7 Bad habits ruining your progress

Sitting all day

The majority of us have jobs that require us to sit still for long periods of time. This means that the amount we move throughout the day is minimal, and when combined with taking transport to and from work, this can really take its toll on your body! Studies show that even if you workout regularly, sitting down for extended periods of time can increase your risk of mortality, presumably from accumulating

Eating too fast

Calories are calories, right? Pretty much, yes, but you can eat a lot more calories if you don’t pay attention to what you’re eating. It takes the body around 20 minutes to process the food you’ve just eaten, so eating quickly can allow you to eat way more food before your body even notices you’re eating. Slow down and give your body time to catch up!

Snacking throughout the day

Similar to above, snacking throughout the day can cause you to lose track of the amount of calories you’re consuming. I don’t count calories, but by grazing through the day I end up eating so much more than when I stick to eating only at meal times. I don’t deprive myself of snacks, but if you’re hungry, try to set yourself snack times, rather than nibbling at little bits throughout the day.

Working out too much

This sounds strange but actually there is such thing as working out too much and it might be easier than you think. As you get fitter, you may be able to push yourself harder, but your body still requires time to recover, and the harder you push yourself, the longer that time is. Aiming to fit in intense workouts everyday is unachievable and frankly, dangerous, as it can lead to burnout and/or injuries. In addition, workout out intensely too frequently means that you’re unable to put 100% effort into each session, so you’re better off doing fewer sessions at a higher intensity. to get more progress. Struggle to take a day off? Mix up your workouts to alternate between high intensity and low intensity sessions.

Not getting enough sleep

OK so I swear I bang on about sleep as a cure-all, but IT BASICALLY IS. When your body is well rested it simply functions better, meaning fewer things go wrong. In terms of your progress, this means:

  1. You have more energy to put into workouts, and you’re less likely to miss workouts because you’re too tired.
  2. You don’t reach for snacks throughout the day because a) you don’t get such a bad energy slump and b) motivation is increased when you have more energy, so you’re more likely to stick to any plan you’ve set for yourself.

Eating diet foods

It can seem counterintuitive, but diet foods are anything but good for your diet. I had a pack of low-calorie ‘light’ crisps the other day, and I swear they were made from salted cardboard pulp. I’m sure their main method of helping diets is that no one could finish an entire packet because they were so disgusting. Other diet foods may feel a little bit satisfying but nowhere near as good as the real thing, so you end up eating more of them. OR you think ‘these are low calorie so I can eat more’ and eat more than you would of the original, but feel way worse afterwards. Just ditch the low calorie/fat/carb snacks. Find good food that you enjoy and eat everything in moderation.

Skipping meals

Thinking: If I eat one meal less, I’ll lose weight. Sure, if you don’t compensate, that may be true. However, we’re all human, and we our bodies are much cleverer than we give them credit for. People who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight than those who don’t, and skipping any other meal can lead to ‘grazing’ throughout the day, which is a healthy diet killer. Instead, try sticking to balanced, nutrient dense meals that won’t leave you hungry.

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How I keep healthy with a full time job

Although I only started working in ‘the real world’ in August, I have been asked time and time again how I’m keeping healthy. As with so many people I have a desk job, I work in a city and I have an almost unlimited supply of food throughout the day. So how do I stay healthy?

Keeping fit and healthy isn’t something that just ‘happens’ for me – it’s something I have consciously worked hard at for the past 8 years of my life, figuring out what works for me. Although I’m still perfecting it all, I’d love to share with you all what I find works for me, as someone who works 8h a day sitting down at a desk!

 

Edit: I have recently started working 25h a week after 8 months of working full time, which allows me a little more space to focus on my blog, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. I think I probably work more than ever now, but the proportion that is spent sitting at a desk has decreased. However these rules still stand as I go to the office 4 days a week still! 

Walk

People looooove to see X workout or Y workout on Instagram, but I never see people talking about the power of the humble walk. I LOVE to walk. It’s my thing, and I’m getting very good at it (I’m known for being a speedy walker). Sure, walking isn’t as hardcore as a boxing session or as glamorous as a weights session, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work wonders. If you think about it, your workout only makes up around 4% of your day. If the other 96% is spent sitting on your ass then that 4% isn’t really going to matter. My advice: get walking. Walk the journey to work if you can – I walk up to an hour to and from work. I also walk for at least 30 minutes in my lunch break. Maybe you don’t have the time to do that much, but make a conscious effort to head out for a walk when you have a minute. It’ll do wonders for your health (and, surprisingly, your endurance in other sports too!).

Tea breaks!

There is something I call tea/pee (like a tee-pee but not). It involves drinking lots of tea and peeing all the time. Doesn’t sound scientific enough for you? You’d be surprised. Drinking herbal tea has a myriad of health benefits, lots of which are to do with the fact that you’re consuming more liquid, which is easy to forget. During winter it’s incredibly warming and year round flavoured teas can be good to see you between mealtimes or snack breaks. The increased liquid in your system will obviously make you wee more often, and this, combined with filling up your tea all day, means more standing up and walking around, which has a bunch of other benefits (see above). If your colleagues make fun of you for having a weak bladder, laugh at them, because they should be sad they don’t know about tea-pee. Toilet/kitchen right next to your office? Head to one on another floor.

30 minute rule

I try not to sit down for more than 30 minutes continuously. It hurts my back, makes me lethargic and makes my Garmin angry (it continuously buzzes at me to ‘MOVE’). Every 30 minutes (if I haven’t moved since the last 30 minutes), I get up and walk somewhere. It doesn’t matter where, but 2 minutes of activity for every 30 minutes of sitting down should really be your minimum when it comes to your desk job. Tea-pee should help with this. Offer to get other people tea too. Either they’ll join (in which case yay you get company), or they’ll give you their mug, which means more trips to the kitchen (aka more steps).

Lunch

Lunch at my work is both amazing and frustrating. We get lunch supplied, which is incredible, and usually it’s pretty good and healthy – that’s the amazing bit. The frustrating bit is that it’s always between 12pm and 1:30pm, which means that even if I’m not hungry in those hours, I have to eat, lest I starve by the afternoon. For most people this isn’t an issue, as you’ll be bringing in your own lunch. Try not to fall into the trap of eating it by 11am and being sad by 12pm when you’re hungry again. I set myself a specific meal time (12:40pm) and don’t eat in the hour before, because I know I’ll regret it when I’m really full by the time we get to lunch. Eat your lunch slowly and for gods sake, NOT AT YOUR DESK. If you insist on eating at your desk, turn your computer off and enjoy your food without work/internet of any kind. Paying attention to what you are eating will increase enjoyment of it, make you feel more satisfied, and allow your brain to have a break, which it will probably need by lunch time.

Snack-attack

The dreaded snack cupboard/shelf/drawer/kitchen is a health killer. It’s continually restocked by well-meaning people and feeders, who probably want to feel better about their snacking habits. Snack-attack is like an avalanche and once snacking starts, it’s sooooo difficult to stop (experienced first hand). My desk is literally 2ft from the snack shelf, and my convenient wheely chair means I don’t even have to get up to get any. HOWEVER, I am aware of the relentless pull of snackaging, and have set some boundaries in place. I try (emphasis on try) to only snack at set times, twice a day max. Considering the amount I eat throughout the day, I am not in need of extra snacks, and know that when I do snack, it’s out of boredom. Be aware of your snacking habits, find your triggers and figure out what you want to do. For some people this is allowing literally NO SNACKS throughout the day. I don’t want to be sad, so I allow myself snacks, but limit them to certain times and distract myself with tea when I am tempted to get more (see tea-pee). In addition I’ve stocked the snack shelf with ‘healthy’ snacks (graze boxes and nakd bars), in the hope that people will see that it’s full and there is no space for their double chocolate cake and doughnuts. Just remember, snack-attack calories are still recognised as calories by your body, even if you don’t count them yourself.

Find time to workout

Let’s be honest, when you’re working 40h+ a week you’re tired quite a lot of the time. Maybe all the time. So struggling to the gym early in the morning or after a long day might not be top on your list of desires, but if you want to be LESS tired, ironically it should be. Working out improves circulation and alertness, which can help you work better too. It can also give you motivation in other areas of life when you start to see progress in the gym, and once you’re in a routine it becomes MUCH easier. I tend to workout after work, but if I can’t fit that in I’ll go before, at around 7:30am. My advice is to find a gym or class that you like, and do that at least 3 times a week. I train around 5-6h a week even when I don’t reeeeeally want to, and 9 times out of 10, I feel 1000x better after the workout. So try to fit in a workout before or after work, or even just 30 minutes hard during your lunch break. Give it a go, you’ve really got nothing to lose!

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Not what I meant by ‘a desk job’

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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Six reasons to eat plant based

Eating less red meat and focusing on a more plant based diet is becoming increasingly popular, thanks to celebrities, influencers and a better understanding of the benefits of increasing veg protein and reducing red and processed meat. As we have become more educated about the impacts of meat on the environment and the ethics of meat consumption, food providers have followed suit, providing more and more options for those opting for a plant based diet.

This blog post was written in collaboration with Tesco, but as always all opinions are my own. Check out their new Wicked Kitchen range, a collaboration with plant chef Derek Sarno. The range uses plants in a variety of ways, making all the meals taste amazing (trust me, I’ve tried them!) but without the negative effects of meats. Gone are the days of weird-tasting fake meats – this is a real deal. They’re also super convenient, which means that at the end of a long day of work, they’re quick to stick in the oven or on the hob so you can get eating asap. I am unbelievably impressed with the range, and would recommend it to anyone, not just people who are already vegetarian or vegan! If you’ve been considering lowering your meat and dairy consumption for some while, there’s no better time to do it. Here are a few reasons why you should just go for it!

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It’s good for your health

Increasing the proportion of the diet that is made up of wholefoods such as fruit and vegetables can only improve your health. Multiple studies have also shown significant improvements in health outcomes for those with heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, diseases that have exploded in frequency over the last few decades. Red meats, especially those that have been heavily processed, have been liked closely with increased rates of these diseases, and decreasing the amount you eat can only have positive impacts on your health. It is now possible to replace meats with vegan products that have the same flavours but none of the negative impacts, so why not try some vegan alternatives, such as those found in the Wicked kitchen range?

It saves you money

People often complain that eating vegan is more expensive than eating meat, but if you are simply replacing the most expensive part of the diet with more vegetables, grains and pulses, it ends up significantly cheaper than an omnivorous diet. Specialist products such as tofu and meat replacements can sometimes be relatively expensive but are almost always cheaper than meats. Brands such as Tesco have started providing ready meals that are no more expensive than their meat counterparts, meaning that even convenience foods are as cheap or cheaper than the animal product equivalent.

It’s one of the best things you can do to save the planet

There is irrefutable evidence to show that red meat, especially products that come from cattle, have a significant impact on the environment. The livestock industry consumes about 8% of the world’s water, depriving those areas that most need it (Schlink et al., 2010). Whilst it takes 2400 gallons of water to make 1lb of meat, 1lb of wheat can be grown with just 155 gallons of water. Without going into too much depth, using meat for food is less efficient in just about every way, using more land, water, fuel, and using 60% of all the human grade grain grown in the world. By products of the meat industry include greenhouse gases such as methane, which has 23 times the global warming potential of CO2. Care about the world we live in? Reducing your consumption of animal products (especially meat) will make a huge difference. Vegan alternatives are also more ethically sound – the more we eat plant based, the less suffering there has to be, and that’s something we can all feel good about.

It’s easy to lose weight… but you don’t have to

Whilst weight loss is by no means the most important thing in the world, the low caloric value of plants means that you can have a lot more volume for your calories! This means more food and who can complain about that?.In addition, by pure correlation, vegans have the lowest BMI, vegetarians second lowest, and meat eaters have the highest. Having said that, if you’re not looking to lose weight, it’s plenty easy enough to find high calorie vegan foods, such as nuts and oils, and dishes can be made to incorporate these to fill you up. Veganism isn’t about being hungry – it’s about being satisfied with delicious plant based foods!

It’s no less convenient

When it comes to cooking, we all want foods that are quick and easy to make, and sadly that often forces us to go for choices we’ve made 100 times before, often incorporating meat as a centrepiece to a meal, just because it’s ‘easy’. However, more and more people are demanding plant-based products that are just as easy to make as meat ones. With a higher demand comes higher supply. Conscientious and influential brands such as Tesco are incorporating more and more vegan foods into their takeaway sections, allowing people to opt for nutritious and delicious vegan foods that are just as convenient to pick up as any other food. Convenience is often cited as a reason for people eating meat, but this reason is becoming less and less relevant. You’d be surprised what you can find!

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing

A lot of people are put off the idea of becoming vegan or even vegetarian because of the idea that they have to give up everything they love, or it’s not worth doing. It’s this kind of ‘all or nothing’ attitude that put me off for years, but in reality, every little change helps. If you are vegetarian, try having a couple of vegan days a week, or just reduce dairy consumption if you really love eggs. The chances are that over time, you’ll find that you don’t crave animal products anymore! Products from the Wicked Kitchen range can help you make that transition far easier, swapping out meat products for plant products used in a creative way, meaning you won’t miss meat at all.

 

There is really no reason not to try eating more conscientiously by reducing the amount of animal products you consume. It is often habit that allows us to continue doing things that aren’t in our best interest, but all it takes is a decision to make a change and half the battle is already done. Whatever your reason, there has been no easier time to start eating plant based, so why not give it a try?

I’d love to hear of your experiences with veganuary or your journey to eating less meat – feel free to send me a message on instagram or comment below.

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This dairy-free caponata pizza has to be one of my favourites from the range!

New Years resolution ideas

I have mixed feelings about New Year’s resolutions – on the one hand, we should be being the person we want to be year round, and any day is a great day to make a positive change. On the other hand, it seems that the idea of the New Year can encourage people to make changes they’ve been waiting to make for a while.

However, when you look at the statistics the results aren’t promising – 40% to 45% of people in the US make New Year’s resolution, yet only 8% of people stick to them for the first month. The most common resolution is to lose weight, but instead of taking things away from your life, why not add something in? Take a look at these slightly different New Year resolution ideas. The goal here is happiness gained, not pounds lost, and the chances are, once you find that you’re enjoying the changes, you’ll be part of the 8% that stick to their resolutions!

 

Social media
Social media free times
– whilst eating, before bed, or any other time when being on your phone may distract from your enjoyment or achievement of something, put it away. This is a good exercise in discipline – we’re all so used to being able to reach for our phones every two minutes that we end up distracting ourselves throughout the day. Putting your phone down for certain parts of the day can improve concentration, productivity and enjoyment of whatever activity you’re doing!

Be more true to yourself. Everyone knows instagram is a highlight reel, which has an effect both on yourself (pressure to produce ‘perfect’ content) and others (comparing their real life to your ‘perfect’ instagram one). Changing my instagram to reflect real life as much as picture perfect life has helped me reduce pressure on myself and hopefully others too. Why not show a bit more of your personality on your facebook/twitter/IG as well as the highlights?

 

Mindfulness
Write 5 things you’re grateful for at the end of everyday for a month (or longer). This has been proven to increase positivity by changing your mindset from picking out the negatives in a situation to searching for the positives. It takes time but is an amazing exercise to do!

Learn something new each week by podcasting. Try to listen to one podcast a week. See my podcast recommendations here!

Call your friends/parents more. Everyone knows they should do this but actually doing it is a different matter! Stick in some headphones and call a loved one whilst on a walk. It’ll make their day and you’re getting the benefits of a walk too.

 

Health
Drink more water
. Water increases energy levels, improves your skin, flushes out toxins and ensures you remain hydrated, which is important for all your bodily functions.

Give up caffeine. Caffeine in itself is not bad for you (up to a point), but reliance on a morning coffee can have effects on our mental state (not to mention that it’s expensive). Try giving it up or limiting your intake. You’d be surprised at the difference it can make!

 

Environment
Go vegetarian/vegan
. Cutting out meat (and dairy products) can have positive effects on your health, the environment and your wallet. Red meat is by far the worst, so even if you don’t want to go full vegan, consider cutting out all red meat/meat/meat and fish/meat, fish and dairy. Any change is a positive change, and you’ll likely to find that there are a lot of amazing recipes out there that don’t require harm to the the world. Read my reasons for being vegetarian (ex-pescetarian).

Quit single-use plastics. That coffee cup you pick up on your way to work? That’s not recyclable. The plastic bag you use to take your shopping home in? That’ll not break down for up to 1000 years. Consider reusing any plastic you already have (water bottles, bags etc.) and give up buying any more over January. It’s a fun challenge and will make you more aware of how much you can do to help the environment.

 

Work
Stop procrastinating
. Whilst procrastination can have some positive effects (reduced stress, displacement activities etc.), we undoubtedly have times where things don’t get done because of procrastination. There are two easy ways to stop this happening.

  • 2 minute rule – if something is going to take 2 minutes or less, do it now. Washing up that pan, replying to an email, putting on a wash – these things aren’t difficult or time consuming, but for some reason we like to put them off. Over January (at least), try implementing the 2 minute rule.
  • To do lists. Become a pro at writing to do lists (by hand!). Writing them correctly will break down big tasks and make them much more achievable.

 

Take breaks from your desk at uni/work. Despite the majority of employers allowing hour lunch breaks, only 45% of employees regularly take any breaks at all. However, taking regular short breaks and getting out at lunchtime can improve productivity and overall happiness at work. The top 10% most productive employees take 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work they put in, so this may be worth a shot.

 

I hope you found these ideas useful. I’d be interested to hear of any other resolutions you might have! Let me know on my instagram.

 

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Happy New Year everyone! 

 

Interview for Umoyo active

I was interviewed by the new fitness brand, Umoyo Active last summer about my fitness motivation, my instagram and all things healthy living! Here’s what I said:

 

  • When and why did you decide to create your ‘food_fitness_flora’ blog?

I created my Instagram when I was around 17. It originally started as a reminder that everyone needs to eat food at least 3 times a day. I used to be quite obsessive over my eating and exercise, and the Instagram community really helped me overcome the problems I had. It slowly changed into a positive page about food and fitness, but originally it was a support page.

  • What does your blog involve?

My IG involves my life, basically. It documents my meals (albeit only the pretty ones) and my workouts, which I try to do everyday. I also try to inspire others to live as well as they can, in regards to health and fitness. My blog is filled with recipes and reviews of products and gyms, as well as longer posts regarding matters such as healthy eating and food and fitness culture 🙂

  • Who are you speaking out to and why? 

Anyone and everyone. Anyone who is already living the fitness lifestyle, anyone who wants to and anyone who just needs a bit of food inspiration and fitness motivation! I don’t think there’s any particular age group or type of person that I am speaking to in particular.

  •  What does a ‘healthy lifestyle’ mean to you?

Healthy to me means balanced. Orthorexia (obsession with eating healthily) is no joke, and I don’t believe that this is being ‘healthy’. Living healthily means you are both mentally and physically healthy. This doesn’t always involve clean eating and working out everyday!

  •  Have you always lived a healthy lifestyle? 

No, but I’ve always been into my healthy foods (along with plenty of unhealthy ones 😉 ). I’ve been a pescetarian since I was 4, which was originally due to the fact that I hate the taste and texture of meat, but later was also due to both ethics and environmental reasons. I feel like this threw me into the world of healthy eating at an early age, as I had to learn how to feed myself well when I was very young!

  •  Do you have a specific weekly fitness/work out routine? 

No specifics. I try to listen to my body and not workout when I am exhausted, but tend to go to the gym most days. In an ideal week, I will gym 5 times and have one track running training session. Gymming involves a mix of things, including circuits and resistance training, and I often incorporate treadmill sprints into my circuits.

  • What are your favourite breakfast meals to fuel your day and why? 

Breakfast is definitely my favourite meal of the day. I love a good smoothie bowl, and there are so many types you can do! The carrot cake smoothie bowl on my blog is always a winner, as is simple peanut butter, banana, oats and protein. I also make my own muesli at university that is just so delicious (if I may say so myself).

  • Do you have long term or short term individual health and fitness goals? 

My long term fitness goal is to stay as aerobically fit and physically strong for as long as I can. Immediately, I guess my goals in the gym are aesthetics based (ie. to look good and strong), as well as being able to do un-assisted pull-ups (more than 2) and hold a handstand. Outside of the gym, with my running, I am always looking to improve my 5k and other distances. My only competition is myself.

  • What is your favourite style of activewear? 

I love monochrome activewear, mesh and cool straps. But more than anything I need functionality.

  • What are you looking for when you want to buy new activewear? 

How well it performs in the gym – there’s nothing worse than having a bad workout because your bra strap keeps falling down, or because your leggings reveal too much when you squat. However, I love to look and feel good in my activewear – which is why I wear it as casual clothing 90% of the time too!

The truth about detoxes

I was asked to write this article as an ‘unbiased piece on the popular detoxes on sale after christmas’, showing which worked, which to avoid and including my advice on the matter. I found it impossible to remain unbiased – the ‘popular detoxes’ on the market aren’t healthy and could in no way be recommended to anyone. At best they’re a waste of time and money, and at worst they could do you some damage. Have a read and let me know what you think!

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If you Google ‘post Christmas detox’, you get 2,970,000 results. Some of the advice is helpful (eat your greens, don’t eat too much cake) but some of it could be downright harmful (cut out all wheat/sugar/dairy/food from your diet). It’s not uncommon for people to gain a few pounds over Christmas. Students, especially, when they come home from perhaps not the best diet (halls food and/or budget meals) to home made roast potatoes and their favourite desserts, are likely to indulge on the free food – hence that ‘Christmas bulge’. As you may remember, before Christmas there was a piece in Epigram on whether or not you should allow yourself to indulge in all the Christmas food you like, or whether you should show restraint and perhaps not go back for seconds. The overwhelming message was that Christmas is there to be enjoyed, and part of the joy is eating excellent food until you pass out on the sofa, unable to eat any more. Or at least that’s me. So what do you do when you’ve gained a few kilos over Christmas (I personally gained 3kg from eating over 3000 calories a day) and want to perhaps tone up a bit from New Year onwards?

There are basically two options:

  • Detox: This usually involves cutting out a lot from your diet, often entire food groups, eg. wheat/dairy/sugar/alcohol/red meat (my mum cuts them all out for 2 weeks) in an effort to ‘cleanse’ and ‘detox’ your body. Maybe you’ll even try a ‘skinny/detox tea’ because the transformation pics are great.
  • Continue to eat normally, but healthier. Cutting down on unhealthy foods/drinks such as refined sugars, saturated fats and alcohol and allowing your liver to do the rest.

As a scientist and advocate of balanced eating, I am a firm believer that DETOXES DO NOT WORK. A quick note on how our body removes toxins (or ‘detoxes’) itself: the lymph removes larger waste products and liver removes and inactivates most other toxins, such as alcohol. The water-soluble ones move to the kidneys to be excreted in urine. The last major part is your digestive tract, where fibre can help move toxins through until they are eventually excreted. Yum.

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Natural detoxification

What even is a ‘toxin’? Interestingly, the companies that benefit from detoxes and diets can’t all agree on what is meant by detoxification. Essentially it means removal of toxins from the body, through diets and cessation of ingesting toxins, in this case unhealthy foods, alcohol and cigarettes. The aim is to reset the metabolism and allow the body to function at full capacity without being inhibited by these ‘toxins’. Unfortunately due to some poor science and misunderstandings, the term ‘toxin’ has been broadened to include anything that the diet might remove. This can include harmless substances such as wheat or dairy (unless you’re intolerant).

 

Here are some of the more popular and misunderstood ‘detoxes’ being sold on the market, especially after New Year.

 

Juice cleanses: We’re all aware that fruit and vegetables are good for us, and therefore many people believe that, by extension, a diet of purely fruit and veg MUST be even better. Juice/smoothies diets advise nothing but fruit and veg smoothies/juices for days or weeks. Of course you will lose weight, but only because you’re probably only achieving a maximum of 800 calories a day. You could eat 800 calories of cheeseburger a day and you would lose weight. You would still not be ‘detoxing’. On such a low calorie diet, our bodies start to use up stored glycogen, before burning fat. A lot of water is stored in glycogen, so significant amounts of weight may be lost quickly, although most of the weight would be water, not fat. After a few days of detoxing, energy levels would be rock bottom and irritability sky high as your body uses the last of its glycogen and starts moving to burning fat (and muscle). Luckily liquid diet detoxes usually don’t last long enough to cause vitamin/mineral deficiencies, and probably won’t land you in hospital. However, the result tends to be a very hungry person who may or may not feel the need to eat more upon finishing the diet. Sometimes electrolyte imbalances can occur, leading to fatigue and dehydration. Usually, all weight lost is regained within a few days, mostly from eating real food which holds more water. Thus both weight lost and gained is mostly water.

 

Detox/diet/skinny teas: Most detox teas make you lose weight because they contain laxatives or diuretics. Laxatives ‘work’ by releasing anything in your gut along with a lot of water, allowing you to lose weight for the first few days of using them, although none of this is fat. Diuretics increase the amount you pee, effectively dehydrating you and allowing you to lose more water weight. Laxatives are among the more harmful diet aids, as they can dehydrate and cause mild nutrient deficiencies if used over an extended period of time, as food spends less time in the gut, so not all the nutrients are absorbed. In addition, your body may compensate by decreasing your natural ‘movements’ – so when your detox finally ends, you may find yourself feeling pretty uncomfortable. Ew.

As you can see above, I also fell prey to the glamour and marketing of detox/skinny teas. Lyfe and boo-tea were two that I was sent and happily showed off on my Instagram. I’m not hiding this as I think it’s important to show that without educating yourself, anyone can believe what they’re told. For someone who was, at the time, recovering from an eating disorder, these sorts of ‘detoxes’ were quite damaging. 

Diet shakes: These work in a similar way to juice cleanses, in that they produce a calorie deficit that means that you lose weight. Often the instructions are to replace one or two meals a day with a replacement shake. These shakes were incredibly popular around 10 years ago and have thankfully gone out of fashion a little. They are attractive to people wanting to lose weight as they don’t require thought into eating healthily, and are quick and easy. However, the advice to ‘not drink your calories’ whilst trying to lose weight is useful – when you drink high calorie drinks, often your body doesn’t ‘realise’ the amount of calories being consumed. With diet shakes, it’s easy to think it doesn’t have many calories as it’s just a drink, meaning that you’re more likely to eat more later. It’s possible that you’ll actually end up eating more calories later in the day to compensate, resulting in weight gain.

 

Instead of a diet? So if you want to ACTUALLY relieve your body of the stress caused by excess aforementioned toxins, what can you do? The great thing is that you CAN help your body, but it might not be as fancy as a detox/cleanse/diet/whatever. Supplying your liver with enough nutrients to function properly is very important. Essentially you need to aid your body in its own detoxification process. This means:

  • Eat more vegetables, which will boost your immune system, fibre intake, feed your liver and make you feel better in general.
  • Drink more water – this can flush out toxins, and help the excrement process, so that your body can detox itself faster.
  • Exercise. This increases your metabolism and means your body can function at full capacity. If you’re not into working out, try walking more – even just standing up and walking about every 30-60 minutes can have a positive effect.
  • Sleep. We need 7-9h of sleep a night for optimal functioning. You’re also much less likely to crave unhealthy foods if you sleep enough at night. If you don’t, try a 30 minute nap (MAX!) during the day to catch up.
  • Don’t sabotage yourself. If you’re detoxing, remember not to add more toxins in – this means limiting caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and unhealthy foods containing high levels of fat or refined sugar. These sorts of food tire your body out, as the amount of processing that has to occur to digest them is more extensive than with healthy foods. The more you consume these substances the more you’ll crave.
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Supplying your body with natural, healthy food is the best way to aid it in the detoxification process.

The long and short of it is that quick fixes don’t work. Nothing beats a healthy diet and your body’s natural way of detoxing. There is NO evidence that the above diets remove harmful substances faster than eating healthily.

 

Note: There is something to be said for intermittent fasting, ie. missing meals here and there – if you’re interested in this then research it, as the science behind it is super interesting. I’ve never tried it myself but the research is extensive and seems sound.

 

Read this amusing diary of a 3 day juice cleanse: http://laist.com/2013/04/12/juice_cleanse.php

DAY THREE

8:59 a.m.: Wake up, want to die. I have absolutely no energy, and I’m depressed and miserable. I can’t believe I have to do this for another full day.

9:07 a.m.: Call my mom for moral support. She wants to know exactly what a “toxin” is and why I think this will rid my body of them. I think that’s a good question. She thinks I should quit the cleanse and says it’s for vain people with nothing else to think about. Kind of agree with her. She also suggests that people who want to rid their bodies of toxins should probably just eat healthier.”

Cover photo my Matt Lincoln (IG: @mattlincolnphoto)