We all need a little more greenery

There’s something immensely therapeutic about growing plants, whether on a balcony, in a garden or in your room. Studies suggest that being around greenery (even indoors) can help boost mood, relieve stress and anxiety and even boost self-esteem. I don’t know a single person that doesn’t need at least one of these things from time to time, so it’s about time we all got more plants in our lives.

With garden centres shutting their doors and more and more people cooped up at home, it could be difficult to get a regular fix of greenery in the day to day. Those living in big cities especially could struggle. But fear not! My experience of building a little forest in my tiny London flat (65 houseplants and counting) has taught me that no space is too small for greenery, and no human too inept. All you need is some well lit spaces and to pay a little attention to the plants every so often for watering.

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If you’re based in the countryside or are lucky enough to have a garden, now is your chance to practise your skills! I am no professional gardener, and yet this past week I have given my partner’s garden a whole makeover, digging out sedges and clearing dead branches, clearing steps from weeds and uprooting brambles. Now is the perfect time to get sorting your garden and planting new items – it’s spring, so everything will start growing voraciously from now. Any mistakes make will be covered up in a matter of weeks – and no one will be around to see them anyway!

So where to get new plants? Here are some recommendations, mostly small businesses in need of a little help in this time. Please remember – happily, many of these businesses have seen a huge surge in demand thanks to COVID19. Because of this, and because most of these are small businesses, there may be small delays in delivery. Remember this and be kind – good things come to those that wait!

Indoor

Lazy Flora

Lazy Flora (which naturally must come first on my list) delivers both indoor and outdoor plants around the UK. They’re offering all my readers £10 off with the code FOODFITNESSFLORA (not an ad, just trying to help as many startups as possible!). You can choose to set up a subscription, or organise one-off deliveries of both indoor and outdoor plants. I love Lazy Flora’s indoor plants because there is so much choice, including if you want specific items such as terrariums, pet-friendly plants or the ultimate ‘un-killable’ plants. I will also be purchasing their new veg-patch plants for the garden! They deliver nationwide.

Patch Plants

Patch has been all over my Instagram feed for the last year, since I got most of my houseplants from here (see photo in the centre of article). They’re not cheap at Patch, but the price reflects the quality. The soil they’re potted in is designed to feed them for a while to come, unlike so many shop-bought plants, and all of my Patch plants have been growing manically for the year I’ve owned them! My favourite is my Monstera (cheese plant) which refuses to die no matter how long I leave it without water. Patch delivers nationwide.

Bloombox club

Bloombox originated with the goal of using plants to support mental health. They also have a blog filled with advice and information on how best to look after your plants, which you can buy individually or as part of a subscription.  Their subscription plants are perfect if you’re not really sure what you want, and come with a perfect sized pot and a care card, so you know exactly how to look after it!

Hampshire Carnivorous plants

Looking for something a little different? Hampshire Carnivorous Plants sells carnivorous plants such as venus fly traps and pitcher plants. I have historically found these incredibly difficult to keep alive, but if you have flies in your house, they’re an excellent solution that looks a lot prettier than fly paper!

Wyld Home

If you don’t have a well lit flat, or have a habit of killing plants as soon as you get them, look no further than Wyld Home. A small business currently being run out of founder Krystyna’s house (they usually have a gorgeous brick and mortar shop, which is shut temporarily for obvious reasons), this is the perfect business to support, while simultaneously sprucing up your living space. They deliver to the UK, some parts of Europe, the US and Canada.

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Some plants on my shelves at home

Outdoor

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, spending time in it instead of out on the streets is one of the best ways to stay both safe and sane. Most gardens need constant upkeep, which usually is a bit of a nuisance, but right now is an absolute godsend! Find the neglected corners of yours and fill them up with outdoor plants. You can choose to plant either in flower beds or choose potted plants instead, perfect for a patio.

Long Acre Plants

If you have a garden that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, many plants may struggle. However, shade-plant specialist Long Acre supplies plants for exactly these conditions. They’re also incredibly environmentally conscious, avoiding peat compost, using recycled plastic and paper in packaging, and using renewable energy in their nursery and offices.

Real seeds

Starting your own vegetable patch is no mean feat, but if there was any time perfect for starting, it’s now! This startup sells everything from seed, so the season for planting some vegetables may be over, but if you’re looking for a long-term project this could be for you. They also share some very helpful advice on how to save seeds from vegetables you buy from the shops, so you don’t even have to spend any money if you don’t want to! But if you want to support an amazing startup, this is your guy.

Royal Horticultural Society

The RHS is the UK’s leading horticultural charity, working with adults and children alike to make the UK a greener place. They sell a variety of plants, from vegetables to flowers to entire trees. Whatever you’re looking for, they’ll likely have it.

Garden Store

Another huge gardening store from which you can source anything you need for your gardening, from vegetable seeds, to flowers, to garden furniture.  The garden store delivers to mainland UK in 3-5 working days, and provides free delivery for orders over £50. If you want to get all your garden stuff from one place, you’ll likely be able to source everything from here.

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Stunning 3L Chrysanthemums, perfect for Autumn colour.

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Gardening Express

Gardening Express was started by a teenager, who, in the 1990s, saw the potential for mail order plants. Fast forward two decades, he could not have been more right. As with all plant stores, Gardening Express has been seeing a huge rise in demand, but still aim to send out all deliveries within 10-15 days.

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I hope this helps your need for green – I will be buying some little vegetables to build a new vegetable patch in a small but sunny part of the garden. It’s one of the most therapeutic and rewarding activities I can think of right now, so perfect if you feel like you’re drifting a little bit. Don’t forget – you can take cuttings from all your plants (some easier than others) to grow new ones, no need to spend money!

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Some plants soaking up the evening light in my flat

 

Notes on living as a human

What I learned from a night of spirituality

I wrote some Instagram stories about what I learned after a panel discussion with a number of leading life coaches, and thought it might be valuable to write them down here too, since I have received so many messages about how useful they are. If you like them, save this page to refer to when you’re feeling a bit down!

Before I get started I think it’s important to say that spirituality definitely isn’t for everyone – for me certainly I like to have a very ‘fact-based’ view of the world, and I find anything as ‘wishy-washy’ as spirituality quite overwhelming and confusing. If you’ve ever suffered from depression, you probably know what it’s like to sit with seemingly millions of thoughts rushing around your head, trying to make sense of them all and feeling like you might be going a bit crazy. Sometimes sitting with those thoughts is the worst thing you can do, and (at least for me), getting out of my own head was the best way to stop the ‘feeling crazy’ thing. So, if you’re suffering I would really recommend trying CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), which retrains your mind to get out of those thought clouds and into a healthier way of thinking. Either way, I think there’s some really valuable insights below, so here goes! 🙂

On reaching your full potential

There are a lot of things that hold us back from reaching our full potential in life, but most usually stem down to not feeling ‘worthy’ of achieving something, and lots of self-doubt. A great way of reducing those thoughts is to understand your limiting beliefs and question why you feel them- only by understanding the cause of limiting beliefs can we start to question them.

How to challenge beliefs:

  • Understand that a belief is just a thought – a lense through which we view the world. Our beliefs are OUR truths, but they are not necessarily THE truth. Thoughts are not reality and they can be changed.
  • Speak to people – we have a lot of blind spots in our thinking and the echo chambers in which we live don’t help that. Having people who challenge our beliefs (about the world and about ourselves) helps challenge beliefs. This can be from friends, family, a therapist and/or random strangers.
  • Physically challenge beliefs. Often the best way to change the way you view your abilities is to push yourself outside your comfort zones. Many of our beliefs about ourselves are outdated (e.g. failed a presentation at school and therefore unable to present in public in adult life) and need updating. Push outside your comfort zone and view ‘failures’ as learning experiences.

 

On authenticity:

Authenticity is incredibly hard to come by if you spend your life worrying about what other people think about you. Our ‘true self’ is diluted by trying to bend to the wills of other people. Know that perfection is impossible and chasing perfection is a fools folly. Stop caring so much about what other people think and be true to yourself.

 

Takeaways:

  • When your mind is in the right place and your mindset open to growth and learning, any and every experience in life is an opportunity. From the darkest places grow beautiful things and from the hardest times strength is made.
  • Trust the process
  • Your purpose in life is to be the fullest expression of yourself in everything you do. Fuck what anyone else thinks. As long as you are staying true to your values and remain open to potential other truths, you do you.
  • You are already enough, just the way you are.

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! 

Cutting without counting: my top tips

The argument of macro-counting vs intuitive eating continues. But I’m not sure why it should be an argument – what works for one person may not work for another, either in terms of results or just everyday life. Some people love taking the guesswork out of leaning up, and for them macro counting is ideal. For others like myself, macro counting just doesn’t work.

Without knowing portion sizes, intuitive eating is difficult. A benefit of macro counting is that it is easy to overeat when trying to visually assess how much is right for ‘maintenance’ or ‘cutting’. Intuitive eating may not be suitable for you if you just don’t know what is a good amount to eat – examples might be if you’re recovering from any sort of eating disorder and/or need to re-learn what a ‘normal’ portion size is. Relying on hunger cues doesn’t work if you’ve spent a long time ignoring them.

However, having come from a background of obsessive calorie counting, I HATE counting macros. I have tried it and I understand the appeal, but for my mental health at least (not to mention I’m lazy), it’s not for me. After visiting my nutritionist, Rhiannon, I realised that it’s just not necessary to count to keep healthy and not even necessary if you’d like to lose weight.

My position right now: losing fat through intuitive eating, and it’s going really well. I have no doubt I could lose more fat through macro counting but I’m just not about that life. Last night I had ice cream, and delicious foods keep me sane and on track. I don’t view them as ‘muck ups’ or becoming ‘derailed’, I view them as breaks from what is 80% of the time a nutrient dense, vegetable rich diet.

 

Problems with counting:

1. As mentioned in some depth in one of Rhiannon’s facebook lives, calorie counting is a very rudimentary method of figuring out how much you are eating. The amount of energy you get from your food depends on the food’s composition and how it is broken down by your body, which then also depends on what your body requires at the time of consumption and how you’re built. For example, sugar is immediately available to your body for use (read about simple carbs) and so you will extract all the calories from that. However, a measure of a fibrous food will have plenty of energy in it that is unavailable to our bodies and therefore will not be used.

2. Macro counting reduces the inaccuracies found in calorie counting but still doesn’t address many issues with counting in general. We all know that eggs are better than snickers, but the problem with macro counting is that is doesn’t separate quality and quantity. Zero sugar protein bars with a million ingredients are super easy to fit into your macros for the day, but a handful of nuts or nut butter may not be, despite the fact that ‘real’ food is frequently better than processed substitutes. Macro counting ignores the intricacies and importance of getting enough micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and counting itself does not encourage this. Low-carb/low-fat/no sugar cookies are not ‘real’ food, and I think macro counting can ignore health at the expense of ‘perfect macros’. This isn’t to say that everyone who counts macros eats like this, but sadly I know plenty of people who do.

3. Macro counting may also encourage you to ignore your natural body signals. Sometimes, these need to be retrained – if, for example, you eat either way too much or way too little, your body can get used to this state of being, and counting can be a good tool to get yourself to a place where you are eating what is normal and right for your body. However, counting the perfect macros can leave your body in a state of near constant hunger, and ignoring this may lead to problems down the line. Years of ignoring my body’s signals have led to a messed up hunger-satiety system. Up until about a month ago, I very rarely felt hungry, but also never really felt full, which stems from my weekly restricting and fortnightly binges some years ago. I would spend the week starving only to eat thousands of calories in one sitting, meaning that now my body is messed up in regards to signals. After years of re-learning how to eat, I am finally rewiring my body, but I can tell you: it is not an easy process once it has gone wrong.

4. Sustainability is also a problem with macro (and calorie) counting. As someone who often eats out, on the move and at friends’ houses, I would find it impossible to accurately count anything, and trying would take a lot of time, effort and stress. In my opinion (and this is just my opinion), for health eating to be a sustainable lifestyle change, it needs to be manageable and fun. I understand that some training athletes or bikini competitors may require very specific macros and calories to achieve their goals, but I ask you: in the long run, how sustainable is it? Are you enjoying yourself? Can you see yourself doing this in 10 years/if you had kids? Would you want your kids to do the same? I understand that for many people macro counting is a temporary tool to a bigger goal, but if it is your only means of eating right and you become fearful of food without that control, then start to run into problems, both physical and mental. In my opinion I have so many better things to use my mental bandwidth on.

 

Realistically only YOU can know whether macro counting is in your best interest and really working for you. If counting macros is working for you, great – but if you don’t like it or you’re not keen to try, then this article is for you!

 

My top tips for cutting without counting:

  1. Know your portion sizes
  2. Ditch the diet
  3. Pay attention
  4. Ignore the scales
  5. Drink up
  6. Increase movement
  7. Track your progress (but not how you’d think)

Know your portion sizes:

You need to know what ‘one portion’ is. Your morning bowl of granola can be upwards of 100g, which, when you consider some of the ingredients, is slightly terrifying. Know your approximate portion sizes for grains, vegetables, meats and fats and you’re less likely to over eat any one food.

 

Ditch the diet:

Find peace with food. Without letting go of that constant ‘must lose weight’ mentality you will never be able to eat intuitively and, ironically, you may end up being at a higher weight than intuitive eating would leave you at. This is because ‘banning’ certain foods (gluten, sugar, dairy etc) leaves you craving or thinking about those foods a lot. Forget about banning foods – you can eat whatever you like. I know a lot of people feel like they would go out of control and eat everything in sight, and maybe you would, at least initially. But after eating whatever you like for a while, you’ll get bored of it – there’s a certain allure of ‘forbidden’ foods, and once that rule has gone, the foods lose their power over you. Whilst dieting, more types of food are appealing to us than when not dieting. Sooner or later, you’ll learn to self-regulate unhealthy and healthy foods. Unhealthy foods make us feel horrible after a while. Trusting our bodies to self regulate by ditching diets is a key step towards being able to lose fat without counting or banning whole food groups. This will prevent those restriction-binge cycles, which are not just harmful physically but are also SO mentally damaging. ‘Failing’ at a diet is damaging enough to our brains, meaning that we have reduced self worth, end up gaining weight in the long run and entering the whole diet, binge, restrict cycle again. Break the cycle – the long-term results are far more rewarding, both mentally and physically.

 

Pay attention:

Put down your technology and concentrate on your food. Enjoy the taste of it and savour every bite by chewing a lot, rather than eating as quickly as possible. You’ll be surprised how quickly you get full when you eat mindfully!

 

Ignore the scales:

‘Losing weight’ is a REALLY unhelpful term. As we all know, muscle weighs more than fat but takes up less space, making us look slimmer. Instead of focussing on how much weight you’re losing everyday, focus on how you feel, and the types of food you eat. There is absolutely no problem in wanting to cut for aesthetic purposes but longer-term results come when weight is not the primary focus. Eating better foods and treating my body like a machine that needs fuelling well encourages me to eat healthier foods.

Sure, diet coke tastes good and has no calories (so would work well in people’s macros) but realistically what good is it doing your body? What nutrients are provided? When my entire focus was on losing weight, I would stop drinking water at night so that I would weigh less the next day: it’s easy to see how counterproductive the scales are. Focus on feeding yourself nutritious, wholesome ingredients when you need them and the results will follow.

 

Drink up:

This is a classic tip, but I always have water before and with a meal – it means that when I eat I know that I’m not actually just thirsty. I drink around 4l of water a day.

 

Increase movement:

To lose fat you have to be in a calorie deficit, but this doesn’t have to just come from eating less. Working out/moving more can make up part of that deficit. When I’m cutting I walk as often as I can – I’ll walk around London and rack up between 12,000 and 20,000 steps a day, which definitely has an impact on fat loss. This sort of low intensity exercise is also the best for fat burning. What matters is not that you fit in 20,000 steps a day, it’s that you do more than you do when you’re not cutting. If walking everywhere isn’t feasible, get in your steps at the gym – I like to put on a film/podcast/episode and watch that if I’m in the gym. For iPhone users you can keep track of your steps in the health app.

 

Track your progress (but not how you’d think):

To track my progress I tried to avoid scales and measurements. I focussed on how I felt on a day-to-day basis, including energy, focus, cravings etc, because to me, these things are just as important as how I look (if not more important). I focussed on filling my body with food that was going to do it good, and found that progress followed soon after. I have lost 2.5kgs slowly, and whilst this is not a large amount, I feel healthier, more energetic, crave unhealthy foods less and am stronger rather than weaker than before my cut.

 

These are points that have helped me this summer, but of course I am always learning! One of my biggest changes has not been in my body, but in my mind. Looking at physical results alone, my biggest ‘success’ was losing huge amounts of weight quickly at the start of my eating disorder. But when you look at health (mental and physical), this last year has been the best of my life. There is no quick fix to health or happiness, but it is easy to make steps everyday to increase your happiness, get stronger and look amazing at the same time!

 

Please let me know if you’ve found this article helpful – I know it’s a long one but it’s an important topic with lots of nooks and crannies! Do you eat intuitively or have you been focussing on macro counting? I’d love to know your thoughts and opinions 🙂

 

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