Need help avoiding the Christmas crazy?

Christmas is a time of extremes, it seems – we’re being sold gastronomic delights, whilst also being told that we need to ‘slim down’ for the Christmas party dress/suit/outfit of your choice. These conflicting messages can wreak havoc for the most of us – “gorge yourself on this festive treat” … “how to stay lean over the Christmas period” (no prizes for guessing where that article came from!) – but for some these messages can be seriously dangerous!

The holiday season shouldn’t be plagued by guilt and worry about ‘staying lean’ or ‘working off you Christmas dinner’. But trust me, I understand all too well how easy it is to be affected by these messages that surround us.

I absolutely love Christmas and all the baking and food preparation involved, but I used to stress about how much I could have, how I would look in X outfit and how I would ensure that come the New Year I hadn’t put on any weight. And who can blame me, or you, when we are practically swimming in messages telling us how we should look, which exercises are best for burning calories etc etc. This is called diet culture and this is a pretty good definition from Body Positive Australia;

Diet culture encompasses all the messages that tell us that we’re not good enough in the bodies we have, and we’d be more worthwhile and valuable if our bodies were different…Diet culture is deeply ingrained in our everyday existence and prevents us from living our most full and meaningful lives”

The concept of diet culture is a hefty discussion and not one that would fit into this article but many of the resources below talk about it in a really clear way.

 

All the crazy diet and food talk over Christmas can get you doubting yourself, and start the niggling thoughts that maybe you should do something about your body – and let’s not even get into the rubbish that comes out in the New Year!

I found that questioning what I read and saw in magazines, online and in adverts started changing the way I felt about eating and released me from some of the rules and anxieties I had picked up on. Everyone is different, so I just wanted to include some of the very small things that made a big difference for me, and started making me realise that there’s more to life than worrying about food and the way I look. These are pretty good tips for all year round if you feel like your social media etc. need a shake-up – but seeing as the messages seem to be amplified around this time of year I thought it would be a good time to write about it.

 

Unsubscribe to mailing lists for Women’s Health or other websites, magazines etc. offering constant weight loss (or ‘optimal wellness’ advice). There are so many diet-related messages that we can’t avoid seeing on billboards and in newspapers, for example, that we can’t control, but let this be your chance to take back control of your inbox!

 

For no-nonsense chat about food and nutrition the following Instagram accounts are a diet-free zone:

Laura Thomas 

Pixie Turner

Christy Harrison

Untrapped

Fiona Sutherland

Not Plant Based

(Laura, Pixie and Fiona are all doing some form of anti-diet/bullshit advent calendar on Instagram this year.)

 

I’ve started listening to some great podcasts that discuss the concepts of Health at Every Size, and non-diet approaches to health – something that I’m still learning a lot about as it’s in contrast to the ‘anti-obesity’ messages we’re constantly fed. These podcasts are particular favourites of mine at the moment:

Don’t Salt My Game

Food Psych

All Fired Up

 

And the following accounts are my favourites for spreading the body positivity message. There are a lot more accounts than I have listed here, so go explore this wonderful section of instagram for yourself! As Laura Thomas always says, diversifying your social media feeds can do wonders for the way we feel about our own bodies. Seeing people of all sizes, colours, abilities, ages and genders living happy and fulfilling lives is a breath of fresh air compared to the usual narrative that only young, white, able bodied girls are happy – and only once they’ve lost those magic 5 lbs. These can help you on your way to body acceptance and body love.

Megan Crabbe

Michelle Elman

Taryn Brumfitt

Stephanie Yeboah

F*** Your Fitspo

 

This is by no means a definitive list of accounts to follow, nor do I claim to be an expert on food anxieties or body positivity. And if you think that you or a loved one might be struggling with signs or symptoms of disordered eating please try to reach out for professional help – there are some helpful resources on the BEAT website.)

 

I hope you have a Merry Christmas, or holiday season, enjoy, and try not to become overwhelmed or hoodwinked by the incessant diet talk!

 

Taking some time out…

Despite the impression that you may have got, I haven’t completely given up on this blog! I absolutely love writing on here – I find it extremely cathartic. But as I’ve got stuck into my final year of uni, I’ve realised that I actually have quite a lot on my plate. So I’ll still be posting on here sporadically but I’m not going to put myself under any pressure to do so regularly. I’m sure you’ll all understand!

This term I’m diving head first into my final project for which I’m writing a systematic review on the effect that a healthy diet has on the psychological well-being of teenagers – so interesting, right?

(A systematic review is a type of literature review that critically analyses research studies that have already been conducted in a specific area to try and decipher whether there actually is an overall effect) 

So don’t be alarmed by the silence – I’m still ticking away at uni and I’ll write on here every now and again when inspiration hits!

In the meantime, stay updated with my goings-on in London by following me on Instagram @jess_rann

x

A Florentine Holiday

Italy has sat at the top of my travel wish list for as long as I can remember, so goodness knows why it’s taken me so long to visit! My long-awaited summer holiday this year was to Florence, and the beautiful city lived up to all of my romantic expectations. With many referring to Tuscany as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, its capital is oozing with cultural delights.

I thought I’d share a few of my favourite finds from the trip but please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do/places to see. If I could go back and stay for a year I would – and I’m sure I’d still run out of time to fully appreciate everything that there is to do and see (and eat) in Florence.

My boyfriend and I stayed to the west of Florence, a short bus ride from the city centre, surrounded by Tuscan countryside and close to the river Arno. Taking a walk up through the surrounding hills and villages, we stumbled across olive groves aplenty and a church at almost every turn!

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Whilst exploring we found an old mill that had been converted into a beautiful hotel
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For a panoramic view of the city, a climb up through the Boboli gardens to the Basilica di San Miniato to the south of the city centre is perfect and offers a little breather from the busy cobbled streets. Maybe avoid doing the walk in the midday heat though – we made that mistake and it made for a rather sweaty time.

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The tier of palaces, villas and gardens of Boboli
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A must-do when you are visiting Florence has to be climbing the Duomo, the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Situated in the historic criss-cross streets in the heart of Florence, and what feels like the tourist hub, the dome is one of the city’s most iconic sights. Not recommended for anyone suffering with vertigo or claustrophobia, the 463-step climb up the steep interior steps culminate in a spectacular 360-degree view of the city. (You need to pre-book a time-slot to climb the Duomo.)

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The fresco’s on the interior of the duomo depicting The Last Judgement
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For a little bit of retail therapy, Boutique Nadine in the Santa Croce neighbourhood is a slightly pricey but beautifully curated boutique. It’s worth taking a wander through the streets of Santa Croce which can feel like a haven from the tourists. Soul Kitchen Bar, which is just next door to Boutique Nadine on Via de’ Benci, is a perfect low-key spot for cocktails and people watching in the early evening.

 

The food was undeniably the best part of the trip – the pizza, the cheeses, the pasta…

The top markets that I would recommend wandering round are the Mercato Centrale (Florence’s central market) and the Sant’Ambrugio Market. Both offer an attack on the senses as you peruse the various local delicacies as well as fruits and vegetables, and fish and meat counters.

 

My final recommendation from the trip would be to visit Touch for dinner. Offering modern dishes made with traditional Tuscan ingredients, you can choose between a tasting menu or order à la carte. It was the most expensive meal of our whole trip (pizzas usually cost around 7€) with the tasting menu costing 40€ without wine. However, the flavours were astounding, and with wonderfully accommodating staff who were more than happy to recommend dishes or wine to compliment the meal, it was definitely our favourite meal of the trip.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about a few of our favourite spots – I’m already trying to work out when I can go back!

What the *$!@ is #selfcaresunday?

Type the above hashtag into Instagram and you are bombarded with images of young wellness bloggers posting photos of them going ‘off the grid’ and ‘taking time out for themselves’. While this is completely unattainable for most of us (hello, student budget/full-time job/[insert life commitment here]), there is some benefit to the idea of ‘self care’. Sometimes our day-to-day can be so hectic, and when we actually have a half an hour to ourselves with nothing to do most of us grab our phones. Now, I’m as fond of scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest as the next person, but I regularly fall down the black hole of social media and realise that an hour has passed and, yet again, I didn’t have my relaxing bath or whatever I had wanted to do that evening.

Therefore, I have written myself a list of activities that I know I enjoy doing for those evenings when I have half an hour (I know that for some people even this seems like a luxury) or so to see if it will encourage me to give myself some lovin’ that doesn’t involve the instant gratification of social media.

This is my list below – I’d love to hear about any of your favourite self-care activities!

  • Make a cup of herbal tea (*current favourite = lemon and ginger)
  • Read some of my book in bed
  • Do an adult dot-to-dot (don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it – dot-to-dots with 1,000 dots are tricky!)
  • Challenge myself to a sudoku
  • Run a bubble bath
  • Paint your nails
  • Do some of your colouring book
  • Listen to a podcast in bed
  • Go for a short walk
  • Listen to a favourite album from start to finish (no shuffling)
  • Do a face mask
  • Catch up on some favourite blog posts
  • Take a long shower
  • Call my mum/nana/granny/neighbour
  • Watch a DVD

 

I hope you get a chance to practice some self-care this week.

X

 

Image: pexels.com

Guest post: Why I love yoga

My friend from uni, Sarah, has written a beautiful post about her love of yoga and how it’s helped her, especially whilst living in crazy London. This post is such a delight to read, hopefully it’ll bring you spot of calm on your morning commute or wherever else you might be reading this. 

~

A few months ago now my wonderful friend, ex-flat mate, fellow dietetics student and founder of this amazing blog – Jess – asked me to write a guest post about Yoga. Maybe it was the many evenings when we lived together and I went out into the cold dark night saying “Going to yoga, see you later” that made her wonder what I actually like about it so much. Especially because she knows that I’m not actually a huge fan of exercise…

 

So I will attempt to put it into words here. Growing up, to me yoga was something old people do- my grandma has been practicing yoga for years, my dad used to back in his hippy days, and whenever I had gone to a yoga class at my local gym in Germany I lowered the average age dramatically. I started to like yoga when I was 16-17 years old- I’d got a free DVD with a magazine and I started to practice semi-regularly. I’ve always been quite stretchy so it came easily to me in the beginning, which is probably why I stuck with it and started to do more. When I moved to London three years ago there was a really cool yoga studio near my halls of residence and I went almost every day and I think that is when I first really fell in love with the practice. Now I don’t have money for studios anymore so I just improvise on my mat at home which is cool too 🙂

 

I love the word practice – because that is what yoga is about: it is not mastering a contortionistic pose that may get you loads of Instagram likes, but it is about practicing. Practicing awareness, practicing self-care, practicing kindness, gratitude and really feeling your breath and your body.

To paraphrase Waylon Lewis (the founder of elephantjournal.com), Yoga is not yoga pants, or young models stopping at Wholefoods on their way home from class to pick up some quinoa. Yoga is a spiritual path; yoga is about opening up your mind and heart and becoming a more present, sane, compassionate and relaxed human being.

 

I think today many people are attracted to yoga for the physical side of it- the Asana practice. And this is great of course- whatever brings you to the mat is great. But know that once you start, yoga will change you.

 

This ancient practice is made up of 8 limbs and Asana is just one of them. The first two limbs- Yama and Niyama are about ethical standards, integrity, self-discipline and spirituality. Asana is the third limb of yoga and this is what we usually practice in a yoga class. Asana is about making a deep connection to the body and using the body to still the mind (if you’re focusing on not falling over in a headstand it is hard to worry about why someone hasn’t texted you back yet). Pranayama– or control of the breath- is the fourth limb of yoga. The breath is one of the most powerful tools for meditation, because it gives you something to concentrate on even if you are completely still. The 5th limb Pratyahara is about withdrawing our senses from the external world and focusing on what we feel inside. Dharana (No. 6) is about concentration, Dhyana is meditation and the final stage Samadhi is described as the completion of the yogic path and is sometimes translated as ‘enlightenment’. I’ve not gotten that far obvs 😛

If this philosophy aspect sounds kind of cool to you, you can check out “The tree of yoga” by B. K. S. Iyengar. It sums it up pretty nicely.

 

I hope that philosophy lesson hasn’t put anyone off – it is not something that is talked about in a lot of yoga classes so don’t worry if you’re not an ultra-spiritual kind of person! I think yoga can be intimidating for a lot of people. I’ve heard many times “oh I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible” or “I can’t sit still” or some variation of that. If that is you, I think that is exactly why you SHOULD try yoga. As I said before it is about practicing and I think especially if you are struggling with flexibility or quieting the mind or anything else that intimidates you about yoga- maybe you can get better at it if you practice! Also, every yoga pose can be modified to what feels good for you – nobody will expect you to do the splits (or monkey pose) in the first class. You will get better over time!

 

I love yoga because for me it is incredibly empowering. I feel super badass getting on the bus in the morning after playing around on my mat for a bit. It’s fun to experiment with what my body can do, where it can go. It is also super adaptable – some days I want to move and then doing a physically challenging flow can be great, but if I’m honest that is not always the case ;). But even if I feel shit I can always do a more restorative kind of practice, or even just sit on my mat for 5 minutes and listen to my breath.

Living in London for the past 3 years, away from all my friends and family hasn’t been easy. But yoga has given me something to come back to, a place to come home to.

 

Seriously guys, you should give it a try 😉 And you can find great classes online for free, e.g. Bad Yogi on Youtube!

 

Love, Sarah xx

Hiking in Hertfordshire

Just as the thought of another sweaty sticky weekend in London started to lose its charm my boyfriend pulled one out of the bag and planned a hike in the Hertfordshire countryside.

On Saturday morning, we hauled ourselves across London to catch a 45-minute train from Euston to Tring where we walked a total of 9 miles around Ivinghoe Beacon and the Ashridge Estate. As part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the views definitely didn’t disappoint!

Although we had a little bit of a rocky start finding the route, the rest of the walk was pretty plain sailing in terms of directions – be prepared for a rather hilly hike though. (The route for the walk that we took can be found here.)

We found a great country pub for lunch, The Grand Junction Arms, nestled on the edge of the canal that serves delicious pub classics as well as offering an array of seasonal specials. We bagged a spot in the beer garden for a good couple of hours, recovering before a short walk back to Tring station.

I was definitely feeling the after effects on Sunday but the stunning views and picturesque cottages made the 30,000 steps worth it! Below are a few of our photos from the weekend.

We’ve made a pledge to try and make it out of London to go hiking at least one weekend a month so please share your recommendations! Have a great week!

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Ivinghoe Beacon

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A weekend trip to the coast

I did it! I made it through what has felt like the most difficult revision and exam period so far. To celebrate finishing, my boyfriend and I escaped down to the Kent Coast with friends for a weekend. We stayed in Westgate-on-Sea, a stone’s throw away from Margate. I know what you’re all thinking – Margate for a weekend escape? But give it a go. There are some beautiful shops, cafes and restaurants to try, and let’s not forget the huge sandy beaches – and the fact that it’s only an hour and a half from London!

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@annagregson

We were extremely lucky with the weather and had such a beautiful weekend that I wanted to share some our finds.

 

Margate

I highly recommend taking a stroll around the cobbled streets of Margate Old Town, home to some lovely little homeware and vintage shops, galleries and coffee shops.

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Margate Harbour: @dane_rock

 

Buoy and Oyster, 44 High Street, CT9 1DS

Looking out over Margate harbour, Buoy and Oyster offers stunning views, whether it’s a sunny summer’s day or stormy winter weather. This gorgeous restaurant serves seasonal fish and seafood with a modern British slant, as well as offering delightful-looking cocktails. The four of us ordered oysters (most of us trying them for the first time), a bottle of white wine and a main meal each, coming to a total of £29 per person, including service. Being used to London restaurant prices we practically skipped out of the restaurant, having enjoyed such a delightful lunch! I highly recommend the halibut on their current menu.

 

The Cupcake Café, 4-5 Market Place, CT9 1EN

Situated in a little courtyard, this café serves cakes, coffees and snacks all day. If you’re lucky you might be able to bag a table outside in the sun and people watch to your heart’s content! Next door is The Greedy Cow café, which we didn’t get to try, but about which I’ve heard very good things!

 

The Light Keeper, 8 Broad Street, CT9 1EW

A beautiful lighting emporium tucked away in Margate Old Town, this is definitely worth checking out even if you don’t need to buy a light fitting. The unique designs are fascinating and constantly updated.

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The Light Keeper: @dane_rock

 

Qing Interiors, 3 Lombard Street, CT9 1EN

Unique and bespoke designs sit next to exquisite vintage oriental home furnishings. I highly recommend a visit to Qing Interiors – it couldn’t feel further away from what you’d expect in an English coastal town.

 

Etcetera Interiors Ltd, 35 Hawley Street, CT9 1QA

One of many beautiful homeware shops in Margate, they sell minimalist designs. I had to keep reminding myself that I live in a small flat and that I definitely don’t need any more cushions/throws/plants…

 

Turner Contemporary, The Rendezvous, CT9 1HG

This art gallery is situated on the edge of the harbour and runs various exhibitions throughout the year, most of them free of charge. With a lovely coffee shop as well, it can provide some entertainment or a couple of hours.

 

Whitstable

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Whitstable wall art: @dane_rock

Whitstable is an old fishing village, famous for its oysters in particular. Down by the harbour there are some fishing huts selling local crafts and sweet treats. If you walk further along through the harbour you come to the fish markets which, even if you’re not keen on eating fish, are well worth a wander round as they’re selling a huge range of produce. Many of the fishmongers may also be happy to let you try local delicacies such as oysters or cockles if you’ve never had them before.

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Whitstable Harbour: @dane_rock

 

The Forge, 1 Sea Wall, CT5 1BX

I’m going out on a limb here to suggest that this was the best fish and chips I’ve ever eaten! The Forge looks like a converted beach hut but don’t be fooled. It serves the crispiest, fluffiest chips I think I have ever eaten with the usual selection of fish. The real secret of this place, however, is that it sells deliciously fresh oysters and lobster as well. The half lobster and chips with salad for £13.50 was such a treat! Eating it on the beach in 23 degree heat felt as though we were truly on holiday!

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Lobster on the beach: @dane_rock

 

I also recommend taking a wander round Whitstable village and having a look in the shops or admiring the beautiful cottages. And if pretty cottages and the beach won’t suffice, Whitstable Castle and Gardens are well worth a visit.

 

In case you hadn’t noticed, we tended to veer towards homeware shops on this trip – early twenties going on middle-aged, clearly! This is by no means an extensive list of what’s available to see and do in Margate, and this post is not sponsored – just a selection of our favourite finds from last weekend.

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Our beautiful holiday apartment

I hope you have a great weekend and enjoy the sun – let’s hope it lasts!

 

Main photo: @edenmorse21