5 health tips for the New Year

I’m not a fan of New Year resolutions – I think everyday is a new beginning, and there’s no better time to start something than the present. However, for many, New Year brings the promise of new beginnings and a fresh start. So whilst I don’t think we need the new year to start going to the gym or eat more healthily, it’s as good a time as any, and starting a health kick alongside so many other people may just help you stick to it.

Here are some of my top tips for living that little bit healthier in 2019. Wellness is about making small decisions everyday that improve your health, not drastic changes that you can only maintain for a month. Why not give these a go – they may just become part of your daily routine!

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Spending more time in nature can improve mental health considerably

Walk more

I’ve left this very generic, because there are so many ways to fit more walking into your life, and what works for one person might not work for another. Whether it’s walking to the gym instead of driving, taking a 20 minute walk on your work lunch break or simply just using a loo further away from your office, walking more day to day can improve your health considerably. Going to the gym is great, but it’s what you do the other 23 hours of the day that can really impact your health, and moving more is one of the best ways you can help!

Eat more types of veg

When asked her top tip for living healthier, Dr Megan Rossicalled for more variety in the plant based food we eat. We all know about eating our 5 a day, but more important is eating a wide variety of plant based foods every week. The diversity helps our gut health, which is directly linked to our mental health. So, rather than trying to cut out foods this New Year, why not add a bunch instead?

Take time out in nature

Physical health and mental health are inextricably linked, and we should all be taking time to improve both to get the most out of the other. With our hectic lives, it’s sometimes incredibly difficult to learn how to stop and take time out, but spending time in nature has been shown to markedly reduce stress and anxiety levels. Since stress affects our mental performance and physical health, taking time out could really improve productivity, mental andphysical health, so it’s really a no-brainer!

Cut out/down on red meat

In the West, red meat has become a main-stay of our diet. No longer reserved for the rich or for special occasions, the average UK citizen eats more than the recommended maximum of 70g of red meat per day. Since multiple studies have found that red and processed meats increase the risk of colorectal cancer, cutting out these items can have a positive impact on your health. Paired with the negative environmental effects that red meat production has, giving it up (as many UK citizens are starting to do) can do wonders not only for your body but also for the world we live in.

Find a sport you love

Too many people put a vague ‘go to the gym more’ as their New Year resolution. What frustrates me is that so often these people don’t wantto go to the gym, and find no pleasure in doing so, so slog away 5 times a week, hating every second for about 3 weeks before giving up. Whilst it’s true that you can definitely learn to love it even if you don’t initially, choosing to partake in a sport instead can have a multitude of benefits that gymming doesn’t have. Finding a sport you enjoy means you’re more likely to stick to it, leading to longer term results and a more positive mental attitude towards fitness. See why I think everyone should train like an athlete. So your challenge this year (if you think you don’t enjoy exercise) is to find something you dolove – there’s something for everyone!

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Boxing is my sport of choice! Flora Beverley vs Sophie Grace Holmes at charity boxing match The Rumble hosted by The Lady Garden Foundation, on November 17, 2018 in London.

I hope this post was useful for you! These are all changes that I have made in my life that have seriously positively impacted both my mental and physical health, and studies suggest they can help you too. If you give any a go don’t forget to let me know so I can support you! 🙂

Train like an athlete

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alcohol and fitness

Alcohol and fitness. How do these words fit together in your mind? Are they compatible? Or does one exclude the other? It’s interesting how often people ask me if I drink – I would have thought that the amount I talk about gin would have answered that question years ago. 😉 I thought I’d make a post about it, since a huge number of my followers are of university/early work age but also interested in health and fitness. Since health can be a total minefield I thought I’d clear a few things up.

Alcohol has calories

Because alcohol is essentially a carbohydrate, it can contain a lot of calories – plenty more than you might expect for a drink. It also interrupts how our bodies deal with other foods, slowing down the absorption of nutrients and reducing the amount of fat our bodies burn for energy. A pint of beer contains around 200 calories, while a glass of wine (175ml) contains around 125 calories. However, if you take these into account when thinking about your daily diet, it is very possible to work around this fact! I enjoy drinking a couple of times a week and do not find that it affects my weight whether I have them or not. I just factor in the calories of alcohol (very roughly) and have fewer snacks that week. Simple!

Alcohol can lead to bad decision making

Drinking can lead to cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. Most of us have felt that post-night-out craving for chips/burger/kebab, and this can have serious consequences on our healthy intentions. When I was at university I used to keep a bowl of porridge or sweet potato fries at home to eat after a big night out. After drinking and dancing for a long period of time, your body craves nutrition, so it is best to feed it something with a little more nutritional value than Bobby’s kebab shop can offer. Pre-plan before a night out to make sure you’re prepared. Another favourite late night snack is toast with olive oil or a large bowl of granola. Find what works for you and stick to it – your body and bank will thank you!

The aftermath

Obviously excessive alcohol can leave us a little worse for wear the morning (and let’s be honest, the entire day/2 days) afterwards. When we are hungover, it is mainly because our bodies are severely dehydrated which actually makes your brain shrink, pulling away from the sides of your brain case. This is because alcohol is a diuretic, making you wee more than you would usually in order to flush out more toxins from your body (yes, alcohol is a poison). Pretty much anyone who drinks has had a hangover, but there are ways to reduce your likelihood of getting one!

  1. Drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you consume.
  2. Opt for lighter alcohols – the darker the alcohol (red wine, rum, bourbon), the more congeners they have, exacerbating headaches the next day.
  3. Take electrolyte salts and/or an aspirin (with lots of water) before you sleep. I drink minimum 500ml right before bed if I’ve been drinking.
  4. Avoid caffeine on your night our and in the morning. You may feel like you need it but your body won’t thank you. Caffeine is also a diuretic and will make you even more dehydrated! Just give yourself water and time to recover.
  5. Take ibuprofen and eat anti-inflammatory foods in the morning. Alcohol triggers inflammation in the body which can make hangovers feel worst, so getting swelling down is key.

When hungover we can be tempted to eat alllll the foods in my opinion it’s OK to have that greasy fry up you are craving if you’re hungover, especially if you’ve factored it in to your weekly diet. However, after a night out our bodies are craving health, so opting for something more nutritious might actually make you feel better (and has less of an impact on your fitness goals).

My favourite drinks:

I am a sucker for a gin and tonic! Slimline or full fat, depending on how many I’m having. Gin will always be my go to spirit, but some people cannot handle it at all. Find what works for you and don’t overindulge (or it might not work so well next time).

For a dinner party I like white wine. Red wine is said to have some health benefits but the sulphites don’t agree with me hugely, so it’s not my go to. However a glass here and here is absolutely fine for me. Of course I also love a good champagne, but the sugar and bubbles make me hyperactive and drunker faster, and also leave me with a worse hangover if I have to many.

If I’m planning on having more than a few drinks, I might opt for something fairly plain, like a vodka lime soda. Tastes delicious and fresh without having the added sugar and impurities of other drinks.

On special occasions (picnics in the park) I’ll drink Crabbies, an alcoholic ginger beer. It’s spectacularly bad for you but to be honest, life is for enjoying, and Crabbies makes me happy because it reminds me of summer.

Summary

I think it’s important to know how alcohol affects your body and your mind – both biologically and for you, personally. Everyone reacts differently, and some people decide that drinking is incompatible with their fitness goals. In my opinion, as with pretty much everything for me, I think it’s all about moderation. Live life, enjoy yourself and know your limits.

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Supplements – what, why and how?

I’ve been asked so many times what I think about X supplement and approached by brands to promote new bizarre sounding pills claiming to solve all your training problems. Whilst some of them may have tentative supporting evidence, a lot don’t. I know the supplements market is a total minefield, so here are some of the most popular supplements out there, and evidence for and against them. Obviously research is always coming out saying X, Y or Z – I’ve included a lot of reviews and meta analyses to try to get a balanced view of the literature but always think critically about what people are trying to sell you. Just remember: there’s no magic pill that’ll suddenly make you fit or give you the perfect abs. Training is hard whatever supplements you take, and quite often it’s worth spending the £50 you spend on supplements on a personal training session or a few books on nutrition. Knowledge is power (literally in this case!).

 

Protein

Our muscles are made up of protein fibres, some of which are broken down and rebuilt each time we exercise. Protein supplements/shakes claim to enhance recovery of muscles and aid growth, thereby improving performance. However, the level of conflicting information (and the price of a lot of the supplements) warrants a closer look at the evidence of their efficacy.

The evidence: Looking at muscle recovery time, muscle soreness and muscle growth, the data are inconclusive. Some meta-analyses state that here’s no evidence to suggest that muscle recovery is faster when someone consumes protein before, after or during a workout. However, a lot of the studies looked at small sample sizes, and measures of ‘muscle soreness’ and recovery are often hard to quantify. There is, however, fairly strong evidence to suggest that people in a calorie deficit may benefit from taking protein supplements, and that protein can reduce muscle catabolism (break down) following a workout. Verdict: if you’re looking to build muscle and/or are in a calorie deficit, protein may help you out. However, if you’re looking to reduce DOMS or decrease recovery time, the jury is out on whether protein can help. Because of the mixed evidence, it may be worth trying it out, especially if you’re vegan or struggling to fit in enough protein in your diet and wanting to train hard. Find what works for you!

 

BCAAs

BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids are amino acids with side chains. There are three types: leucine, isoleucine and valine. The supplements are sold to increase protein synthesis, purportedly increasing muscle mass (even while in a calorie deficit) when paired with the right training. When taken regularly, supplementation may decrease fatigue during exercise by reducing the increase in serotonin during exercise, which contributes to fatigue.

The evidence: BCAAs are one of the most heavily studied supplements on the market. In terms of exercise (there are many other uses of BCAA supplementation), there are two main factors looked at: increased exercise performance and reduced muscle breakdown. The former has much mixed evidence, mostly suggesting that BCAAs are unlikely to significantly improve exercise performance. The latter, however, has much more evidence supporting it. Multiple studies show that supplementation before and after exercise reduce muscle breakdown after strenuous exercise, reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

 

Creatine

Creatine is produced naturally in the body and stored predominantly in skeletal muscle. However, it is also sold as a supplement and marketed as helping to improve energy production for short duration, high intensity exercises. Theoretically, it is used by the body as a substrate to form ATP (the little packets of energy our body uses), and therefore supplementing with it means more ATP (energy) can be produced.

The evidence: Creatine is one of the more sound supplements on the market. According to one review paper, creatine is the most effective supplement to increase high-energy exercise capacity and muscle mass during training. As it turns out, of the 500 peer-reviewed papers looking into the effects of creatine, 70% concluded that it benefitted high intensity performance. However, when looking at more endurance exercises, the evidence is inconclusive, showing that if you want something for long-distance running, you should probably look elsewhere.

Nb/ There have been concerns that creatine supplementation may alter liver and kidney function, so if you have underlying conditions, creatine use should be avoided. In general though, it seems to be relatively safe!

 

Beta-alanine

Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is used by athletes to improve performance. Purported benefits include improving exercise capacity, building lean muscle mass and improving physical functions in the elderly.

The evidence: This supplement definitely shows some clear evidence that it can improve performance by reducing fatigue, thus making building muscle easier for those who take it. The benefits are seen most clearly in high intensity activities lasting 60s to 300s. However, the side effects are not widely studied but commonly experienced. If you’ve ever taken beta alanine you’ll probably be aware of the tingly feeling you can get, which is unpleasant at best. Few studies if any have looked into the safety of this supplement, and whilst it appears safe at recommended doses, take it at your own risk.

 

Electrolytes

When we exercise we sweat, losing salts as well as water. Salts are important for our muscles to function properly and too few of them cause the body to cramp up. If you’re into endurance exercise or workout in hot places, chances are you’ve considered taking electrolytes. Electrolytes help replenish the salts lost when we sweat, thus keeping our muscles working properly, and are provided in a way that doesn’t give our body too much of any one type of salt (e.g. sodium). Supplementation aims to reduce heat stress, muscle cramps and aid rehydration.

The evidence: electrolyte supplementation has been shown to reduce cramping caused by electrolyte loss (lots of sweating), but cramping can still occur due to other factors. It reduces heat stress, so if you’re working out hard in a hot country (e.g. racing or competing abroad) this may be something to consider. If you’re not working out in extreme heat for extended periods of time, electrolytes are probably not required for your everyday training schedule.

 

I hope this helps clarify some things for you!

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Choosing supplements to aid your workouts can be a minefield

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!

Where to visit in Copenhagen

If you know me or follow me, you’ll know that I’m queen of long weekends away – a short flight or drive to a cute hotel somewhere I’ve not been is all I need to refresh and reset entirely! My most recent escapade was to the city of Copenhagen in Denmark. My boyfriend was working out there the week previously, so I jetted off after work on Friday to join him. Copenhagen lends itself perfectly to long weekends away, because it is small, nearby and doesn’t contain 6 million tourist traps you feel obliged to see. It’s cute, friendly and oh so Instagram!

 

If you’re lazy and ‘just want the bloody recommendations’, scroll down to TL;DR 🙂

 

Saturday
On Saturday we decided to walk half way across Copenhagen to Østerbro, located to the north of the city centre. It as a 45 minute walk (very doable if you’re looking to build an appetite!), and from the city centre could take you via a bunch of city parks and Torvehallerne, a cute market between the parks. We travelled via the botanic garden, which was a lovely tropical respite from the cold. It’s free to get in and if you like plants (who doesn’t?), it’s beautiful. In Østerbro we headed to Souls, a restaurant that was recommended to me by multiple people. It’s relatively new but is clearly doing well – apparently it’s absolutely packed all day everyday. After trying the food I could see why – it was absolutely incredible! The restaurant is plant based but doesn’t sell itself like that. It’s just really good food in a really lovely restaurant (aesthetic goals!). 10/10 would recommend. On our way back to the city centre we managed to miss the little mermaid statue (basically the main reason tourists visit Østerbro), which was slightly disappointing, but then again, apparently so is the statue. Instead, we headed to the Art museum for a little look around, and saw Rosenborg castle. I can imagine the gardens surrounding them would be lovely for picnics in summer, but as it was, it was a little too cold for a sit on the grass! After much walking we were super hungry for dinner, so after a visit to the hotel spa, we headed to a Thai restaurant called Baan Thai Isarn just around the corner from the hotel. I am SO happy we found it – I have to say it was the best thai food I’ve eaten since being in Thailand, and really generous portion sizes too!

Sunday
We walked to Christianshavn via Nyhavn docks – pretty, quite touristy but well worth a visit. Christianshavn is located on lots of different islands, giving it quite a nautical feel. It was pretty much empty when we went there but there were some nice looking cafes – it looks like it might once have been pretty run down, but was kinda bohemian and gentrified in a lot of the areas. We found the Church of Our Saviour, which has a cool spiral spire. We went down to Christiania (recommended by some, told to avoid by others) and had a little wonder around. Christiania is the hippy ‘freetown’, where the inhabitants live free of the constraints of Danish government. Drugs are unofficially ‘allowed’ here, and it’s got a bit of a reputation as an unsafe place, but during the daytime it seemed fine! Lots of cool homemade houses, bicycles and greenery – would recommend a little visit if you’re passing by. After Christiania we went back city centre way (pilestræde), heading for lunch at 42 Raw. This restaurant has three stores around the city, but has a trendy independent vibe to it. It’s not cheap (but where is in Copenhagen?), and has some truly delicious vegan food, without being too hippy raw style. It doesn’t seem faddy, just has lots of great food and is filled with a ridiculous number of young, good-looking people! Again, would recommend if you’re looking for good healthy food, but don’t forget to book – this also gets incredibly busy (testament to how good it is). There are lots of places to eat around this area/Strøget (the main pedestrian shopping street) if you have a look around.

Vækst hosted us for dinner, and treated us each to a full set menu (we forwent our veganism for one night to try their vegetarian and fish menus), paired with a wine per course. I have to say, Michelin stars seem to mean nothing once you’ve been here – it was absolutely on par with the best restaurants I’ve been to, and the service was incredible too. Really friendly staff makes the difference between a stuck up restaurant and an excellent one. This was definitely the latter!

Monday
After a pretty large breakfast, Fiann and I headed to the north to fælledparken in Nørrebro, the largest park in Copenhagen. Apparently in the summer it’s super popular, but we only saw a few walkers in the cold! It’s very pretty regardless. We headed via the lakes back down to Grød (groed), a famous porridge bar in the Torvenhallern market we passed on the first day. It’s kind of like a more upmarket Spitalfield’s market (and much warmer as it’s in a glass building and heated). The porridge options were so good, and perfect after a cold walk! I was recommended Grød by just about everyone who has been here, so it was nice that it lived up to expectations.

Monday was a relaxed day – with the icy weather and large amount of porridge in our bellies, we didn’t fancy staying out for too long, so instead headed to the hotel for a spa afternoon, followed by a quick visit to the prohibition bar Ruby and then dinner in the room. Very conveniently there is the Tivoli food hall just around the corner from the restaurant. The food hall itself contains lots of different restaurants, but most of them didn’t serve vegan foods. One that did, however, was Gló, a new restaurant to Copenhagen that was founded in Iceland. We got takeaway ‘salads’ (huge bowls of deliciousness with added vegan ‘meat’ from oumph – if you haven’t tried this yet you really need to!).

Tuesday
As Tuesday was our last day we loaded up on the delicious breakfast buffet before heading out for a long walk to explore any unknown corners of Copenhagen. It turns out it’s really not that big – to get anywhere you want to go as a tourist it’s really only going to be 1h maximum to walk, although I can see why people cycle too. There are bike paths everywhere and unlike the other great cycling city, Bristol, it’s totally flat.

We ended up meeting my cousin for lunch at falafel factory, a small chain selling delicious falafel sandwiches and platters. My cousin, having previously lived in Edinburgh, was able to give us plenty of insight into what it was like to move to Copenhagen for an English person. She’s only been there for 6 months, but to be honest, all it took was 4 days for me to consider living there!

 

TL;DR

Restaurants/cafes:
Souls – One of the most aesthetic restaurants, with a huge focus on sustainability and conscious eating. It has an Australian vibe (perhaps no surprising when you realise the owner is in fact Australian), mixed in with the classic Danish ‘hygge’. Not cheap, but full of flavour. It’s not just another ‘trendy vegan place’, it actually serves fantastic food.

Baan Thai Isarn – I knew nothing about this restaurant before heading out on the hunt for dinner, but I’m so glad I found it! It’s almost certainly not fully vegan, but we were able to find plenty of delicious vegetarian dishes. If you’re in the area, grab one of their red curries (basically a green curry but red). The portion sizes are big enough to have more for lunch the next day too!

42 Raw – This café has three stores around Copenhagen and seems to always be packed. It sells completely plant based foods, as well as catering to other intolerances too (dairy, coeliac). I loved the veggie burger, but also think their sandwiches are probably underrated – Fiann’s was incredible! Get the sweet potato fries with aioli.

Väkst – Whilst not completely vegetarian, Väkst bases all its dishes on local Nordic vegetables, meaning I was drawn to it straight away. Their evening menu is done in a way that I’ve only ever seen at Michelin starred restaurants. The flavours blend together amazingly, and the wine pairings are perfect! If you’re looking for somewhere a little special this is the place. Also note the incredible greenhouse and plants (read: v instagrammable).

Grød – Think porridge is boring? Think again. Grød is a porridge bar that provides delicious flavour combinations and ‘make your own’ porridge bowls. It also serves other breakfast dishes, such as chia pudding, as well as savoury risottos etc. If you need a good warming up, this is where it’s at.

Gló – The ethos of Gló is to allow busy people to find healthy, delicious meals on the go. It’s not totally vegetarian or vegan, but provides plenty of options for both, with the main emphasis on the vegetables of a meal. Try their Buddha bowls if you’re looking for something filling but light, or their wraps for on the go goodness.

Naturbageriet – This small and unassuming bakery is so adorable I wanted to take everything home. They sell traditional Danish and Nordic pastries but without dairy and/or gluten. It’s just really cute and the lady who runs it is so sweet. Remember to go before lunch so it’s not all sold out!

 

Hotel
We stayed at Axel Guldsmeden, one of a chain of eco hotels dotted around the world. The main ethos is that they’re sustainable, providing bamboo toothbrushes, non-bleached bathrobes and even recycled loo paper. None of this detracts from the beauty of the place though, with it managing to feel like a fantastic boutique hotel, instead of a chain. The customer service is second to none (although I’m not sure if this is a Danish thing or specific to the hotel!), and we even got upgraded because our bathroom door handle fell off (the one issue we had during our stay). The rooms are like mini apartments, containing four-poster beds as well as a little sitting room and beautiful bathrooms that are unbelievably aesthetic. If you’re not interested in soulless hotels and want something a little different (but still upmarket), this is the place for you! Also check out their Manon les Suites hotel – it’s basically instagram in a hotel.

Things
Little mermaid statue – diminutive and not even got a tail, but it is the most famous statue in Copenhagen (fun story: we walked all the way there, then forgot why we were there and ate brunch instead. Never actually saw the statue so we just googled it instead).

Nyhavn – canal docks with pretty cobbled streets, big wooden boats and colourful houses.

Strøget – A good shopping street, mostly pedestrianised

Parks – Kongenshave, Botaniskhave (botanical gardens), Øster anlæg and Fælledparken are all pretty and worth a visit!

Tivoli – one of the world’s oldest amusement parks. Not that pretty but quite cool to imagine how terrified you’d be on all the rides.

Carlsberg brewery – not something I have much interest in visiting, but Denmark is the home of Carlsberg, so perhaps worth a visit!

Christiania – the ‘freetown’ where lots of the Danish laws don’t exist. Fun fact: you can’t buy a house there, you have to apply and then you might get accepted and given one. It’s strange but actually pretty cool. Go in daylight.

Torvehalle – a great market filled with stalls selling food and drinks.

Round tower, Rosenborg castle, Church of Our Saviour, Amalienborg (the queen’s winter residence).

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Bye bye Copenhagen, we’ll be back!

Beetroot hummus

This dip is a great variation on the classic hummus, and a great vegan side with pitta bread to share. It’s one of the easiest recipes to make and requires basically no input! All you need is a blender, the ingredients and 5 minutes. Simple!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 1-2 cooked beetroots (if you buy the ready cooked ones, make sure they’re not preserved in vinegar)
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tahini (optional)
  • Pinch of salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Add to a food processor or use a hand blender to blend until desired consistency. Easy!

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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.

My blogging story

I often get asked when/why/how I started instagramming and blogging, and in truth, the story is long and not simple. I’ve always been a writer, enjoying capturing emotions and events in a diary from a young age. But, ever efficient, if I could capture the same story in a photo, I would rather do that. So here’s a little overview of how I got into both blogging and other forms of social media.

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Throwback to my first ever shoot – for Sweaty Betty!

I started my instagram at the beginning of 2013, following several years of struggles with body image, control and food. Instagram gave me a way to ensure I ate three meals a day – no under eating, no over eating, no purging. The community back then was small in comparison to now, but the support I received as a teen recovering from eating issues was phenomenal. Over time, however, I felt myself distancing from the community and felt better moving on from it all, as I’m sure others who have suffered have also felt during and after recovery. Remembering is good, dwelling is not, so I moved on.

The start of my fitness journey overlapped with the end of instagramming about eating disorders and food – I was a competitive squash player at school, and after deciding that my instagram would be about health and its role in my life, I started to include more fitness pictures alongside the food. However, I found myself increasingly opinionated on all things health and wellness, and was irritated at not being able to convey these feelings (and the facts and figures I feel are so important) in the space of an instagram caption. Not even a picture would tell the thousand words I wanted to tell.

That’s when I set up my blog. It was August 2016 and I had been storing up articles and recipes for some time. I was also getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of evidence based statements and abundance of pseudoscience being banded around social media. I hoped that sharing fact based, balanced articles might help people see themselves – and ‘influencers’ – in a different light. Essentially I want to share things that are important to me with a wider audience, and I hope it gives people a better insight into who I am as a person and what my values are!

After starting my blog I saw my followers grow. My first month of blogging received about 3000 views in a month. By January, 5 months later, I was getting 9000 monthly views, which coincided with my instagram growing from 10,000 followers on christmas day 2016 to about 20,000 followers around a month later. For reference, I now get an average of around 10,200 views per month, an audience that really means a lot to me.

I never really thought about twitter much, except to complain about the seeming abundance of trolls and stupid comments from various world leaders. However, partly out of perceived necessity and partly out of curiosity (and a desire to share more of what I was doing), I set up my twitter in November of 2016. Bizarrely I’m actually now quite obsessed.

Who knows what’s next – maybe a youtube, maybe a podcast? In a world where a woman is judged on one photo and opinions are crammed into 280 characters (admittedly better than 140), I want to slow things down and draw people in. Show them that life isn’t captured in a snapshot, and explain why truths aren’t one line quotes. It’s a mission that’ll probably go on forever, but in the meantime, I’m having fun and hopefully adding enjoyment to others’ lives too!

I hope this gives you a little insight into my journey through blogging. Read more about my story here, of check out my instagram or twitter to see what I’ve been up to!

 

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Throwback to my account almost a year ago – it’s grown a bit since then!

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