Let’s talk CONFIDENCE

The thing I like about the word ‘confidence’, is that to almost every single person on the planet it could mean something slightly different. From body confidence, to personality confidence, to occupational confidence; all have different attributes and all have different results. As fitness is obviously a huge part of my life, confidence surrounding body image is the area in which I feel as though I deal in the most. It’s an incredibly tricky subject to discuss on social media, as due to affecting such a large majority of the online population it therefore tends to attract some rather controversial opinions. One of which I believe to be that those who choose to share their fitness progress are often met with phrases such as ‘showing off’ and ‘boasting’.

The idea of shaming those who post these types of pictures both saddens and confuses me. Firstly, any girl, boy, women or man who feels pleased with the progress they have made to both their body and their health surely should not be made to feel discouraged? They should be made to feel congratulated and subsequently full of high hopes to continue their journey. Secondly, social media is FULL of people sharing news about their school grades, university acceptance, new job offer, marriage, kids, a new house; personal things in which they are proud of. So, if this is deemed socially acceptable, with posts like these receiving handfuls of likes & supportive comments from friends and family then why is it not the same for fitness posts?

The reasoning I have for this particular difference is that body confidence is something which EVERYONE struggles with, no matter how confident you may seem on the outside. From children starting high school, to fitness models at the top of the industry, everyone has parts of themselves which they dislike and wish they could change. Therefore, when viewing a friends, colleagues or even a random accounts fitness progress it can be hard to be pleased for them without succumbing to the thoughts inside your head of ‘I wish I was that skinny’ or ‘I wish my legs looked like that’.

However, the picture you are viewing on social media is a post most likely chosen out of 20-30 others, impeccably posed and then edited to the best of the account owner’s ability. So, although some people accuse transformation pictures and gym selfies as being over-confident, the reality is that these pictures have undergone just as much self-scrutiny as a typical Facebook profile picture receives. Although the person is incredibly happy with their current progress in the gym, they still have insecurities surrounding their body and goals they want to achieve.

In my opinion, for every post in which it is clear that the person behind it is proud of something, we should respond with praise and encouragement. Your reception may be the difference in them deciding to continue to pursue the difference they want to make, or giving up.

Super Tasty Overnight Oats

Breakfast is hands down my favourite meal of the day. I get SO excited about creating new recipes and amazing combos- especially when it comes to oats! This is one of my favourites at the moment as it’s light, quick to make and very summery.

Ingredients:

  • 40g Rolled Oats
  • Half a Tablespoon of Cacao Powder
  • 1 Ripe Banana
  • 4 Strawberries
  • A Handful of Blueberries
  • 100ml of Almond Milk
  • 2 squares of Galaxy Cookie Crumble (optional… but would recommend!)

Recipe:

  1. Measure out 40g of rolled oats and pour them into a bowl.
  2. Put the banana, strawberries, blueberries, cacao powder and almond milk into a blender.
  3. Pour the mixture onto the oats, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.
  4. Add ALLLLLLLLL the toppings

Life Made Easier with Meal Prep

Summer in the UK is a big deal. Well, let me re-phrase, summer which actually represents a summer (aka the sun actually comes out) is a big deal. It puts the majority of the UK population in a better mood, makes for a better Instagram picture and also simultaneously turns said population into alcoholics, with “pub?” or “drinks tonight?” being frequent questions amongst thousands of group chats.

And although alcohol is your fitness stories worst enemy, it would be rude not to enjoy the rare occurrence of being sat outside in the sun with a #bev repeating “wow, it’s boiling isn’t it?”, applying the temperature filter on snapchat or tweeting “this weather” followed by a tick emoji. So, in order to stay on track with that summer body, a simple trick is to meal prep throughout the week so that you can indulge in these types of treats and not feel guilty.

Whether you’re at work or at home, meal prepping saves time, money and prevents you going off track by grabbing the nearest thing in sight when the hunger pains hit. I’m more of a grazer, so I tend to go for a three meals and then 4 snacks throughout the day. However, I am currently choosing to do a ‘slow bulk’, in order to bring back some of the muscle I lost from half-marathon training, so if you’re looking to lean out then three meals and two to three snacks will be sufficient.

I like to keep my meal prep interesting. You should look forward to the food you’ve got to eat- not dread it. Below I’m going to include an example of a lean meal prep and a ‘slow bulk’ meal prep, which can also be followed by those who are planning on lifting heavy weights on that specific day.

LEAN PREP

Breakfast: Spinach, Blueberries, 1 ripe Banana & Almond Milk Smoothie

Snack: Nature Valley Oat Bar / Primal Pantry Bar / Deliciously Ella Ball

Lunch: Protein | Healthy Fats | Greens

Combo 1: Chicken, Avocado, Spinach

Combo 2: Boiled Eggs, Walnuts, Kale

Combo 3: Tuna, Avocado, Lettuce

Combo 4: Salmon, Walnuts, Asparagus

Snack: Sliced Banana on Nairns Crackers with a drizzle of Honey

Dinner: Protein | Carbs | Vegetables

Combo 1: Chicken, Coconut Rice, Asparagus

Combo 2: Sea Bass, New Potatoes, fried Courgette & Tomatoes

Combo 3: Low-Fat Mince, Wholegrain Pasta, Tomato Puree & fried Peppers

Combo 4: Lightly Battered Haddock, Coconut Rice, Tomatoes, Cucumber, Lettuce

Snack (if needed): Two scoops of Swedish Glace Ice Cream

Water Intake: 3-4 Litres & 2 Peppermint Teas

 

‘SLOW BULK’ or HEAVY WEIGHTS PREP

Breakfast: Wholegrain Rolled Oats, Coyo Yoghurt, Blueberries

Snack 1: Pineapple Chunks, Strawberries & Raspberries

Snack 2: Rebel Kitchen Mylk Drink / Kombuccha / Coconut Water

Lunch: Protein | Carbs | Healthy Fats | Greens

Combo 1: Chicken, Sourdough Bread, Avocado Lettuce, Tomato

Combo 2: Tuna, Coconut Rice, Walnuts, Spinach

Combo 3: Salmon, Wholegrain Bagel, Low-Fat Cream Cheese & Asparagus

Combo 4: Sea Bass, Wholegrain Pasta, Chia Seeds, Lettuce, Tomatoes

Snack 3: Gluten Free Ginger Snaps / Nature Valley Oat Bar / Proper Corn Popcorn

Dinner: Protein | Carbs | Healthy Fats | Greens

Combo 1: Chicken, Whole Grain Pasta, Coconut Oil, Spinach

Combo 2: Poached Eggs, Whole grain Bagel, Avocado, Asparagus

Combo 3: Heck Sausages, New Potatoes, Chia Seeds, Green Beans

Combo 4: Low-Fat Minced Burger, Sweet Potato, Walnuts, Peppers

Snack 4: Paleo Blueberry Muffin, Blueberries, Strawberries, Swedish Glace Ice Cream

Water Intake: 2/3 Litres & 1 Peppermint Tea

Meal Prep is a great way to keep on track but it’s important not to get too caught up with it. Make sure you have 2 or 3 treats a week, enjoy these treats without feeling guilty and if you slip from prep don’t feel bad! Just enjoy the rest and be extra motivated to get back to it the next day 🙂

Click here to see my latest video of a KILLER glute workout and my moving to london blog.

What I Eat In A Day And Why

For many people the hardest aspect of losing weight, or toning up, is diet. Once you’ve established a routine, exercise quickly becomes addictive, but there is absolutely nothing addictive about choosing a riveta cracker over a chocolate fudge cake.

At

All.

Both the problem, and the benefit, of fitness social media accounts, is that the pictures of victoria secret model lookalikes posing on a Caribbean beach is enough to make you consider whether you can in fact live off a grape a day. But, if you dedicate some serious scrolling time, you’ll learn that the majority of these girls are actually consuming 2000+ calories a day, alongside exercise, they just know exactly what to eat.

So what should you be eating? I have changed, adapted & tweaked my diet frequently over the last four years depending on my goals and shape. Right now, I’m consuming 2000-2500 calories on days which I train Legs, Glutes & Arms and 2000 calories on a day where I train Abs. I separate my calories into 4 or 5 separate meals, as I find eating little and often gives me the best results, and I ALWAYS ensure I’m eating 5+ fruit and veggies a day (being a newly converted pescatraian helps).

This is a typical meal plan for a weight intensive day at the gym for me. It consists of whole foods, fruit, veggies, protein, carbs & healthy fats which all assist in achieving goals on the outside of your body, and making you feel good on the inside too.

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Pre Workout & Breakfast

  • 6 Strawberries
  • 10 Blueberries
  • 1 Banana
  • 4 tablespoons of ‘Oatly’ Oat Drink
  • 2 tablespoons of Coyo Coconut Yoghurt
  • Grenade Caramel Chaos Protein Bar

Using a blender, blend the strawberries, blueberries, banana, oat drink and yoghurt together. Pour into a bowl and then add the chopped up Grenade bar and any excess fruit. Smoothie bowls are a great way to consume a large majority of your 5 a day, and coupling it with a protein bar before your workout gives you the extra energy you need to smash your workout.

 

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Taken with breakfast

Every morning  I take one Zinc tablet and two Peppermint tablets with breakfast. Zinc helps build immunity as well as maintaining hormonal balance and the growth of your skin, hair and nails. Peppermint tablets assist in relaxing your stomach muscles and encourage sufficient digestion.

http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/holland-barrett-extra-strength-oil-of-peppermint-capsules-200mg-60005010

http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/holland-barrett-high-strength-zinc-tablets-15mg-60005711

 

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Taken after Breakfast (and each meal)

If you suffer with bloating after certain foods, or a big meal, then taking two capsules after eating helps to improve that uncomfortable feeling. Or, if you simply want to aid digestion then these work rapidly in assisting this. I take two after every big meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and then one after my snack.

https://www.philrichardsperformance.co.uk/index.php/super-digestive-enzymes.html

 

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Post Workout & Lunch

  • Tila Coconut Basmati Rice
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Asparagus

This meal takes under 5 minutes to prepare yet it’s filled with complex carbs, healthy fats and a source of veggies. I try to include asparagus with at least two meals a day as it’s a natural diuretic, meaning it’s great at cleansing your digestive system. Substituting salmon for a lean chicken is also a great combination.

 

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Afternoon Snack

  • Narins Oat Crackers
  • 1 Banana
  • 4 scoops of Muscle Food Prutella Hazelnut Spread

This is the perfect snack to have mid-afternoon if you need an extra boost (or to satisfy some sugar cravings). Another one of your five a day ticked off and a great source of protein from the Prutella spread which will continue to assist your muscles throughout the day.

http://www.musclefood.com/prutella-chocolate-hazelnut-spread.html/

 

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Dinner

  • 1/2 cup of Pasta
  • 4 Broccoli Stems
  • 6 Green Beans
  • 2 Stems of Asparague
  • 1/2 cup of Sweetcorn
  • Handle of Mixed Peppers
  • Cod Loin

With my dinner I like to pile on as many veggies as I can, alongside a sufficient carbs and protein hit. This is usually my last source of food during the day, unless I’m particularly hungry and fancy another snack, so I like it to be as filling as possible. Again, substituting the cod with another lean meat is equally as tasty.

This is just an example of one of my week day meal plans. I like to try and mix it up everyday to ensure I still get excited about making and planning food. However, even though I may change the rice to a wholewheat bagel, or substitute pasta for potatoes, I’m still ensuring that I’m consuming good, whole foods, which I enjoy eating and give me the results I want.

How Pescatarian Week Affected My Fitness

Due to having a mixture of both vegetarian and pescatarian close friends, me and my two meat-loving flatmates decided to try and last a week following one of these diets. Due to the amount of weight-based exercise I partake in each week, coupled with training for an upcoming half-marathon, I chose the pescatarian diet; to ensure I was still getting a substantial amount of naturally sourced protein.

I found the week a LOT easier than I expected. I only had one near meltdown, going to Gourmet Burger Kitchen and having to order a bean burger instead of my usual meaty stack, but aside from this, I had no substantial urge to eat meat. I am certain that meal planning immensely assisted my lack of cravings, as I had bought and prepped breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner throughout the week.

The plan was as follows:

Monday-

Exercise: 1hour Body Pump

Breakfast: Weetabix & Blueberries

Lunch- Feta Cheese Salad & Asparagus

Snack- Strawberries, Banana, Raspberries & Activia Low Fat Yoghurt

Dinner- Salmon & Spinach Fishcake, Carrot, Broccoli, Green Beans & Sweet Potato

 

Tuesday-

Exercise: 3K Sprint Run & Ab workout

Breakfast: Weetabix & Blueberries

Lunch- Salmon & Cream Cheese Bagel

Snack- Strawberries, Banana, Raspberries & Activia Low Fat Yoghurt

Dinner- Low Fat Aubergine & Mozzarella Pasta Bake

 

Wednesday-

Exercise: 20 Minute Ab Workout

Breakfast: Weetabix & Blueberries

Lunch: Golden Vegetable Rice, Green Beans & Asparagus

Snack: Strawberries, Banana, Raspberries & Activia Low Fat Yoghurt

Dinner: Veggie Burgers, Tomato, Lettuce, Fresh Ciabatta, Carrot & Broccoli

 

Thursday-

Exercise: 7K Run

Breakfast: Weetabix & Blueberries

Lunch: Feta Cheese Salad & Asparagus

Snack: Snack: Strawberries, Banana, Raspberries & Activia Low Fat Yoghurt

Dinner: Gourmet Burger Kitchens “Californian Bean Burger” with mature cheddar, avocado, smoked chili mayo, crispy onions & relish.

 

Friday-

Exercise: Rest Day

Breakfast: Breakfast: Weetabix & Blueberries

Snack: Strawberries, Banana, Grapes, Raspberries & Activia Low Fat Yoghurt

Dinner: Veggie Lasagne, Carrots, Broccoli, Green Beans & Sweet Potato

 

Saturday-

Exercise: 1hour Body Combat

Breakfast: Breakfast: Breakfast: Weetabix & Blueberries

Lunch: Scrambled Egg & Salmon Bagel

Snack: Strawberries, Banana, Grapes, Raspberries & Activia Low Fat Yoghurt

Dinner: Veggie burgers, Lime & Coriander Rice, Carrots, Broccoli & Green Beans

 

Sunday-

Exercise: 1hour Triple Challenge

Breakfast: Weetabix & Blueberries

Lunch: Lunch: Scrambled Egg & Salmon Bagel

Snack: Strawberries, Banana, Grapes, Raspberries & Activia Low Fat Yoghurt

Dinner: Cod & Parsley Fishcake, Carrots, Broccoli, Sprouts & New Potatoes

 

My breakfasts are usually a tad more exciting than a grainy cereal & some blueberries, but due to meat being a solid source of fibre, I wanted to ensure that I was still getting a regular intake. The same goes for my afternoon snack of fruit and Activia yoghurt, due to training for the half marathon I’m not consuming any processed sugar for just under a month in order to aid my endurance. You could easily supplement this with snacks such as a peanut butter & banana bagel, a low-carb/ high protein bar, oats & fruit, cream cheese & riveta, carrots and humus- the list is endless.

Although I didn’t experience any major cravings, I did notice a difference in my energy levels. Despite, on some nights, getting 9 or 10 hours sleep I was still waking up feeling fatigued, leading to a further decrease in energy as the day progressed. Assuming this was due to a sudden lack of iron (largely found in meats: especially red meat) I started taking iron supplements every morning, which began to help towards the end of the week.

I also noticed a difference in my muscle performance. I was struggling with my usual squatting weight, due to aches and pains from previous workouts (usually healed fairly fast by a large in-take of protein), and my stamina was also suffering with long distance running. However, in terms of mind-set and motivation, I felt great. Whether this was simply due to a sense of sheer determination in not giving in to a Nando’s wrap, or whether my sudden increase in fruit and veg was to blame, who knows? But I enjoyed it.

If I was to follow the diet again, or consider converting to pescy full-time, I would definitely repeat planning meals ahead and taking iron, vitamin and protein supplements. Even though I have just demolished a well-earned beef burger, with 0 regret, I am definitely going to keep including a more varied mixture of veg with my normal diet, as well as Tesco’s Salmon & Spinach fishcakes. Once you’ve had one, you’ll understand.

Why Variety Is Key To A Healthy Lifestyle

Boredom can be one of the main reasons why people swiftly abandon their mission of getting fit and living a healthier lifestyle. Thought of eating salad every day? Boring. Thought of running aimlessly on a treadmill? Boring. Same ‘motivational’ playlist on Spotify? Boring? Unless you find a type of exercise, or a particular diet, which well and truly motivates you, it’s going to be extremely hard to stick to a regime. These are the tips I use throughout the week, in terms of diet, exercise & general wellbeing in order to ensure enough variety.

 

Diet

This is perhaps the most important aspect of a healthy lifestyle to constantly switch up. There is nothing worse than being disappointed at the thought of an upcoming meal, as more often than not the temptation to then replace this meal with something a lot less healthier suddenly becomes very high.  My main tip for avoiding this scenario is to meal plan. It takes 10 minutes, you have no excuse not to fill it with healthy, yet enjoyable food and it also hinders snacking (not on the meal plan? then don’t eat it).

There is a rather large misconception when it comes to dieting or keeping fit; in that you can only eat rabbit food, otherwise you won’t lose an ounce. If you’re exercising daily, or multiple days a week, this can often be more dangerous than beneficial. You need enough protein, healthy fats, fruit/veg and carbohydrates in your diet in order to assist any bodily changes. The exact macros vary, depending on what your goal is, (gaining muscle mass, carb-cycling, cutting etc.), but if you just want to ensure a healthy, balanced diet then aim for one item of carbohydrate, two portions of fruit or veg and a source of protein in every meal. Drinking enough water is also crucial, especially on day’s where you’re exercising, as it’s very easy to become dehydrated and fatigued.

 

Exercise 

Finding the right type of exercise which suits both your ability, time frame and will also ensure you meet your personal goals is KEY. There is no point deciding on a Sunday night that you’re going to go to the gym every day of the week for two hours because a) it’s fairly unlikely you’ll be able to fit that in to your weekly schedule b) you’re certain to get bored of the same routine and c) you’ll end up feeling negative and disappointed in yourself. Set more practical aims such as 3 days a week in the gym, coupled with an exercise class or a long walk, to ensure you have enough variety.

Finding the right type of exercise for you is also crucial; you want to be eager to go and workout, not counting down the minutes until it’s over. If you really detest the gym, then exercise classes such as the Les Mills series of Body Pump, Body Combat and Body Attack provide just as good a workout in a fun, relaxed environment. Swimming and outdoor running / cycling are also great additions to a cardio workout, with the added benefit of a change of scenery.

 

Wellbeing 

In terms of general wellbeing, it’s important not to get too obsessive. Yes, exercising and healthy eating are key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and for many people they feel better in themselves for doing it. However, everyone needs a treat or something to look forward to, and if you deny yourself these things then even though your body may be healthy, your mind won’t be.

Try and eat/drink/do one thing per week which you know you will look forward to, and consequently motivate you. For me, it’s usually a chocolate desert or a night out, something which makes a particularly hard session worth it. Yoga and Pilates are also a great way to de-stress, perhaps during the end of a busy week in work. There are plenty of mobile phone apps which offer routines which you can follow in the comfort of your own home.

How to get back on track after Christmas

The Christmas period is, without a doubt, one of the hardest times of the year to stick to a fitness and healthy eating regime. With endless meals out, leftover buffets & enough celebration boxes to last you a lifetime, it’s incredibly easy to feel as though you’ve put on some extra weight. However, you can easily get yourself back on track with these key tips.

Do NOT feel guilty 

Sure, it can be slightly depressing looking at the thousands of empty chocolate wrappers but SO WHAT, it’s Christmas! The main thing which prevents people from getting back on track after the festive period is mind-set. Your mind is frantically trying to add up how many calories you’ve consumed over the three cheeseboards, but in reality, a few days eating a little more than usual isn’t going to make you put on an unfathomable amount of weight, just like going to the gym a few times doesn’t make the pounds instantly drop. It’s natural to lose some confidence and motivation when your routine is disrupted, but as soon as you finish your first session you’ll forget why you were even worried.

Take it slow

A crucial mistake is to absolutely smash your first session back in the gym. Ultimately leading to either a serious injury or severely aching muscles, further prolonging getting back to your regime. The best routine to undertake on your first day back is a light cardio session, this will activate the majority of your muscles, without running the risk of a pull or a sprain. Start with a short run or fast walk on the treadmill, around 15-20 minutes on a gradient of 3 or 4, followed by the cross trainer on a low intensity level for 10 minutes, and then cool down with the bike for another 10 minutes.

Plan new goals

A short period away from the gym is a great opportunity to plan new fitness goals. Take some down time to work out where you want to be in the next 3 months, 6 months and this time next year. Try incorporating this tip with a friend or family member by planning a run for charity, or choosing a goal weight for you both to reach by a certain month. This will keep you focused, improve your motivation and provide a lot more fun than working out alone.

Do a cleanse

Unfortunately, a lot of the typical food consumed over Christmas is high in carbs, fat and sugar, therefore a few days cleanse is a great way to re-fuel your body with nutrients and feel a lot better on the inside. There are various juice detoxes available online, but these can often contain harmful ingredients, so the safest way to cleanse is to simply use natural remedies. Start your day with three slices of lemon in hot water, this is a diuretic which aids the reduction of bloating and flushes out any unwanted toxins. Try to consume five portions of vegetables and five portions of fruit per day throughout your cleanse; making them into a soup or a smoothie is a great way to incorporate them all. Have a medium to large sized portion of natural yoghurt per day, it is filled with natural probiotics which help to re-balance the good and bad bacteria in the gut. Drink at least 3-4 litres of room temperature water per day; if the water is too cold this can cause the gut to bloat and produce abdominal pains. Finally, avoid any foods with sugar which isn’t naturally formed. Stay away from chocolate bars, cereals and sweets and, when the cravings kick in, try honey or frozen grapes instead.

Try something new

If you are among the large majority of people who despise the gym, then there are plenty of other ways to keep fit and beat the Christmas blues. Do some research around the area you live and plan some scenic running routes, try a group exercise class, go on regular fast- paced walks with a friend, opt to cycle to school/university/work instead of driving, join the local swimming baths or even buy a cross trainer or treadmill to use at home.