EAT: No Run, Just Food

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Wednesday nights sees the weekly meeting of my running club, the Manchester Road Runners. I’ve only been going for a few weeks but I feel right at home: there’s no snottiness, it doesn’t matter how fast your miles are or how far you run, as long as you show up, have a bit of a run, then hit the pub afterwards for a cheeky post-workout drink.

This week though was a lot less running and a lot more food. An awful lot more food (remember I said my balance was a bit out of whack last week? Yeah). Red’s True Barbecue opened on Manchester’s Albert Square a few months ago and is already a bit of a cult classic in the city, with at least a half hour wait on a weeknight. Luckily we’d booked and no sooner were we sat down than our food was in front of us. You would think that for someone who only started eating beef a few months ago I’d be cautious with my meat, but nope: I love getting stuck into a good burger. I had the double cheeseburger though I actually picked off the bacon and cheese to give to my boyfriend, who also had half of my chips. It may not look like a huge portion on the plate, but it was sure filling!

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Eaten too frequently burgers are not great for you, especially when they’re covered in fatty sauces, bacon and cheese. However, it’s not all bad news! Picking good quality beef (grass-fed is perfect) keeps the saturated fat low, and the less processed, the better. Beef is packed with protein and also contains zinc, B vitamins, and iron – which women especially can be deficient in. For me it’s a monthly treat rather than weekly, and I mix up my protein sources and eat lots of fresh fruit and veg too.

I think after that feast it’s back to running next week for us motley lot!

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KIT: South Beach Fitness

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Manchester-based swimwear brand South Beach Swim are diversifying into fitness gear for spring/summer 2014. Crop tops, booty shorts and yoga pants are the first tentative steps into the buzzing fitness market, in bright, block colours with simple logos.

The crazy coconut guy above seemed impressed, and I was too! Although the range doesn’t boast any particular technology, the fabric felt very supportive to me, almost like compression gear. High street brands like H&M, Forever 21 and Primark are really going for the fitness gear nowadays, so I love that a smaller brand have taken a bit of a risk to make quality gear in a new market. Prices range from £15 to £22 so it’s highly affordable. Let’s hope it pays off and they create a wider range – patterned leggings in this fabric would be amazing.

The kit will be available through their website, SouthBeachOfficial.com, from early July.

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As with any good product launch there was cake. Oh boy, was there ever cake. Safe to say my self-proclaimed balance is a little out of whack this week, leaning more towards cheat than clean! With cake this good, how can you possibly resist?

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The Art Of Healthy Moderation… Or Not?

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Every week Grazia includes a Real Lives piece specially commissioned to irritate, or so it seems. Ones that stand out in my memory include “I married my husband so we would have good-looking children” and “everybody hates me because I’m beautiful” (around the same time as Brick-gate, so that one probably angered more people than normal). This week, though, was particularly relevant to me. ‘Wellness junkie’ Amy Molloy tells us about her friends who are disappointed when she never takes up the offer of going for a drink, friends who have dared to buy cupcakes for her after a break-up (she refused to eat any, FYI), and friends who have stopped bothering to invite her out for pizza, because of her reaction to the P-word. Sound like terrible, jealous friends, right? Erm, not to me. They just sound like people who want to spend some quality time with a pal.

Amy talks about the fit-shaming she gets, both online and off. Now, I have never been fit-shamed. Maybe I am too thick-skinned to notice or perhaps I laugh it off with the good humour it is intended.

Mostly nowadays I spend time with friends I have made in the past few years in the city I live, most of which are active, outdoorsy people; but I make an effort to meet friends I’ve met through life, too – whose current lifestyles are not ‘compatible’ with mine. It’s only natural that your interests change and you have less in common: some of my core group of friends live in London and have media jobs, which means they spend a lot of time out drinking, one friend is a capoeira instructor and travels to far-flung places a lot, and another two live on different continents. None of them are particularly interested in fitness, nor do I bore them with the minutiae of my clean diet. Because when we are together, we laugh, joke, and talk to each other about everything and nothing, and not once have I been fit-shamed.

Probably because I practise the art of moderation.

Seriously, Amy, if for some reason you are reading this: your friends don’t pick on you because you are fit. I’m sure they’re just tired of your refusal to be flexible so you can spend time with them – because that’s what relationships are about, a bit of give and take. Go out to the pub with them (it’s fine, I do it all the time) and maybe they will go on a bike ride with you another day.

I understand the neuroses about an unhealthy lifestyle making you ill – trust me, I’ve had enough people close to me have serious illnesses to know how important it is to keep yourself well. But you’ve got to give yourself some slack. Anything in extreme is unsustainable, whether that’s an extreme alcohol habit or an extreme fitness habit. If you go out with your friends one night this week for pizza and drinks, I promise you will not end up “bloated, tired and spotty”. In fact, the stress relief and release of endorphins you will get from seeing people you love and laughing with them will be beneficial for you and you may even be healthier than before!

Although I try not to let stuff written in magazines bother me, it does sometimes get tiring seeing people with unhealthy lifestyles applauded – whichever extreme they are unhealthy in. Everything in moderation is key, which includes working out and eating clean! Now I’m off to train my legs hard so I can go out for beer and burgers with my running club tonight. Give and take, give and take…

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How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep | 4 Top Tips

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Sleep is something natural that is absolutely essential and is when our bodies repair and grow, but so many of us struggle to get a decent 8 hours’ worth a night. I used to be one of those irritating people who dismissed sleep problems with “oh, I sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow!” but whether it’s due to recent events, stress, or just getting a little older, I find it harder to drift off at night nowadays. Worse still, before bed I get anxious about getting to sleep, which becomes a vicious circle and obviously doesn’t help the situation.

This month’s Om Yoga Magazine features some tips to get a great night’s sleep, including a dark, cool room, reducing stimulants and a good old glass of warm almond milk before bed. I have my own routine that seems to help, though – I definitely notice the difference when I decide I can’t be bothered to brew the kettle (we humans are so self-destructive!) and having introduced parts of this routine to my mum, it’s helped her, too.

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A nice cup of tea. Decaffeinated, of course. I have two I switch between: Pukka’s Night Time from Sainsbury’s, and Heath & Heather’s Night Time from Holland & Barrett. Both are very relaxing. Pukka’s has a definitely taste of lavender whilst Heath & Heather’s is much more spearminty. I find they are good for actually going to sleep, though my mum tried the Heath & Heather tea and said it helped her sleep through the night. Trying a couple of different brews might help you find the solution to your particular sleep issue.

Essential oil on your pillow. There are some expensive pillow sprays out there, but I’ve found a drop of lavender oil on my pillow works well. As well as the smell being relaxing I find it makes me breathe more consciously and deeply, and also if I have a stuffy nose it helps clear it. Just be careful not to put it too close to your face if you have sensitive skin. Speaking of breathing more consciously..

Get some Headspace. I was introduced to mindful meditation during bereavement counselling, and though traditionally it’s frowned upon just before bed, I find it clears my mind and brings my heartrate down. Besides, your meditation practise is just that – yours – so meditate whenever and wherever you like. I find guided meditation very helpful and frequently use Headspace, which can be downloaded from your platform’s app store.

Non-essential reading. During university I was in the naughty habit of reading textbooks before bed in the hope it would sink in overnight. In reality I wasn’t really concentrating properly and the though of doing assignments was just making me more stressed! Reading something not related to work or anything you are learning about makes a real relaxation time, as there’s no pressure to remember what you’re reading or to read every word – just read what you fancy (NB – I read from Newsstand but beware as blue light from iPads is supposed to be a stimulant. I find it doesn’t bother me too much – I’d be checking Twitter before I went to sleep normally anyway!).

This is what helps me get a better night’s sleep, so I encourage you to try a variety of different things to help you with your shut-eye – my tips are included along with three other bloggers’ tips over at the Tombola Times if you’d like another perspective. Whether it be a banana before bed or reading a chapter of Gone With The Wind, if it works for you, go for it.

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The Protein Pick and Mix Review & 10% DISCOUNT CODE!

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The Protein Pick & Mix. The very name of this online store fills me with the joy of being a kid in a candy shop, with the added benefit of potential GAINZ on top. Everything is available is single servings so if you’re wanting to try out new shakes, supplements or snacks, this is the place for you. Seriously, I love this store – upon clapping eyes on their site, I knew I had to make a cheeky order!

You can get a 10% discount off your first Protein Pick & Mix order by clicking this link (let the page load fully!)

Their branding is spot on, with everything from the candy striped background to how my order arrived – in sweetie bags with Protein Pick & Mix stickers to match. My delivery arrived within two days and I am now a member of the Brownie Points scheme, meaning my loyalty will be rewarded with store credit. A fantastic offer for such a relatively small company. I decided to try out the much-hyped Quest bars and also a nut butter that the sound of tickled my taste buds…

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Quest bars are the toast of the fitness world, and I’m not one to miss out on a hype. They contain 20g of protein with around 170 calories per bar, so in theory a great treat if you’re trying to lean out. There’s one small catch for me, though: they’re horrible! To me it’s like eating a piece of dried-out old chewing gum. They taste really overly sweetened – despite having no added sugar – and my teeth felt funny afterwards. I also feel the picture on the front of the pack is misleading – I, perhaps naively, expected the bars to vaguely resemble the snacks they’re named after, like cookies & cream or peanut butter cups. Actually, they just look like reformed cake batter.

Although I’m glad I finally tried them this is not an experience I will be repeating!

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Good news, though: I LOVED the other product I ordered from the Protein Pick & Mix, which was Nuts ‘N More‘s Almond Cinnamon & Raisin butter. They seem to have trouble keeping these guys in stock so it seems I’m not alone in being a fan. Although it was a little strange at first, especially the texture, the more I eat it, the more addicted I am! I’ve found it’s best alone on rice cakes as the flavours really complement each other, and with smoothies, yoghurt, or pancakes, adds a real flavoursome kick. There are 7 grams of protein per tablespoon and also 8.5 grams of good fats from the almonds and added flax, for only 96 calories.

I will definitely be ordering from the Protein Pick & Mix again – partly to get my Nuts ‘N More fix and to try out some new things, but also because of the beautiful package you receive. It’s like that Friday after-school treat trip to the sweet shop all over again – but a lot healthier!

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