of what I do why not check out what I’m up to on Instagram or TwitterLIFESTYLE_1384.

Cowshed spa, Primrose Hill

As you may know, I am a huge fan of spa breaks – scheduled time to relax, rest and recuperate before heading back into the real world. However, sadly it’s not always possible to take off so much time for some R&R. We all need something that will do the trick and fit into your life. This is where day spas and treatment rooms come in. They’re aid out for maximum relaxation, but without demanding a full day to experience everything – and without the price tag of a full weekend away, too.

I headed to the Cowshed spa on a Thursday evening after work, excited by the prospect of a relaxing evening of ‘me time’. Cowshed has spas in Soho, Shoreditch and Primrose Hill, meaning that for Londoners, there’s always something nearby. I would recommend their Primrose Hill branch though, as it’s reported to be the most aesthetic (I can confirm that it was super cosy and pretty this Christmas time!). Upstairs in the spa is a café, and next door was the manicure and pedicure room – although I didn’t use them I imagine they’re perfect for spending time with friends or mother-daughter time over a mani/pedi.

I headed downstairs to the treatment rooms after filling in a short form about my health, and waited a short while on the downstairs sofas. My treatment started a little late, but wasn’t cut short, so I didn’t mind too much. The treatment started by telling the therapist what I wanted from the session – for me, my body was really sore from some heavy training, so I asked for a massage to relax my muscles. I chose my favourite scent from a selection (all of them were nice, but it’s nice to be able to choose your preferred one!).

I’ve had a lot of massages from lots of different places and the massage I got wouldn’t go at the top of my list, although it was still a very relaxing 45 minutes. However, the therapist did something I’ve never had before – she went through some of my pressure points and pushed on them. It wasn’t pleasant, but MY GOD the next day my DOMS had all gone. This has never happened to me before, even with a massage, so whilst this massage wasn’t top of my relaxing list, it was absolutely top of my effectiveness list. It was so good! I also bet that if I had asked for a soft, relaxing massage, the massage would have been much more relaxing than it was.

I would recommend Cowshed as a cute afternoon/evening activity for a catch up with a friend over a mani/pedi, or for some ‘me time’ after a hard week of working/training. You can’t deny the effectiveness of a massage for relaxation, and this one did just the trick 🙂

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Their upstairs cafe is my ideal kind of place for writing blog posts!

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The upstairs manicure and pedicure area – prefect for catching up with friends!

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The treatment room where I had my massage