100K in 10 Days

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Running is exhilarating in every sense of the word. Part of the excitement is the physical challenge and sensation of feet pounding the concrete. Then there’s the feeling of sucking in fresh air, sweating and feeling a chill at the same time, fast heart beats and traveling freely at speed. But one of the most fantastic parts of running is the moments you experience when the world is waking up or going to sleep. Seeing the sun rise before everyone else has awoken. Seeing the grass still frozen as the planet warms up. Views of untouched snow and the sound of morning bird song. A road with no traffic or a lone plane in a cloudless sky. There’s something striking and powerful about experiencing these moments on a run.

When you become ill or someone in your life becomes ill, you suddenly realise how beautiful the world is. You look back at all the moments you took for granted. And all the things that seemed so important at the time, now seem so insignificant. You capture every possible moment of beauty that you can, from sunrise to sunset. Life is so fast, so full of stress and so burdened with unnecessary pressures. It is only when you slow down and make a conscious effort to really look and see what is around you, that you realise the extent to which life is filled with special people, special things and special moments. It is sad that it takes hardship or illness to make us stop and appreciate these moments, but it’s during the tough times that we feel gratitude the most.

When a friend approached me and asked me to run 100K in 10 days, I did not hesitate to say ‘Yes.’ He informed me that the mother of a girl I went to university with had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Rather than accepting the rubbish options the NHS offered her, she chose to undergo an experimental treatment involving lots of nutrient-dense supplementation and juicing. And it’s improving her quality of life dramatically. Being someone who is deeply passionate about holistic health and nutrition, I felt really strongly about Julie’s journey. It’s so promising to see a few select medical professionals embracing nutrition as a healing mechanism. We live on a planet that heals itself, the animals and plants that inhabit it. Why not use the planet to heal ourselves?

When Euan, Sam and I first started our 100K in 10 days, we felt great. The first couple of 10Ks were easy and enjoyable. But personally, my joints were on fire by day 3 or 4. On day five, I could only manage 5K due to a very intense day/week at work. I lacked energy and I lacked time. This meant I had to make up these kilometres at the weekend, which meant two 12K runs in a row. By this point, I was popping ibuprofen just to get through and my body felt extremely inflamed. On the final day, it was just about finishing without stopping or quitting. After ten days of non-stop running, we had done it. Ticked the box. Achieved. Off the bucket list. And we were already planning what we would do next! Every time my mind told me to quit, I pushed through. I told myself that my pain was insignificant and that I was stronger than I gave myself credit for. My ankles were crying, but they got their rest when all was done.

This running challenge was so much fun, because I was part of a team. The team effort was greatly motivating and we could track each other’s progress using Strava and Instagram. I made sure to take probiotics every night to help regulate my sleep and energy. My diet consisted of a lot of vegan protein, turkey, veggies, avocado, apples and bananas. Oh and of course, the odd bit of chocolate-covered nuts (#addict). Challenge yourself. And if you do, do it for a good cause. Please check out Julie’s story here and if you can, donate a couple of quid. It’s a giving time of year after all! Thanks for reading and if you do 100K in 10 days, please do share your experience with me here.

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Why Demi Lovato is a Goddess

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Demi Lovato has recently come out with a new album and a documentary on YouTube. I’ve always loved her music but I don’t read celebrity gossip, so I knew very little about her personal life. Turns out, she’s got a very captivating life story and at the age of twenty-five, has been on quite a ride. At a time when all we have to aspire to are avocado-nibbling model-thin women on Instagram who post photos of themselves with food they aren’t going to eat and share videos of themselves on holidays we’ll never afford, it’s extremely pleasing to get a glimpse into the life of a young female celebrity who endures many of the struggles that us “normal” women do. Yes, she’s a celebrity and a very successful one at that at, but her life hasn’t been all peaches and cream.

In the interviews, Demi opens up about her past drug addictions, bad relationship with food, daddy issues and feeling pressure to be perfect. She is honest without being too dramatic and she speaks straight from her heart. She opens up about how she spent a lot of her teenage years in a depression and still struggles today. She spoke about break-ups, heartbreak, pills, anger issues and fantasising about her own funeral. Demi uses the gym as an outlet for her emotions and uses exercise to keep her balanced. She still struggles with an eating disorder, but she can talk about it now and works with a therapist to understand it. Demi grew up on the Disney channel and felt the stresses of working life from a young age. She was thrust into the spotlight and asked to be a role model before she was ready. And she was bullied very badly in school, and had a father who was a mess and subjected her and her siblings to things nobody should have to go through.

As a young woman who regularly feels insecure, lost, inadequate and frustrated, it was so comforting to have someone I admire talk so openly about their struggles. The filtered world of Instagram gets so exhausting sometimes, and leaves me feeling as though I’ll never be good enough, for myself or anyone else. To see Demi using the gym to rebuild herself, taking bold steps towards independence and talking honestly about her set-backs, was such a moment of enlightenment for me. It made me realise how human we all are. And how beautiful the world would be if we were more honest with each other. We could be supportive instead of competitive, and love one another instead of judging one another. If more of us spoke about our challenges, insecurities and fears, we would know that we aren’t alone. 

Maybe you think this is lame and superficial and boring. You might not even know who Demi Lovato is. Watch the documentary and then decide for yourself. We all seek role models and people to look up to. I look up to women who have endured tough times, because those are the women I relate to. The women who were bullied, misunderstood and had to fight others but also themselves. The women who never felt good enough and pushed themselves to extremes in the quest for perfection. The women who broke and had to work long and hard to repair and heal. The women who are tired of the bullshit, the fake shit, the plastic and who want to be open, honest and real. Writing this blog is always a release for me, a way to express what I’m really thinking and feeling, and I love when other people write to me and share their similar thoughts and experiences. Let me know who your role model is; you can contact me on Instagram or Facebook. 

Speaking Up and Speaking Out

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The allegations against Harvey Weinstein brought to light decades of sexual harassment against female celebrities who were afraid that speaking up would damage their reputation and future career opportunities. Many of the women who did speak up against him explained that they lost acting jobs as a result. The second wave of feminism that has captured the world’s attention over the past few years has given many women courage, bravery and has shown us that we are worthy of being treated with respect. We are beginning to realise that we don’t need to accept unwanted sexual attention, gestures or advances. This feminism promotes female empowerment, independence, modern values and sexuality. Our mothers and their mothers were taught to stay silent and respect authority, not to question societal norms and to stay poised and polite. Thank you to the women who rejected these behaviours and decided to question the status quo. Had it not been for you, we would probably all be skipping around in poodle skirts, spending our time shopping for vacuum cleaners and baking pumpkin muffins.

When I was growing up, I remember the first time I encountered male sexual attention. I was eleven years old and it was from construction workers in my neighbourhood who shouted, whistled, hooted and hollered at me. At the time, my sister and I joked about it. She was nine years old at the time. When I was fifteen or sixteen years old, I began working at a restaurant waiting tables for some extra cash. One of the male cooks cornered me in the freezer and asked me if I wanted to touch his penis. He was at least eight years my senior and I still had a curfew. At the time, I wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or whether to report him. I told the girls at work but we were all being subjected to this behaviour on a daily basis, so we all brushed it off. Similar situations, some more physical than others, occurred over the next few years. During an internship for a global Fortune 500 company, I was harassed by a 60-something man who had worked there for almost thirty years. I was only eighteen at the time and I was very upset. I reported it to HR who did nothing, and the man blamed it on me, lying and saying I was just mad because he wouldn’t buy me alcohol. Everyone else turned against me, and my own mother questioned whether I had done anything to lead him on; it was infuriating. I didn’t understand why I was the one being punished and not him.

This is the culture we have bred. A culture where women are to blame, we are the ones at fault, we are the temptresses and we should be more restrained. To this I say: fuck that. There are men in this world who are predatory, vulgar, repulsive and unable to exercise self-restraint. They are in positions of power and they abuse this, often preying on vulnerable women or women who are too young and naive to know better. Institutions perpetuate this issue. Churches teach us that man is above woman; God was a man and he created the world. Women are on this earth to reproduce and serve man. Gross. Business and politics, it’s all male-dominated. Men make the decisions, women follow them. Until the fundamental structure of our society changes, sexism will persist. But we need to change too. Women need to take risks, follow their aspirations, use their voice, use their brains and stay strong. 

Harassment is a crime. But yet we don’t report it. The recent #metoo campaign was a powerful illustration of how many women have suffered sexual harassment, assault or rape. Yet many of these women had never spoken up before. I applaud you all for speaking up now, but I beg you to always speak up in the future, should this happen to you again. Remember: if you don’t report it, you are condoning it and that man may re-offend or assault someone else. Last week, I was harassed and threatened by a man who followed me to my local supermarket. It was a horrible experience and it shook me up, derailed me, took away some of my power. I reported it to the police and although they haven’t done anything yet, I’m glad I spoke up. Each time you speak up, you gain a little courage. Each time you speak out, you send the message to other women that they should speak out too. You reassure other women and girls that they deserve to be treated with respect and they should respect themselves too. One voice is a whisper, but a hundred, a thousand, a million voices is a force to be reckoned with. So speak up and speak out ladies, it’s our time to shine.

Disordered Thinking

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The left picture was me in 2007 when I was drinking and partying excessively, and the right picture is me in 2015 when I was living a much healthier and active lifestyle. I didn’t like my body in either picture, I fixated on the parts of my body that I didn’t deem good enough.

Taboo subject alert. We don’t talk about this and we all smile and say that we’re “fine” and that we actually love celery because it’s so crunchy and delicious, and we have 742 different food intolerances. We are naturally skinny, good genetics, it’s effortless, lucky us. We love the taste of a protein shake. Thanks to the media promoting things like thigh gaps, size 0 models, supplements instead of real food, teeny tiny bikinis and more, pretty much every woman on the planet is left feeling inadequate. Since the millennium, being thin has been the norm and being anything larger than a size 6 (US) is considered plus size. We have seen celebrities battle with anorexia, coke addictions, clinical exhaustion and more (Nicole Richie, Kate Moss, Kendall Jenner… shall I name a few more?). And many of us have copied these behaviours because we thought it would make us thin, beautiful and happy. We did what we thought we were supposed to do, we listened to what the media told us and we copied the behaviours we learned. Does this sound familiar to you? Read on.

We have been taught that we have to “earn” our food. Fitness trackers have encouraged us to get in as many steps as we can, even if it means pacing up and down the driveway. Somewhere along the way, everyone became terrified of carbs. TV Shows like the Real Housewives depicted women slaving away with a personal trainer and then nibbling on a plate of salad. No wonder so many men and women are suffering from eating disorders, anxiety and depression. Fitness professionals stick to a very regimented lifestyle where meals are measured, macros are counted and workouts are structured. But for everyone else, the pressure to live, work and look like a million dollars is huge. Example: Bethenny Frankel has publicly denied having an eating disorder but on her reality show, she spoke about not wanting to exercise because then she ate more and felt like she had to then exercise more to balance out the extra food. THAT is disordered eating. THAT is a result of what we have learned and been taught and any shitty magazines or blogs that have published this type of content should be ashamed.

Ok, I realise I sound angry and bitter. Hear me out. We should be conscious of what we are eating, we should know what ingredients are in food and what our calorie input and output is. We should be supplementing if necessary and intaking probiotics, plant-based nutrition and clean whole foods. We should all cook more and scale back processed foods and refined sugar. This is all important for our health and I am a huge advocate of holistic nutrition. We should stay active, take the stairs when possible, walk to work if we can and keep fit. Most of my pay check is spent on kombucha, vegan protein powder, vitamins and protein bars. It’s shocking how much I spend on trying to be healthy and make sure I’m getting the right nutrition. But I tell myself that it’s money well spent. I love finding food and drink that tastes good AND makes me feel good, from the inside out.

What I do not condone is the media’s obsession over thinness, dress size and diet culture. We are bombarded with stupid advertisements for waist trainers and skinny detox teas. There are an overwhelming number of models, influencers and celebrities who are completely dishonest about the lengths they go to to stay as thin as they are. Fitness models shred themselves down to 10% body fat and then get breast implants to have the “perfect” body. These people project images of their lives, as if they are completely normal and their lifestyle is achievable. Please remember: these people do not work 9-5 jobs, they are military-style strict about their macros and their meals, they spend hours in the gym every day and they get a lot of shit for free (i.e. personal trainers, gym memberships, holidays, supplements, etc.) because of their social media following. Strip back all the Instagram filters and the falsities, and you are left with humans who are probably pretty insecure, irritable, hungry, tired and self-obsessed.

Stop being scared of carbs; just read up and understand them. Don’t over-exercise, you’ll just end up being plagued with injuries. Embrace your body type and find a size or a weight that feels comfortable for you. Don’t make your goal to look like someone else; they’re not you, you’re not them. Don’t replace food with alcohol because you’re calorie-counting. Don’t take laxative teas, you’ll end up dehydrated and sick. Eat chocolate, but try and go for the dark stuff. Eat healthy but don’t restrict and end up bingeing at the weekends. Exercise but do it because it makes you feel good, not to punish yourself. And stop believing everything you see on social media, remember the golden rule: people only show you what they want you to see. And as always, love yourself and be mindful that your mind can be your best friend, but also your worst enemy. Happy Sunday.

FOMO & Weight Loss

 

 

When you commit to losing weight, you are committing to making lifestyle changes. Your new lifestyle probably won’t have room for Thirsty Thursdays, Bottomless Brunches, Birthday Cake, Pub Crawls or any of the boozy, dirty, indulgent social occasions that life has to offer when you’re twenty-something. For anyone who falls into the millennial demographic, this feels like committing social suicide. You are faced with a choice: become a loner or become part of a fitness tribe. When people start smattering their Instagram page with pictures of food, gym selfies and smoothie bowls, it’s not because they think they’re better than you; it’s because they want to belong to something that means something important to them. It is an innate human behaviour to want to be part of a culture, part of a family, part of a movement or part of a group. Most of us don’t like feeling isolated and we certainly don’t want to feel like a social outlier. Whether it’s a language, a strong sense of culture, a worthwhile cause, a closely bonded family or something else, we want people who we can relate to, who make us feel like we are part of something. It’s a shared love, a bond or a feeling of community.

Enter: Fomo. Yes, FOMO is a real thing… even Time magazine has written about it. It’s in the Oxford dictionary. Read the article here. We all have friends and family, and sometimes these things are one in the same. Going on a diet or training for an event has a significant impact on your social life. The strict nutrition, the rigorous training regime, the extra much-needed sleep; these all have a huge impact on your social calendar. I’ve tried going all-in at social events and I just end up over-indulging and feeling sh*t the next day. I’ve also tried avoiding these events altogether and then I just get really sad. I’ve also tried finding a middle ground and that sort of works, but I always feel guilty or boring when I leave early as all the fun begins. And then the next day, I see all the photos on Instagram that I wasn’t a part of. And the late-night snapchats that I’m not in. And the WhatsApp messages that I don’t understand because I wasn’t there. But I tell myself that the FOMO feeling is not as bad as waking up alone with a stinking hangover and that feeling we all describe as “the fear.”

When you’re making a lifestyle change, there is an internal battle happening inside; a conflict. Half of you wants to stay committed to your #fitlife and the other half of you yearns for a shot of tequila in a sweaty club with a sexy stranger. Part of you sees your colleagues eating chocolate cake and you drool a little bit and wonder if it’s worth that extra hour on the elliptical you’ll have to do later. But another part of you laughs because you know that sugar hangover feeling is so much worse than feeling clean, hydrated and healthy. Having lived both lifestyle extremes, I can truly say that I live my life with an angel and a devil on my shoulder. Sometimes I imagine that this is what it feels like to overcome an addiction. My mind is telling me ‘No’ but my body is telling me ‘Yes.’ Am I really missing out on that pub crawl, those cupcakes, that fry-up? I’ve had it all before and I know it may bring me instant gratification, but in the long run, it will make me feel rubbish.

We are all faced with decisions every day, and these decisions determine what we do, where we go, and how we feel. We have a responsibility to ourself to make decisions that will make us healthier, smarter, stronger and more successful. We owe it to ourselves to do things that make us feel good. This is why you get up at 6:00am for a spin class. This is why you dip into your savings to book a last-minute spa vacation. This is why you stay home on a Friday night and pamper yourself instead of heading to the club. This is why you choose a chicken salad instead of a burger. You do these things, not because they’re easy, but because we have to work to be the best version of ourselves. This requires effort; it’s not a given. It’s in our nature to seek instant gratification and short-term highs, but you must learn to use your instinct and recognise when the highs aren’t worth the lows that will follow. Use your brain to judge whether something will benefit your health or damage it. FOMO sucks, but you’ll find your niche and you’ll find your tribe, and when it starts to make you who you are, it will be so worth it.

Spin Class is like Therapy

A really good friend of mine recently introduced me to Psycle, which is a boutique spin studio in central London. My sister had always raved about Spin but to be honest, I hated it! I tried going a few times and just couldn’t understand why people would put themselves on a stationary bike and pedal for an hour, whilst feeling sweaty and nauseous. I preferred running, outdoors, breathing fresh air and feeling free. But then I went to Psycle, and it changed my life.

The first time I went, I cried. Yes, that’s right, real tears. It was an incredible, powerful, emotional experience. It was like a church. If you live in London, you’ll get it. Maybe you’ve been to Psycle or Boomcycle or Another Space. Imagine a flock of basic bitches and basic boys in their best lycra all spinning, bouncing and dancing while an instructor shouts motivational things at them in a dark room with neon, flashing lights all around. Everyone is encouraged to ride together and keep the same pace as the group. This reduces any competitiveness and helps create that feeling of unity and community.

The spin instructors at Psycle are like goddesses. Not only are they all beautiful, toned and strong, but they’re DJs and therapists too. They have to go through training before they are qualified and it’s not just physical; they learn how to truly motivate people, tap into their emotions and inspire them. They cheer you on and instead of shouting things like, “turn the resistance up” and “faster, harder, more,” they shout “turn up your courage” and “find your bravery.” It sounds cheesy but it’s actually wonderful. At the end of the class, everyone claps and high fives the instructor on the way out.

Going to spin class at Psycle has helped change my attitude towards fitness. Yes, it’s about challenging yourself and pushing yourself. But it’s also about being part of a group, having fun and feeling good about yourself. During the cool-down, the lights go way down and the last recovery ride is all about focusing on your mind, your body and yourself. It’s a ride for you and only you. Post-class it’s time to hit the showers with complimentary shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, cotton buds and more. You can even grab a smoothie at their juice bar on the way out.

Spin class is an hour where you can turn off the outside noise and stress of living in a city like London and feel good about yourself. It’s a class for everyone; guys, girls, gym bunnies, first-timers and more. Don’t take your phone in with you, there’s no need. All you need is water, a towel and a positive attitude. And if you don’t have a positive attitude going in, you will have one when you leave — trust me. Everyone should try a spin class once, it must just change your life too.

Why Mental Strength is So Important

Today, we talk a lot about Mental Health. I prefer to call it Mental Strength because this feels more relatable to me. Mental Health is terminology that I feel is subjective and unique to every individual. What constitutes “healthy” when it comes to our minds, emotions and thought processes? Physical health is slightly easier to define, albeit just as complex. We can stay physically healthy by eating our five-a-day, staying active and avoiding poisonous substances. But how can we feed and exercise our brains? Perhaps this is a topic for a future blog post, once I have had time to digest more information on Mental Health and build an interpretation of it. I have a hunch there may be more to it than mindfulness and yoga, and I want to learn more.

The past eighteen months have taught me a lot about myself. It is a widely accepted fact that people learn more about themselves when they experience hardships. The bad times and the struggles in life are what truly define who you are. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement and I speak from experience. Last summer, I reached a very pivotal moment in my life. I found myself starting a new role in a new office with a new team, moving into a new house with new people in a new part of London, ending a new-ish relationship (#byefelicia) and facing some new health issues head-on. It has been a time of my life that has truly tested me. It continues to test me as I fight a battle against my body, which at times, is my worst enemy!

During these times, I was forced to educate myself and find ways of coping on my own. I felt confused, helpless, alone and scared. My family don’t live locally and couldn’t be there for me. My flatmates didn’t know me yet and didn’t understand why I was tired, frustrated and unwell all the time. My friends were “the other side of the river,” as we say in London, and on the occasions when we hung out, I didn’t want to spend this time talking about my struggles. So, I struggled alone. To help make myself feel better and less stressed about what I was going through, I bought face makes and scented candles, had more baths, gave myself manicures, bought a yoga mat, started listening to Podcasts, signed up for fitness events and engaged in activities that made me feel happier, more relaxed, more fulfilled and distracted me from all the physical pain, tiredness, discomfort, etc. that I was feeling.

Sleep was paramount for me during this challenging time of my life and it still is. During the worst periods, I was waking up throughout the night in panic, sweating, having nightmares, aches and pains, and would get up each morning feeling absolutely exhausted. Now, I do whatever I can to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night and I pretty much plan my life around my sleep to make sure I’m never deficient. Sleep and hormones have a very sensitive relationship and when I don’t get enough sleep, my mood, appetite, energy levels, stress levels are all completely erratic and out of control. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression or just going through a difficult time, I urge you to really prioritise sleep and you may see some very positive changes.

Apps such as Buddhify and Headspace can work wonders for people who struggle to turn off their brains and just relax. I have found a HUGE amount of comfort in music and podcasts. You will never see me without headphones in unless I’m working. Music calms me down more than I can even explain in words. My favourite podcasts are ones which feed my passions, like business, entrepreneurship, tech, start-ups and athletics. On the weekends and on some weekday evenings, I often go for long walks and plug in a Podcast. Writing this blog also helps! I am a very expressive person. I have a lot of thoughts, feelings, opinions and I need to express them, vocally or in writing. This got me into trouble when I was younger, but now I know how to better articulate what is on my mind, sharing it in written format helps me make sense of my experiences and gives me a sense of comfort. Of course, there is a narcissistic aspect to this, which is that I think somebody is actually reading this or giving a sh*t about what I have to say. But a few of you have written to me and told me how this blog has made you feel more motivated, less alone or has given you a little comfort in knowing that someone else “gets it.” Each of those messages have given me little bits of happiness, knowing that I’ve had a positive impact on you, no matter how small that impact may be.

Many of us spend a lot of time worrying about our physical appearance and how we look (myself included). Not enough of us expend the same time and effort on how we think and how we feel. You are an intelligent, interesting, wonderful human being. You have thoughts, opinions and knowledge to share. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel otherwise. Let me ask you this: if someone came along and burned all of your clothes, threw some acne on your face, cut off all your hair, and put an extra 20-30 lbs on your frame, what would be your reaction? What if you were fired from your job? What if you lost one of your best friends? How would you cope with the aftermath? Would you be mentally and emotionally strong enough to deal with it and carry on living your life? Teach yourself how to be resilient, teach yourself emotional strength and balance out where you get your confidence from. Do these things so that if you lose something in your life, you don’t self-destruct. Take care of your body AND your mind. The two are intertwined and more connected than we know. Happy Minding and have a wonderful week.