How to boost your metabolism for effective weight loss
To celebrate my 1 year fitness anniversary, I wanted to create something helpful and useful for others who are also on their own fitness journey, starting to embark on one or wishing to start but don’t know how to. Below is an infographic that I made on boosting your body’s metabolism for effective fat loss.
Let me know if you find the infographic helpful. If you decide to use it, I’d be grateful if you could credit me for the image.
This pose was first published on this blog in 2017
After carrying your baby nine months, mothers then carry said baby in their arms or a sling or are found carting a car seat about. Then, as children grow you are carrying heavier – and wrigglier – small children. Of course, that’s all part of motherhood and our body is designed to be able to undertake these activities. However, if this coincides with a combination of repetition and inadequate physical fitness, we can develop injuries that cause pain, ranging from a mild backache to serious pain. And you can’t really be struggling to get around when you have a small human (or more) to care for and enjoy spending time with. So what do you need to consider.
Know how your back works
Knowing how our bodies work empowers us to make the correct decisions on how best to look after ourselves, whether that’s what we choose to eat, how much we exercise or the daily stretch routine we participate in.
The spine consists of a stack of bones called vertebra and sandwiched between each bone is a disc. These discs are the shock absorbers for our spines and are incredibly strong. Imagine a jam doughnut. The jam in the middle is the nucleus pulposus, the dough around the outside is the annulus pulposus. The sugary coating around the outside is the annular ligament. Together these structures produce a disc that can be squashed in all directions to allow movement of the spine. Holding all of this together are ligaments and a complex array of muscles, which support the central column on bones and discs.
What causes pain
Different issues with the spine can cause pain. Most common is the overuse of muscles. This can cause a deep, dull ache which gradually builds up during the day. This is due to muscle fatigue and is an indicator that the spine and muscles around it can no longer maintain the work you’re expecting of them. Alternatively, sudden, cramp-like pain can be caused by muscle spasms. This is where the muscles of the back feel the need to spasm as tightly as possible to stop you doing something, in an effort to reduce possible injury.
More severe back pain can be caused by damage to the discs of the spine. Image the jam doughnut between two plates. As you squish the plates together you squish the disc. If you place more pressure on one side of the disc, the central jam can push out towards the sugary coating. In cases of continued pressure this sugary coating can become damaged and the jam and dough can produce a bulge. In the worst cases the dough, or annulus pulposus, is also damaged and the jam, nucleus pulposus, can come outside of the doughnut, resulting in a herniation.
If the disc bulge pushes out at just the right angle it can place pressure on the nerve which can produce pain. This is known a nerve root compression.
Avoiding and treating back pain
When neck or back pain starts it becomes difficult to move. Our body becomes stiff and immobile either due to muscles spasms or the pain that restricts our movement. The first stage is to try and reduce the acute nature of the pain. This maybe helped with hot or cold packs, or pain medication as prescribed or through a GP. Once pain has started to reduce, some movement will return as the muscles start to relax. Manual therapy can then be used to try to further reduce the muscle spasm, mobilise stiff joints and improve the movement of the spine.
Exercises are, of course, an important part of maintaining health for the spine. They help not only to prevent injury but also for the treatment of injuries once they have started. Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates are all excellent forms of exercise to maintain the strength of muscles in the spine, your core control. They can also improve and / or maintain flexibility of the ligaments, muscles and joints of the spine and neck.
Posture and manual handling techniques are incredibly important for preventing injury. Lifting incorrectly, especially with an added weight such as a child, can add a large amount of pressure on the neck and spine. If this is added to poor spinal health due to poor posture and declining physical fitness, the chances of injury are increased.
For disc problems to resolve, the body needs to be given the right environment to help itself. This means that the spine needs to be moving to the best of its ability, with enough strength and control to undertake the activities that are expected of it. Osteopaths, Chiropractors and Physiotherapists are all skilled and able to provide the correct treatment and advice to try to help with back and neck pain.
In cases where the body is unable to heal itself and manual therapy treatment has been unsuccessful, clinics can recommend IDD Therapy. This form of treatment is a specialised form of spinal decompression, controlled through computers to provide the exact amount of decompression to a targeted area for a sustained period of time. The targeted area means that the specific disc that is causing the issue can be targeted rather than a broad traction throughout the whole spine. The gentle nature of the treatment means that the muscle spasms can be eased to improve spinal mobility and, therefore, proves a far more suitable environment for the spine to heal.
As the pain subsides, manual therapy and gentle exercise can, of course, be re-introduced to help get patients back to full health again. Keeping your body strong and mobile is the key to enjoying a long, enjoyable and – importantly – pain free life. However, since over eighty per cent of people will experience back or neck pain at some stage in their lives, it’s reassuring to know that in most cases in can be helped quickly with the right management or treatment.
About the author: Michelle McWilliam
Michelle McWilliam is a highly experienced Osteopath and Acupuncturist and co-owns The Totalcare Clinic in Botley, just outside of Southampton.
The clinic provides Osteopathy for adults and children, Acupuncture, Sports Massage, IDD Therapy, and boasts 48 classes per week of Pilates, Yoga and Tai Chi. ‘Intervertebral Differential Dynamics’ or IDD Therapy is the fastest growing non-surgical spinal treatment for intervertebral discs with over 1,000 clinics worldwide and 34 clinics across the UK. Safe, gentle and non-invasive, IDD Therapy helps patients who need something more for their pain when manual therapy alone is insufficient to achieve lasting pain relief.
Kids nowadays are so advanced when it comes to digital technology, it’s a wonder how the older generations have still not fully caught up. With their sponge-like brains, this generation’s children are consuming much more technology than any other generation before them which can be both good and bad, depending on how you look at it.
There’s also been articles and research into whether technology is linked to anxiety, depression, attention disorders and other behavioural problems. As their tiny brains get over=stimulated, it can be easy for children to then become restless and act out. This is why wellness activities such as kids and family yoga can really help to take kids away from screen-time and learn to practice mindfulness and being calm. However, not everyone might be able to access these types of classes and rely on digital sites and apps to provide them with this kind of support.
“Mindfulness is an important strength for children to acquire. While they may not always be able to articulate it, children are picking up and internalising the stresses around them.” Adam Green, founder of CLEVERWORLD
That’s why the creators and developers at CLEVERWORLD have just launched a new interactive wellbeing app made just for kids called Calm Kingdom. The app is aimed at children aged between 2-7 years and is designed to help support children’s mental wellness and promote mindfulness. In the app, you’ll find videos on mindful breathing, calming techniques and gentle stretching and movement. They also have cool animal names like Reptile Relaxation and Sloth Stretches demonstrated by the animals (well, people dressed as the animals) too making it fun and easy for kids to remember.
According to mental health experts, keeping a reflection journal can help children to manage their emotions better and is said to be “one of the healthiest habits for a lifetime”.
The app offers even the youngest children to experience journalling through colouring and drawing in the app. This kind of colouring can help children to improve their focus, concentration and creativity skills. Children can also use their own voice to record their thoughts and feelings which is amazing.
I downloaded the app on my phone and Little Miss seemed to have had a good time exploring the app. It even has a parent portal section where you can get involved and observe your child’s journey through the app. The Calm Kingdom is not social app but for the journalling it does require a login connection via social media or email. There is a free and premium (paid) version of the app – we downloaded the free one.
All of the children’s work ie. any voice recordings and journalling content is only accessible to the child and the parent. This should provide parents with some peace of mind that their children can safely explore the app and express themselves freely without their security or privacy being put at risk.
You can download the Calm Kingdom app for free on iOS and Android:
I have always loved the idea of homeschooling but didn’t think I’d have the intelligence, patience or willpower to do so. After these two – almost three weeks – I can tell you that it’s bloody hard! I’ve always done so but now praise teachers even more for what they do with our children, it’s not an easy job with one let alone a class full of twenty plus.
We also must need to thank all of the key workers working hard to keep our country running. The shop workers, seriously – where would we be without them? It’s amazing that we can all stand together as one and as a community, helping each other out. In Greenwich there is a mutual aid group made up of locals volunteering to help out those in need who are struggling with their daily lives.
So we have been self-isolating since the school closures were announced on Friday 20th March. We have only gone out when necessary for essential shopping which we try to limit to no more than 2-3 a week. We didn’t stockpile but made sure we had a few extras of our normal shop to keep us going for a few weeks. We haven’t been sick or had symptoms *touch wood* and have stayed away from our friends and family.
Of course, we practice social distancing and we try to only nominate one of us to do the essential shop. I get Daddy P to do it as the last time I tried to go to the shops it was a little awkward and I felt very anxious. Social distancing wasn’t entirely possible in our local supermarket and other people noticed it too. One even commented “well we’re all gonna die anyway“… okay(!)
I wanted to say something so badly but we’re all entitled to our own opinion and in these uncertain times, who knows anymore. I wrote an earlier post about the racial tension I experienced which still looms in the air. Even an NHS worker in London was recently racially targeted because she was of Asian-looking heritage. There’s only two words that people need to think of in this situation and it’s “BE KIND”. Be kind to everyone but especially those who are working flat out to keep us safe.
The outbreak is affecting us all mentally, emotionally and physically. The kids are managing well and to be honest, haven’t been asking too many questions about it. They’ve just taken it on board and got along with things. I am so grateful that they are able to have this mindset especially as they’re not allowed outside more than once a week.
How to stay happy & healthy during lockdown…
1. Stick to a routine
Keeping to a routine will not only save your sanity, it will also give the family a sense of structure to your day. Most days, try to wake up at a reasonable time like (before 10am) and get that morning routine going. Especially as most of us are now at home it’s so easy to fall into a slump and put your body clock out of sync with the world.
If you are homeschooling you might want to wake up like you would do on a ‘normal’ school day and start your studies at 9am. For us, we’re a bunch of lazy bones and will wake up around 9-10am and start homeschooling an hour after. Our morning routine includes washing face/brushing teeth, eat breakfast, set up the desk and get into homeschool-mode. So much easier that we don’t have to faff around with school uniform!
Everyone’s routine will be a little different – the same goes with the homeschooling. Before I started, I had big plans for Little Man and a good day’s schedule all planned out. After the first day, we realised it wouldn’t work and so have adapted it to suit us since then. Now we limit school work to 2 hours a day and usually try to do it before their lunch at 1pm. However, we are also flexible so if we’ve had a lazy morning, we’d carry on with relaxing and playing then do the homeschooling after lunch or during the second half of the day.
2. Eat well
Don’t curb on all the processed food as now you’ll actually have the time to cook. If you’re not great at it or stuck for ideas, just head online and you’ll find that the internet world is really your (virtual) oyster. If the kitchen is not really your forte, subscription companies like Gousto, Mindful Chef and Hello Fresh can actually be very helpful however they will be very busy due to demand. Have a look for food boxes from your local grocery, they might even deliver for free. You can even check out their boxes recipes online too, here’s a link to Mindful Chef’s latest recipes to whet your appetite.
Handy Tip: get the kids involved with the cooking! It’ll count towards their ‘life skills’ and makes great bonding sessions.
Breakfast: make sure you have a good breakfast to start your day. Our favourite is oat porridge with a small dollop of jam or a slice of toast with cheesy scrambled egg. For myself if I’m being lazy, I have a slice of toast with tea and then coffee!
Lunch: we keep it simple for lunch as the kids usually get involved. Recently we’ve been making easy egg-less fluffy pancakes(the recipe’s here!). There’s also a recipe for ‘protein pancakes’ on this blog if you fancy something different.
Dinner: Daddy P and I take it in turns but I would say 80% of the time, I’ll cook and he’ll clean because he’s the best at cleaning! 🙂 Our recent meals include salmon and dill quiche with salad, seafood and fish pie, easy macaroni cheese, veggie lasagne, and even fish stew! As Daddy P is pescetarian we don’t cook meat anymore – saying that I did make sticky soy and garlic glazed chicken wings the other day which was so tasty.
We try to get in our daily “together time”. This is any fun activity that we can do all together as a family. There’s also a weekly Sunday family rave courtesy of Big Fish Little Fish events at 2pm on Facebook Live so don’t miss that one! It’s pretty amazing. They put on an amazing show, we’ve been to a few family raves in person so it’s really nostalgic to watch them on Sundays. Also an excuse for us to make noise and go crazy with dance.
When I want to workout alone, I put on Zumba Workouts (Youtube) and work up a good sweat, my favourite workouts are from a lady called Ysel Gonzalez – she has such a vibrant energy it’s amazing. Sometimes the kids join in which is nice too. I’ve also bought a rebounder to use at home and the kids are having a good workout on there too! I’ve not had a go yet but will try it out this weekend.
If you’re stuck on ideas, here are some ‘together time’ activities you can fit into your routine:
Yoga (especially family yoga!)
Games – board games, console games, team player games, made-up games
Messy play or imaginative (role play, dressing up)
Arts and crafts-making
Watching a film together
Gardening (if you have a garden) or planting (indoors or outdoors)
Learning a new language
4. Do more yoga!
We’ve been doing family yoga stories together once a week, sometimes more if they’re up to it. There’s also a lot of yoga teachers offering online classes (free, pay-what-you-can and donation-based) so have a look out for them. There’s literally a class for everyone – from adults only to family yoga and mum & baby yoga. Look out for gentle yoga ‘flows’ (classes/sessions) that are specifically for beginners if you have none or very little yoga experience. These sessions are the best at easing you into simple poses and will have more options for modification. Restorative yoga flows are also great for beginners and they focus on releasing tight areas and are friendly enough for those who suffer from mobility issues or injuries. It’s also great for those who just want a much slower and relaxing pace.
Yoga really is for everybody. Don’t think that you need to be flexible to start yoga – remember, flexibility is a by-product of a yoga practice.
5. Be flexible and realistic with your expectations
It’s so easy to try and cram as much in as possible, especially when we’re provided with so much choice and now have a lot more time on our hands. Take each day as it comes and as much as having a routine and structure is important, so is the ability to be flexible and realistic with your expectations.
If the children seem like they have too much energy, have some time out and maybe even skip the schoolwork for the day. Enjoy the time you have with each other. It’s hard for the children to not be able to release their wild energy normally like they would do running about in the playground and so they can become restless, mine certainly do! Be more understanding towards them and give them a little lee-way.
6. Try practicing mindfulness
Learn to be in the moment. Become present. Learning to become mindful is something I am trying to teach myself (not succeeding yet!). I can get quite riled up from the children that sometimes I lose my sh*t and go on a shouting rampage. What good does that do? Nothing really. How does it make me feel afterwards? Like a crappy parent. So why continue to do it?
Stop the cycle by observing and not judging whether it’s a good or bad situation, just accept it as it is. Only then can we move forward to a more positive outcome. I bought a mindfulness book which helps me to challenge my thoughts and behaviours – almost like a CBT book that helps me to keep calm and become more mindful of everything around. There’s also brilliant mindfulness apps for adults and children. For adults, I love the CALM app and for kids, we use the Moshi Twilight stories app. It really helps the children to relax and usually sends them off to sleep. Other mindfulness activities can include mandala colouring (great for kids too!), guided meditation and yoga nidra.
7. Boost your immunity
I’m sure you’ve heard this everywhere. Keep your immunity levels high to keep your health in good condition. You don’t have to purchase the world of tablets but multivitamins with omega 3 or vitamin D, and vitamin C tablets can go a long way. A good way of getting in vitamin C is through eating fruits like oranges. Try not to juice them as this extracts mainly the sugars that’s contained in the fruit. You’ll get more benefit from eating oranges whole and eat fruits with the skin on like apples as the fibre is in the skin.
When I’m not feeling too well, I like drinking my honey and ginger tea. Just hot water, a teaspoon of honey and a thumb-size knob of ginger (crushed) is the best thing ever. Ginger and honey are also natural ingredients that help fight off infections and inflammation.
Turmeric is also another fantastic ingredient that is an immune-booster, it’s anti-inflammatory and said to help with healing. My mother used to buy fresh turmeric root and rub it over her acne spots to help it heal faster. Unfortunately the root can be hard to find but they would be available in most Asian food stores but turmeric powder can be found in most supermarkets.
8. Get out and get some fresh air
Whether you have a garden or an apartment balcony, there’s always a way to get in some fresh air. We are still currently allowed to go outside for an hour of exercise so you could use a few minutes of this time to go on a gentle walk. If you’re up early enough, take the kids with you so they can get some fresh air too – by going earlier you’ll avoid unnecessary crowds of people. Of course, continue to practice social distancing and stay safe when outside.
Another option is to get yourself some plants. There are a range of air-purifying plants that can help you to breathe better at home – especially if you have enough of them around. An air purifier (and humidifier if you suffer from dry air or low humidity issues) might also be things on your shopping list. A dusty room or low humidity room can cause you to cough and may cause respiratory irritations.
9. Don’t forget about yourself in the midst of it all
When you have a family, looking after number one *yourself* can sometimes become the last priority but during this lockdown, your own mental/physical/emotionally self must be taken care of first. Think about SELF CARE. It’s the time to be selfish because you don’t look after yourself, who will? I’m not advising splash out and go crazy (unless you can really afford to or want to) but my point is, do something nice for yourself at least once a week or month. Whether that’s allowing yourself to binge on Netflix or eating that whole batch of chocolate brownies, just do it!
I re-joined Birchbox last month and I’m looking forward to this little treat. Other beauty subscription boxes include Look Fantastic (check out their pretty April box here), Glossybox and Beauty Pie. If you prefer natural or vegan beauty products, I’d highly recommend trying out the LoveLula boxes. I need to start reviewing the boxes again but I stopped as it took a lot of time, though now I have a little more time… why not!
These beauty boxes are life right now and the best thing is that you can choose to pay in block to save money or pay on a monthly basis and cancel at anytime. If you change your mind, you can resubscribe at anytime too.
Above all… stay happy, stay healthy, stay safe!
Lots of love to everyone during these uncertain times. Take care of family and more importantly yourself, in both mind and body. x
Like many people, I suffer from fallen arches, also known as “flat feet”. It’s not something I had noticed until my late teenage/young adult years as I’ve never really worn high heels so just assumed that the pain from wearing them was due to infrequent wear and not because I have very low arches in my feet.
When I was pregnant with Little Man I started becoming more susceptible to ankle sprains and whilst pregnant (last trimester) with Little Miss, I badly sprained my left ankle walking home one night by missing a step on to the pavement from crossing a road. I remember the crunching sound was so loud I thought I broke my whole ankle but surprisingly was still able to hobble home with a 15mins walk. It swelled that nice and became extremely painful when I got home and sat down.
I carried out the RICE method (rest, ice, compress, elevate) and eventually made an appointment to see the GP but it was too late. The GP confirmed I had torn the whole ligament and because I left it so long (3 months post sprain), it will never fully heal as I was supposed to strengthen the ankle and foot muscles as soon as the ankle was healing and had no pain. Since then I have been extremely cautious – even now, my ankle sometimes gives way and I get mini-sprains but I can carry on with normal activities.
With my low foot arch and being prone to ankle sprains what else? I also suffer from over-pronation. What’s that you ask? Over-pronation is when the feet roll/tilt inwards either due to foot alignment or fallen arches. This can cause knee and hip problems in some people. I think most people with flat feet would suffer from some degree of over-pronation. Stability shoes are recommended for us over-pronators but they usually look bulky or just plain ugly.
So how can you relieve flat feet pain?
There’s many different ways but here are five ways which I think are simple yet practical and effective…
1. Choose shoes that support your feet
Working as a spa therapist, I am always on my feet and on top of that, either in bare feet or super flat shoes. Standing for long periods of time can also take its toll on flat feet, resulting in flat feet pain.
Recently I started suffering from really bad feet pain and I couldn’t understand why. After coming home from work I would soak and massage my feet, rest them but they were still in pain. It then dawned on me that it could be due to standing for prolonged periods, combined with flat shoes that offer no support. So I did some research and looked for decent-looking shoes with support. I first checked out Sketchers as my sister said they’re a good brand for support shoes but I wasn’t attracted to any of the designs. They either looked really ugly but practical or just plain bulky. Their trainers looked nice but unfortunately we are not allowed trainers at the spa.
I then discovered FitFlop and saw they had a few nice designs. I’ve always wanted a pair but could never afford buying at full price but they currently have a spring offer on and found a pair I absolutely love!
The Übernit Bow Ballerinas shoe is not only cute, it’s also practical and super comfortable. The breathable knit material is comfy, soft on the skin and lightweight making it ideal for a warm spa environment. The soles are slip-resistance which helps when performing massages so no more need to do it barefoot on hard floors!
The shoes are ergonomically designed to provide maximum comfort, thanks to FitFlop’s Anatomicush technology. They give my fallen arches that extra bit of support. Since wearing these babies, my feet don’t hurt as much by the end of the day and some days they stop hurting at all so result! If you work a job that requires you to be standing, walking or just being on your feet all day definitely have a look for a shoe that has good cushioning to give you support and avoid those super flat shoes at all cost. They may look pretty but in the long run, they’ll do more harm than good.
2. Strengthen your (foot) muscles
A no-brainer here. If you experience pain in your feet, it could be due to weakened muscles. Just like any other muscle in your body, the muscles in your feet also need to be worked on and strengthened, especially considering how much we actually use it.
Like our gluteal muscles (bum muscles in layman’s terms) – they are one of the largest muscle groups in our body but are the least worked. The muscles weaken, eventually cause a posterior imbalance that leads to lower back pain and other postural issues. You can find many foot strengthening exercises online; the most popular ones are:
Toe curls “toe-towel pickup”
Inner and outer edge rolls
Check out this article by Runtastic which has all the exercises above plus a couple more. Ideally aimed at runners but can be for anyone with feet pain. You can also find a couple of other exercises on Arthritis Research UK which also gives you a printable PDF option.
3. See a foot specialist (podiatrist, also known as a chiropodist)
If you’re lucky enough to be referred on the NHS then great but if you’re like me then you will need to look private. According to my local complementary therapies centre, Blackheath Complementary Health Centre who does offer chiropody/podiatry services, an initial 30mins consultation will set you back around £45 and follow-ups around £40 for 30mins. This is quite a reasonable price as I have seen some places charging a lot more by the hour.
Some footwear stores, especially running trainer stores like Asics offer free gait analysis checks in store so you can see discover the pronation of your feet; which would be either over-pronated (feet roll in), under-pronated (feet roll out) or neutral (neutral alignment). If you love going for a jog or run, or run professionally then choosing footwear best suited your pronation can improve your performance and help with stability.
**update** I had my podiatrist appointment and she told me that my feet and femur are anatomically misaligned so there is a natural deformation of the bones – that caused my over pronation and with also having flat feet, my feet are basically F’ed up. She told me I can no longer wear flip flops and I have to buy only stability trainers/shoes from brands like Skechers, Fitflop or Asics and choose the footwear that offers good arch support. That, and the constant wear of orthotic insoles that I can get from Amazon for around £10.
4. Treat your feet to some R&R
Having a good foot soak once a week is a brilliant thing to do and we really should take the effort to make time for our feet.
Feet get neglected a lot until summer when people want pedicures to show off their cute tootsies but it’s not good enough. I’ve set myself a new wellbeing task of treating my body monthly to some good ol’ pampering. Either I do it myself, or if I have a bit of cash then book in for a treatment. In winter, I treated my toes to paraffin wax pedicures which was AMAZING. If you don’t know about this treatment then google it and get ready to book yourself one asap!
Anyone can carry out a good foot soak at home, either in the bath or with a bowl of warm/hot but not boiling water and add in some bubble bath and you’re good to go. You can get fancy and add in bath salts or epsom salts which help refresh tired feet and even essential oils. Finish off the treat by drying feet thoroughly with a towel and massaging in a nourishing foot cream or oil. Put on socks to help the products penetrate a little deeper into the skin.
If you prefer something more luxury, have a look for a foot spa, you can get a decent one from Amazon for around £30-40 but check whether it can be used with bath salts or scrubs if you intend on using those.
5. Put the skyscraper heels away!
High heels can give feet pain due to the curvature of the arch in high heels design. Swelling can offer, especially around the ankles due to pressure.
Most people with flat feet will find that they can’t wear high heels or any heels over four inches because of the shortened arch muscles. As the arch is low or completely flat, it cannot extend properly to accommodate the height and curvature of high heels.
Medium, low or kitten heels are the best options for flat-feeters wanting heels. Alternatively, if you crave the height you may be able to get away with blocky platform heels as they offer additional height to the whole foot and the chunky heel provides more stability.
Everybody knows that January is the most depressive month of the year. As soon as the festivities and long weekends are over, the harsh realities of life sink back in; new working deadlines, more colds and flus going around the office, fewer days of annual leave left as you took them all in December and the lack of sunshine can make us feel a bit shitty to be frank.
If you started a new year’s resolution to become more fit and healthy, you may find that your blue mood will make it really hard for you to stay on track. Well, fear not as there are a few ways to help you make it through the month and I’ve got 10 of them for you to try…
1. Try mindful meditation
It’s just like traditional meditation but a bit more modern and doesn’t involve you sitting in silence for hours cross-legged. There’s loads of books and apps out there that can help you. Even just 5 minutes a day of mindful meditation can help lift your mood.
My favourite mindful meditation techniques are body scans and breath counts. Simple yet extremely effective and you can do them anywhere, anytime of the day.
2. Add yoga to your fitness routine
I’m a big advocate of yoga but not just for the fancy shapes. Yoga is a fabulous exercise that not only strengthens the body, it also helps to calm the mind and helps you to refocus your energy on you. I love sweaty yoga flows as they really help to get the blood circulating, leaving you feeling re-energised, refreshed and like you’ve actually had a workout. I always leave yoga classes feeling much more calm and less stressed too.
Increased blood flow results in increased serotonin. This article from Psychology Today mentions that there are four ways to increase serotonin; sunlight, exercise, massage, and remembering happy thoughts – most of which I’ve mentioned in this blog post. 🙂
If you’re finding it hard to stay motivated to your NY fitness resolutions, a simple walk can help lift your mood. Why not grab a friend and a coffee if you fancy some company and a good chat. A walk can clock up some good mileage and burn off a lot of calories too. Walking is also considered as an anaerobic exercise so depending on how long you’ve walked for, you may be able to still burn extra calories long after you’ve stopped walking.
4. Give compliments
New research from Superdrug has revealed that for 6 out of 10 Brits a simple compliment in January is the way to stay motivated with New Year goals, with 88% believing more compliments need to be given in January than any other month to encourage, inspire and motivate during the bleak cold winter.
Dr Becky Spelman, Registered Practitioner Psychologist & member of BABCPbacks the findings, saying,“When it comes to getting fit, losing weight, or focusing on our health, positive acknowledgement is very useful. Hearing that we are looking good from people, and that the time and effort we have invested in our health are bearing fruit, actually spurs us on to do even more.”
So why not give your fitness friend some friendly words of encouragement and pay them a compliment or two? Sometimes it can take another person to tell you that you look amazing before you can actually believe it yourself.
5. Get a workout buddy
Two heads are better than one… know that saying? Well it applies in the world of fitness especially if you’re finding that the lack of motivation is creeping in. Having a workout buddy not only pushes you to do better, it also pushes them so you’re both mutually benefitting from it. Empowerment is the way to go so don’t forget to pay your workout buddy a compliment too – they should return it to you if they’re a good partner and you may find it’ll also help you to refocus on your fitness goals.
6. Eat well
This is the time when a lot of people tend to start fad diets in a bid to shift all the extra calories they’d put on over the holidays but it’s really not the way to go if you’re trying to get fit and healthy for the long-term. Yes, you can change your diet but you do it through eating well and eating healthy. You’ll feel loads better on the inside and outside.
Think about your macro-nutrients – eat plenty of protein, opt for complex carbs over simple ones, increase your fibre intake (fruit and veg), cut down on refined sugars and processed foods, and drink more water. If you’re aiming to lose weight, do the above and make sure you’re a caloric deficit (your calorie intake needs to be less than your calorie expenditure) and weight loss and fat loss will occur.
I’m currently enjoying Superdrug’s new health and wellness range, Some Body. They have protein supplements, snacks, and drinks and I’ve been able to try their chocolate protein powder, choc-orange snack bar and pancake mix. Out of the three the snack bar was my fave – nothing beats a chocolate and orange combo! The protein powder was my second fave – it tasted like a melted Mars bar but had 19g of protein and no more than 4g of carbs which is a winner as I like to get my carbs from actual food sources instead of a supplement.
I always mix my protein powder with water and a little bit of nut milk. It wasn’t of a thick milkshake consistency which is just how I like it, if you prefer thick just bulk it up with some oats, banana, chia seeds, natural yoghurt or even ice cream. The pancake mix was easy to use and mixed well – I had mine with a small swig of maple flavoured syrup which was divine.
7. Laugh more
Laughter is the cure for everything – legit. If you’re having a rough day, it only takes a good laugh to lift your spirits a little. Stop the January blues from getting you down by visiting friends, work mates or family members and have a good laugh with them. If that’s not possible, why not try out laughing yoga or laughing classes.
Laughing is contagious and I’m sure these classes will leave you with an aching belly and a happier mind.
8. Catch some sun
A lot of us Brits are affected by the weather. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can really leave us feeling low during these darker days. Why not try one of those SAD reducing lights, apparently they do help. Or if you’ve got a little more cash to splash, book yourself a mini-break to a sunnier location. A bit of sunshine will boost your serotonin levels, up your happy hormones and leave you feeling happier and less stressed. I enjoyed a fabulous 5 nights in Ibiza by myself – no kids and no boyfriend and I just lazed around beaches for the entire holiday. I never felt better. I came back a little more calm and a lot more happy.
9. Treat yourself
Whether it’s a spa day, a retail therapy trip to Westfield shopping centre or a night out on the town, do something that makes you happy. Self-care is extremely important for maintaining your wellbeing and keeping you healthy so don’t be afraid to look after yourself first.
For me, I would love a spa day treat or a Drum & Box fitness class at Sweaty Betty’s flagship store, No. 1 Carnaby SB – they have the best classes and their boxing class always leaves me feeling pumped and high on happiness. Their upstairs Farm Girl cafe also offers a range of fabulous hot drinks including a latte black (activated charcoal latte, great for detoxing) and a butterfly matcha latte (no butterflies, just a beautiful blue-hued matcha latte)
10. Change up your workouts
Keeping a fitness diary and/or food diary is one of the best things you can do to keep track of your fitness progress. To keep the blues at bay and motivate yourself to keep fit, plan out your fitness routine for that week. For example, if you wanted to focus on cardio that week, add some new exercises that you’ve not done before to change things up and keep you on your toes.
For me, hitting the gym regularly this month became a chore for me so I didn’t go as much as I usually do but I didn’t beat myself up about it too much. I texted my gym buddy and the next week we were back in there, training as hard as we could. We did our usual routine but added in a few new moves which kept it interesting. Post-workout I felt so good and wondered why I was even hesitant to go and have got my gym spark back again.
I hope these 10 ways to help beat the January blues will come in handy for you. I know it’s verging near the end of the month but that’s not to say you can’t apply them to next month too.
NB. I received a sample of Superdrug’s Some Body products in exchange for this review post. All words are my own and are a true reflection of my personal opinion. The stock photos used have been sourced from Unsplash.
At this time every year, we all set fitness and lifestyle goals, that we are keen to realize. The good intentions in January, can often slip away without the right mental attitude and dedication to what you are trying to achieve. If you have goals you are determined to meet this year, make sure you set an achievable yet challenging plan. Whether it is a home-based session before the school run, or a run through Greenwich Park, make sure you have all the components to make your regimen successful. In addition to exercise, swapping the mince pies for low-carb salads will be essential to kick start your year. Keeping it up past January however, is where the real skill is involved.
Setting Out Your Fitness Plan For Success
Often in January, we can be left feeling lethargic, unhealthy and flabby. If you fell prey to one to many Proseccos during party season, you should be feeling enough motivation to kick start your fitness goals and get that body back into gear. However, after the initial few weeks, motivation can begin to wane and our plans can begin to falter. When this occurs, there is nothing better than seeking the help of others. Sure, your fitness plan is personal to you and it is up to you to achieve those goals. In difficult times though, the inspiration of others can be imperative to getting the job done in as quick a time as possible. Perhaps that extra push, or motivation can come from a personal trainer in the new year?
Remember the story of The Tortoise and The Hare? Well this is also pertinent to your training goals. Do not let your ambition get the better of you. If you over train early in your new fitness regime, this can have a detrimental effect on your overall aims. There is nothing worse than pushing yourself over the limit and being left recovering on the sofa, when all you want to do is be burning off those stubborn calories. Create a realistic, yet challenging fitness plan and stick to it.
The Importance Of Nutrition
When your body is working harder in the gym or on the road, the temptation to over-compensate with food can be high. Although it is important to fuel your body with the correct foods, ensure you are eating the right foods at the right time. Initially after your workout, fill the body with healthy proteins to help build muscle and keep your energy up. The night before a big run, fill up on complex carbs like pasta, so your body has the right energy to keep your plan on track.
To make sure you achieve your fitness goals this year, set a realistic yet challenging plan, seek inspiration and advice when your motivation is low and fuel your body correctly. If you follow these vital steps, you will achieve your goals in next to no time.
A contribution post by freelance writer, Jane Sandwood
I love working out at the gym. There’s nothing more refreshing that a morning weight training session before work! It works up a proper sweat but sometimes that can make going straight to work a bit of a bother, especially if you feel the need to freshen up.
Heritage businesswear company, T.M.Lewin came up with this super helpful infographic. It’s got some fab tips that can really help a guy out – for us gals, there’s also some good advice on there that we can benefit from too!
Thanks, TM Lewin! 🙂
Please feel free to share this infographic with anyone who you think would benefit from it. Whether that be a friend, boyfriend, a work colleague, your brother, father… anyone! 🙂
A new study has found that 75% of women in the UK want to exercise more. But having a busy schedule, taking care of the family’s needs, or fear of being judged at the gym are holding women back from accomplishing their fitness goals. Fortunately, there are ways to workout while staying at home and you can squeeze exercise into your day in more ways than one. To stay healthy, adults aged 19 to 64 should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week and strength exercises at least two days a week. For you to meet the recommended amount of physical activity per week, here are 5 brilliant ways to sneak in exercise while at home.
1. Clean your home
Cleaning your home not only gives you a healthier environment to live in but it also allows you to fit in exercise into your day. Mopping, dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming, or cleaning the bathroom can give you a good upper body workout, and it’s even better if you do a couple of lunges or squats while doing any of these activities. However, make sure to avoid using allergy-causing cleaning products as you can end up getting rashes or serious burns and undo all the good that you did to take care of your body. Opt to use natural cleansers whenever you clean your home and move vigorously to make your cleaning workout more intense.
2. Hand wash a load of dirty clothes
Instead of using the washing machine, try hand washing a load of dirty clothes to exercise your arms and shoulders. Hand washing your clothes correctly has so many advantages, you get to workout while doing your chores, save on water and electricity costs, and prolong the life of your clothing.
3. Start every morning with a few exercise moves
After you wake up and make the bed, start your day right by doing some gentle stretching, a few crunches, and as many push-ups as you can. Set aside at least 10 minutes every morning to do these exercises which can strengthen your muscles and core. Doing exercises the moment you get out of bed also helps to make you more awake and ready to face the day.
4. If you’re heading outdoors, speed walk or jog to wherever you’re goin
Instead of walking at a leisurely pace, speed walk or jog to the grocery, the bank, or any other place where you need to go. Doing so counts as your moderate aerobic activity for the day. To motivate you to do this, wear running shoes before heading outdoors and bring a small bottle of water with you to stay hydrated.
5. Walk the dog a little longer
If you usually do just one circuit of your neighbourhood while walking your dog, try doing another circuit to fit in some extra cardio into your day. You can also take the dog to the park and play with your pet so you get to spend more time being outdoors, which is essential to good health.
There are many ways to fit exercise into your daily routine, all you have to do is to turn daily activities into proper workouts. Follow these tips to sneak in exercise while you’re at home for your health and well-being. 🙂
A contribution post by freelance writer, Jane Sandwood. If you enjoyed reading this post, don’t forget to share it with others below.
It’s World Ballet Day on October 5th 2017 and I’ve booked myself a ticket to the Royal Opera House on the 4th to see Alice in Wonderland. I’m really excited as ballet and opera are two things on my bucket list that I need to tick off. I’ve been theatre a few times now but really excited to watch my first ballet show.
Last week I was invited to an adult beginners ballet class at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire for music and dance. They don’t normally offer a drop-in class for beginners so you’d need to sign up for the half-term (6 weeks) or full term (12 weeks) course which is held on Thursday evenings. I didn’t really know what to expect – I wasn’t sure if I wanted to purchase ballet shoes or a leotard but decided not to as it was only the one class I was attending. If I decided to book the course then I think the ballet shoes would be a good investment.
Adult Beginner Ballet Classes at Trinity Laban
I arrived early at Trinity Laban after work and changed into my gym clothes – just a black vest and leggings were enough. I bought pilates socks with grips on the sole and wore those, in hindsight I think ordinary socks would’ve been better as we had to pivot on our feet which is really hard to do if you’re socks won’t let you.
The teacher’s name is Vicki Busfield. She trained at the Northern Ballet School and London Contemporary Dance School so I knew I was going to be in good hands. Vicki introduced herself to everyone in class (there was around 15-20 of us a mix of men and women) and asked us the usual questions, do we have any injuries, medical conditions, pregnancies etc before she started us off with the warm up practices.
Warm-up consisted of feet and ankle stretching exercises, some core work ie. single and double leg raises, pilates scissor legs, reverse plank, forward and sideward folds to get us warmed up before we hit the barre.
After our warm-up, Vicki got us to stand by the barre and she counted us in to rise up on our toes (well, more like the balls of our feet than actual toes) along with some piano music to help with the counting. After that, we learnt to plié and place our feet in first position; Vicki showed us the difference between a demi-plié and a full plié. After this, that placed us into second position.
There was a lot to learn as it was the first task and Vicki wanted us to be able to cover the basic techniques and ballet movements which was great. I felt like a ballerina – not joking! I don’t think I looked like a graceful one but oh wells. Vicki made a point that her classes are all about enjoyment so we shouldn’t focus on what others are doing, more just listening to her and listening to what our bodies are capable of doing and work to our own limits. It did put less pressure on me when I wasn’t thinking about it.
Vicki also showed us how to ‘walk’ in ballet, also known as the classical walk. It involved leg and hand coordination which I lack tremendously but somehow managed to keep up. (I’ve also been practising at home every now and then!) By the end of the 90mins class, we had learnt the names of all the basic movements, learnt all the ballet positions from 1 through to 5 as well as learning more technical things like the different variations of pliés, the ‘classical walk’ and balancing on leg.
I really want to go back and book the half-term session which will start at the end of October. Trinity Laban also offers level 1 and level 2 adult ballet classes so if you already have dance experience and are confident in your dance then the level 1 may be more suited for you but best to ask the Trinity Laban staff to be sure.
NB. I was invited to a complimentary adult ballet class by Trinity Laban Conservatoire in exchange for a review post. All words and opinions are my own. Photos have been credited to their sources respectively.
There are many ways to help lead a healthy lifestyle and most people follow the ones that work best for them. The ways to do that include working on your diet, exercise and mental state, to become healthier and happier. The UK is well-known as a nation of tea drinkers – that’s black, breakfast type teas, rather than the fruity options preferred in other countries. And, while coffee is also a popular drink across the UK with around 70 million cups enjoyed every day, tea consumption is more than double with around 165 million cups consumed on a daily basis… but which is best for supporting a healthy lifestyle?
Tea has many benefits, including the fact that it is chock full of beneficial antioxidants. In most cases, tea usually contains more water than coffee (unless you’re among the few who take their coffee black). In particular, black tea is linked to improved health, from as far back as five thousand years. Green tea (including matcha) are also seen as a particularly healthy option and its ingredients are linked with weight loss and also as having an anti-depressant effect. Unlike green tea, matcha is made from whole tea leaves that has been grinded into a fine powder. Matcha can also be enjoyed with dairy, non-dairy, and nut milks. In addition, all types of teas that come in the bag form, are a doddle to make, so an easy option for a hot, refreshing beverage.
Coffee, meanwhile, has in the past, been blamed for increasing stress, and bouts caffeine addiction. But, is it really as bad as some people say? Apparently not. Recent research shows that coffee consumption is a beneficial ingredient of a healthy lifestyle. That’s good news for the over 80% of households who buy coffee for the home, or the 80% who enjoy a café-made coffee! Specifically, a higher intake of coffee is associated with a lower risk of death. That’s a pretty important lifestyle issue! So, while taking the time to create a cup of coffee might take longer than your average refreshing cup of tea, it’s certainly worth the extra effort and equipment that’s needed.
and the winner is… BOTH!
Drinking either tea or coffee – or both – is a healthy option that will supply you with numerous benefits. Of course, try not to drink too much of either. After all, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. A diet that’s varied and full of different ingredients and flavours is the healthiest and most enjoyable kind of diet. It helps keep the food you eat and beverages you drink interesting and means you’re always finding new tastes and cooking styles to amaze your palate and assist you in your quest for a healthier lifestyle!
A contribution post by freelance writer, Jane Sandwood
Being healthy isn’t about how much you weigh. Being healthy is about eating foods that are good for us, as well as being active and happy. It isn’t all about your BMI (Body Mass Index), a number that so many people, including health professionals are known to obsess about.
Stress and emotional eating
Our ability to deal with stress can really have a big effect on our eating habits. Studies show that stress is linked to emotional eating. For some, both emotional eating and under-eating are signs of too much stress in our lives which can cause damage if it’s ongoing, so we need to find a way to keep it under control. Physical exercise is an incredible help in combating stress. Exercise can raise endorphin levels, produce more serotonin and gives us a general sense of well being, even though you might not feel like exercising at the start.
Any exercise will do
Exercise doesn’t mean that you need to start training to run a marathon, or invest in expensive equipment. It can also be low impact on your joints, so swimming is particularly good for this. Yoga is exceptionally relaxing and helps the mind move focus away from the stresses and strains of life. Pilates is surprisingly gentle, but very good for posture and balance and will help strengthen the body.
Walking, the simplest of all exercise merely involves putting your shoes on and going outside. You may not be walking the mythical 10,000 steps everyday, but let’s be realistic, very few people have the time, even if the intention is there. However, a 30 minute stroll has been proven to lower the risk of heart disease, while toning up your legs and bum. Walking outside will boost your vitamin D intake and give you energy. Most importantly, studies have shown that people who walk regularly are less likely to suffer from dementia when they are older. This is certainly an aspect of health that can’t be measured by BMI.
Mindfulness for busy lives
Mindfulness is focusing the mind on the present moment. It is an excellent way to mentally block out external stress. Using a mindfulness app like CALM is a good way to spend five or ten minutes when you have a break from work. Focusing on your breathing and learning to calm your emotions can really help you to deal with stress. If you learn to deal with stress and you can conquer emotional eating.
It is so easy to connect the idea of your health with your weight, and this just shouldn’t be the case. Where the mind goes, the body will follow. Focus on making little changes and the bigger picture will come soon enough. This could be taking 10 minutes a day to focus on mindfulness, or putting on your trainers and having a walk at lunchtime. Using these simple achievable ways to help you deal with stress will soon have you on the path to a happier and healthier you.
This contribution post was written exclusively for this blog by Jane Sandwood