The Danger of Influencers

This is a post that I’ve been thinking about writing for a long time now, but so many things have happened recently that I just can’t keep my mouth shut.

This week, Kim Kardashian has set the internet on fire with her Instagram post promoting ‘appetite suppressant’ lollipops. Now you don’t have to be a genius to read those three words and think wow what a joke, right?

Well, the problem is not everyone will think that. Celebrities and influencers all over the world have been promoting nonsense like skinny teas, waist trainers and now, it would seem, these ridiculous sweets for years now, and as much as I had to say this, they wouldn’t still be doing this if these companies weren’t doing pretty well for themselves out of it.

Unfortunately, these influencers have absolutely no regard for the danger caused by what they post. Their loyal fans, especially when the person has a particularly young fan base, will support anything they do, and often believe a lot of what they say, or at least want to give it a try themselves, and all that leaves is a whole bunch of people sat on the toilet regretting how much ‘skinny’ tea they bought once they realise that everything they consume is just making a speedy route through them.

But it’s also about more than just the products they promote. Last week a photo emerged on the internet of a ‘behind the scenes’ view of Charlotte Crosby’s Instagram post, in which she’s wearing a tight yellow leather skirt, and in the post she says this is from her new collection at InTheStyle, but the reality of said photo is that the skirt isn’t even zipped up at the back because it won’t.

So tell me how this is from her new collection if it doesn’t even fit her? Now I don’t have a problem with the fact that she can’t fit into whatever size she’s wearing – we’ve all been there – but what I do have an issue with is that you just know that website is gonna say something like ‘Charlotte wears a size X’ and women are gonna not only be believing that, but ordering based on that assumption, and as someone who has spent a lot of time lately crying over clothes that don’t fit, I hate to think about the number of people this could affect.

I get the whole making a living out of being an influencer thing, but I just wish that some people would have more sense to reject offers of promoting products that can be harmful to their followers. It’s not like Kim K has the body she has just purely thanks to lollipops and an overpriced neoprene corset..

Why I’m Struggling to be a Fitness Blogger Right Now

Fitness is a big part of my life, and I’ve always tried to include that side of my life in this blog, but the keen-eyed regular readers would know that its been quite some time since I posted anything properly fitness related. I mean, I’ve done a few reviews, and a handful of retrospective posts over the last couple of months, but that’s been about it, and while I miss writing about a subject that plays such a big part in my life, I’m struggling for a few pretty good reasons.

I personally feel like the fitness industry itself is so massively flawed. We’re forever having ideas pushed upon us like fad diets, ‘skinny’ products, how we need to look like this celebrity or why those extra pound we’re carrying are the worst thing in the world, and I don’t believe in any of this.

I’m a firm believer that fitness and healthy living is for everyone, no matter how old you are or how much you weigh. I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t be creating negative associations with certain foods because carbs are super important and some fats are healthy and the world is trying to convince you that the only thing you should eat is kale but you can absolutely have that pizza and enjoy it and not feel like you need to spend the entire next day in the gym hating yourself for it. I hate the terms ‘cheat’ and ‘treat’ and anything that suggests that enjoying life is unhealthy. I believe in body positivity and I cannot stand for ‘fat shaming’ or ‘skinny shaming’.

I don’t believe that the sole purpose of fitness is about losing weight or changing the way your body looks. I think that just wanting to get a bit more active, or become a little bit stronger is absolutely enough if that’s what you want to do. You can run that 10K and have the takeaway without having to justify it as something that you ‘earned’.

Its because I believe in all this that I’m finding the words so difficult to get out, because I would hate for anything I write to sound like anything I don’t stand for. I would never want anyone to think that I believed in or encouraged any of the damaging things that the fitness industry preaches, and I’d rather not say anything than say the wrong thing.

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Kayla’s Bikini Body Motivation & Habits Guide

Now I’ve never believed in the term ‘bikini body’ or ‘bikini body ready’ – for me, a bikini body is any body in a bikini, simples. I’ve also never really trusted these fitness influencers or Instagrammers as I’m very wary of some of the products and diets that they endorse, so when it comes to Kayla Itsines I’ve generally not paid much attention.

However, I saw this book in the supermarket the other week; Matthew pointed it out as we’re trying to keep healthy and active in preparation for our trip to Hawaii in April, and at first I kinda scoffed, but then I had a little flick through and noticed that despite the title suggesting otherwise, at least half of the book is recipes, and I’m a sucker for a good recipe book, so it ended up in our basket.

Spoiler alert, I’m now treating this book like my bible.

The book is actually so insightful. The first part talks about habits and motivation, and some of the psychology that goes behind it, and how you can combat the set-backs and hurdles that many of us face day in day out. I must admit that I haven’t read all of this as I’ve got a lot of other books and journals that I use for habit tracking, so I didn’t feel this was particularly relevant to me, but after this bit, the book gets really good.

The next section of the book is all about nutrition and meal-planning. I went into this with a pinch of salt ready to read things suggesting certain foods are really bad for you, or you should cut down on this or that, but there wasn’t any of that and I did a little happy dance. Everything written is informative, well researched and completely balanced, and the nutrition part covers everything from your basic food groups to micronutrients to non-dairy, vegetarianism and veganism, so it covers a pretty good range of dietary needs, but what I love the most about this book is the meal planning.

Now the book itself has a 4 week food plan, including 3 meals and 2 snacks every day over the 28 day period, so if you like to follow something by the letter, this is absolutely great – it even includes your weekly shopping list! However, if like me you struggle to stick to an exact plan day in day out, Kayla also includes an example meal plan, that is a guide of how many portions of what food groups you should be eating each day, and how you can mix and match these to suit. Did I mention how much I love this?

Also included is a big glossary of example foods for every food groups, and portion sizes, so if for example your meal is going to be 2 grains, 2 veg, 1/2 dairy/alternative and 1 meat/alternative, you can simply flick to the back of the book, have a look at what these could includes and make up a meal from there. This makes everything so flexible and easy, and there’s absolutely no calorie counting, or cutting out certain foods – its all about getting the portions and proportions right. Its a meal plan, not a diet.

The recipes offer so many options, and not only have you got every recipe for the 28 day meal plan, there’s also extra recipes that you can substitute in if whatever’s on the menu doesn’t take your fancy! All the recipes are quick, easy, and based on a single portion, which is great because I hate having a recipe designed for 2 or 4 people and having to go through and scale all the ingredients down. Oh, and there’s also a section at the back for desserts!

I have been following the meal plan, in my own way, for two weeks now and I’m already noticing a difference (along side my regular gym workouts and running). Some meals I haven’t changed at all from what I was eating before, but I’ve just got a better balance in what I should be eating and the size portions I should be having. Its so easy to break down every meal into groups, so all I count is the number of portions of each group I’ve had – absolutely no stressing over calories or not eating this or that. Most importantly, I feel so good within myself because I’m eating well.

The final section of the book is workouts, and you get a little 28 day workout guide poster that you can follow along with your meal plan – again, given that I go to the gym 4-5 times a week as it is and know my stuff quite well, I wasn’t so bothered by this, but it is a good little plan.

So while the title of the book didn’t endear me to it in any way, I guess its just proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover!

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Why Has ‘Fit Shaming’ Become A Thing?

No, that’s not a typo in the title.

I, for one, cannot understand the shaming culture that we have created. We’ve had ‘fat shaming’ and ‘skinny shaming’ and unfortunately we still see this unnecessary viciousness every day, but what has really shocked me in recent months is what I personally like to call ‘fit shaming’.

This is something that I have personally experienced for a little while now, but whenever a new year comes round, I see this increasing across the likes of Twitter, and this is the bizarre concept that people seem to think its okay to try and make people feed bad about trying to be healthy. Not trying to be skinny, not fad-dieting or specifically trying to lose weight, this is just the act of trying to live a vaguely healthy lifestyle by going to the gym every so often, making a healthier food choice every once in a while or just trying to be more active.

Are you as confused by this as I am?

We all know that one of the most common New Years resolutions is people aiming to be a bit healthier or get fitter. Whether you manage the whole year, or just the first day, I think its a great resolution to have, and I don’t think anyone should be made to feel bad about setting this goal, New Years or not. Despite this, though, the keyboard warriors of the world love to try and make people feel crap about it.

Me? I’ve been teased by people I work with. Yep.. Snide comments about the fact that I went to the gym that morning, laughing about the fact that I packed a salad or teasing me and other colleagues when we compared Fitbits.

WHY IS THIS A THING?

I don’t really care about people making stupid little comments, but I just cannot comprehend why anyone thinks there is anything shame-worthy about fitness. I mean, I don’t think anyone should be voicing judgement on other people’s personal choices and decisions, but of all the things I just do not understand this behaviour.

I’m just gonna say it louder for the people in the back: LET PEOPLE LIVE HOW THEY WANT TO LIVE.

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Things My Personal Trainer Has Never Said

As part of my regular fitness routine, I do two 30 minute sessions with a personal trainer every week. I train with Steph not because I have to but because I enjoy it; she is as much a friend to me as she is a trainer, and she has pushed me further than I could have ever imagined.

PTs may be considered by most as paid torturers, but not only do they train hard in the gym, in order to gain their qualifications they also have to train hard and gain an incredible understanding of the human body, nutrition and training techniques, so they do really know what they’re talking about.

I’ve been training with Steph for 2 years now, and with all the wisdom she has shared with me in this time, there are some things she’s never ever said to me..

‘You can’t eat *insert here*’

Sure, a lot of personal trainers double up as nutritionalists, and many do help their clients put together meal plans and diets, but what I love about Steph is that she has never told me that there’s anything I shouldn’t be eating. Like me, she believes that treats are ok and holidays are for pigging out, and it’s so nice not having a voice in my head saying ‘you shouldn’t be eating this, what would your trainer think?’. In fact, she frequently tells me about the things that she’s eating! At the end of the day, food is fuel and if you’re still training and keeping balance, that’s all that matters.

‘You have to eat *insert here*’

As well as never restricting me, she doesn’t dictate. I get to choose what I eat, and while she’s always more than happy to offer advise when I ask for it, she lets me take the reins and learn things for myself.

‘You shouldn’t lift heavier than..’

Before I trained with Steph, I wouldn’t pick up a dumbbell heavier than about 5-6kg, and now I won’t touch anything lighter. There’s nothing she hates more than the belief that women shouldn’t lift heavy weights, and the only time she would ever stop me from going heavier is if she felt I wasn’t ready or I could risk an injury.

‘Weight gain is bad’

About every 4 weeks we do measurements. This isn’t to make me feel good/bad about myself, it’s just to track my body, and while I do get on the scales, the number doesn’t matter to her. Primarily we look at change in my actual measurements, and if the scales do go up, I’m never made to feel bad about it.

‘You shouldn’t miss a training day’

There are mornings when I wake up and I don’t feel up for training, whether it’s cos I’ve had a bad nights sleep, I’m not feeling 100% or I’m suffering from an injury. I am never told that this isn’t ok. A big part of training is understanding my body’s needs, and if it needs time off then that’s fine, and in the same way I understand that sometimes she needs days off. Missing a day or a week isn’t the be all and end all.

‘You have to get smaller’

She understands that everyone has different goals, and that not everyone goes to the gym to drastically change their body. Sure, I ultimately would like to see myself get a bit leaner, but it’s more about getting fitter and healthier, and if I don’t see any change in my body when I’m doing that then who cares?

If a professional PT has never said these things, why should anyone else?

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‘Healthy’ Words and Phrases You Need to Rethink

When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, everyone is different, and that’s ok. Everyone’s body is different, and the fact is different things work better for some than others; its all about understand your body and finding what is best for you.

But when it comes to fitness and health, there’s something I feel very strongly about, and that’s people trying to do things in a way that isn’t healthy, and while it might not seem like it to some, the way we talk about food and fitness can be very unhealthy. What am I talking about? Well do you use any of these terms?

Cheat days

There’s an actual psychological term called the ‘what the hell’ effect, and this is actually used in relation to diet psychology. Essentially its the whole ‘oh, I’ve had one slice of pizza, I might as well eat it all’ thing that I bet we’re all too familiar with. Well the same thing tends to happen when people give themselves a ‘cheat day’.

More than that though, the unhealthiest thing about cheat days is they make us feel guilty. You’re allowed to eat whatever you like, and eating what you want to eat isn’t cheating – all you’re doing is creating negative association.

Guilt-free and guilty

On the back of cheat days, I’m tired of people referring to things as either guilt-free or guilty. I’ll say it again: YOU CAN EAT WHATEVER YOU LIKE and you don’t have to justify what you eat to anyone. Food is fuel, and your body needs fuel to function, end of.

Weight loss

No, I’m not saying that you can’t think about weight loss if you’re trying to be healthier, but weight loss shouldn’t be your only goal. I am fitter now than I’ve been in the last few years, but I also weigh more, and that’s totally normal because while I have lost fat I’ve gained muscle. So many people, women especially, concentrate far too much on what the scales say, and get down when they don’t see that number dropping, but what you really need to be looking at is how you feel and look at measurements rather than weight.

‘Skinny’

Nothing gets me riled up more than ‘skinny teas’, ‘skinny pills’ or quite frankly any use of the word in relation to a product or food item. Chances are these products are full of chemicals, or just full of something that’s just designed to help you poop your innards out, and there’s nothing actually healthy about them at all.

Calorie-controlled

Sure, there’s evidence to say that reducing your calorie intake can lead to results, but if you limit yourself to 1300 calories a day but are still eating junk, that doesn’t make it any healthier. Calorie counting can also become an obsessive behaviour, and that unhealthy relationship with food that I talked about earlier, plus not giving your body enough fuel to function.

For me, the most important part of staying healthy is keeping everything in balance. We all have good days and bad days, but rather than stressing ourselves out over the bad days, we just have to relax and accept that it happens every now and then. Mental health is just as important as physical health, they both go hand in hand and you have to put yourself and your happiness first, always.

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Improving My Sleep Habits

Sleep and I are fickle friends; its a love/hate relationship really. The fact is, I really cannot function without it, and while everyone says this, I am the kind of person that can rarely make it to midnight, and more often than not is in bed by 10pm, if not earlier. I am also a napper, and if I am tired and need sleep, it doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, if my body decides its time to sleep, I probably will – I think my finest moment was falling asleep while standing on a train in Japan. Oh yes.

The hate part of my relationship is that sometimes sleep doesn’t like me. I can be a fairly vivid dreamer, and while some nights I’ll sleep like an absolute baby, other nights I’ll be awake on the hour every hour. I’m not an insomniac, I’m just fairly restless, and some nights actually feel more draining than they do refreshing and restful.

So I’m in the market for anything I can do to improve my shut-eye, and I’ve already identified a few changes that need to be made in the hopes that I can see some real progression, and from here on out, I’ll be doing my best to stick to these new habits.

Clearing the clutter

I have this awful habit of leaving things in my bed when I’m about to go to sleep. Chances are my laptop will be on there somewhere, and probably a notepad or two, plus my iPad and maybe even some clothes that I haven’t got round to putting away yet – no more! From here on out my bed will be a place for me to sleep and just me.

Not getting into bed until I’m ready

I also have this horrible habit of getting into bed as soon as I get in from work, fully dressed with a full face of makeup, grabbing my laptop and getting a bit of writing done before I go to sleep, or putting on Netflix for a bit. The problem with this is that I then rarely want to get back out, so sometimes I’ll end up going to sleep without taking of my makeup and sometimes even sleeping in whatever shirt I was wearing that day so I don’t have to get up and change. Yikes, right?

Now, while I still have no issue with getting straight into bed when I finish my day at work (so much more common now I’m working 12 hour shifts), I won’t do it until I’ve eaten dinner, brushed my teeth, getting fully changed and all makeup off. I’m even making more of an effort during this time to get everything for the next day out and ready for the morning!

Having actual pyjamas

As I mentioned above, pyjamas are a bit of a fluid concept for me. I do have them, but sometimes I’ve been known to just grab whatever comfy top I can find rather than using actual pyjama options. Yes, I do have a few t-shirts and tops that I still have designated as pj options rather than day-to-day wear, but I’m training myself to remember to reach for these instead of any old shirt I can find.

Setting a pre-sleep skincare routine

More than just remembering to take off my makeup before bed, I’m actually working on sticking to a proper skincare routine before bed: makeup off, cleanse and tone face, moisturise etc. As well as being so much better for my skin, its actually a great way to wind down before getting into bed, and a little bit of self-care goes a long way!

Reducing the number of screens I’m on

I can be that person who is on my phone checking Instagram while trying to write a blog post on my laptop and also Netflixing on my iPad in the background. I like to consider myself a multi-tasker but really I’m just overstimulating myself. Now I’m on 12 hour shifts, I’ve found that I’m not reaching for my laptop anymore as soon as I get home, so I’m trying to make it more of a habit to leave my laptop for my days off, and instead just watch a movie or plan blog stuff in my notebook in the evenings after work – which also helps towards not sleeping with a laptop in my bed!

Doing distracting jobs

I’ve written before about the strange things that are the only things that I can stay awake doing, so rather than being on my many screens right before bed, I like to mix things up a few nights a week by getting other things done, like cleaning my makeup brushes, sewing or writing to-do lists for the coming days.

I’ve been trying to do all these for about 2 weeks now and I feel like I’m already seeing small improvements, so here’s hoping for the best!

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