Recent Posts

Let’s Nip This Bikini Body Bullsh*t in the Bud, Shall We?

Let’s Nip This Bikini Body Bullsh*t in the Bud, Shall We?

Urgh. So, January came and went – and with it, the usual ‘New Year, New You’ tripe that tends to do the rounds in our annual carnival of self-loathing and despair. And I watched, shouting crazed anti-diet one-liners into the abyss (and running 30 Days […]

Tiny Miracles; or, I’m Not Sure Exactly What Just Happened

Tiny Miracles; or, I’m Not Sure Exactly What Just Happened

Be warned, right off the bat: if you’re not into slightly emotional, flashback-tastic posts, this one probably ain’t for you. But hell – I’m feeling a bit ‘mosh today, after running a 3-miler for Sport Relief – so you’ll have to excuse me, but it’s […]

Baby Steps; or, Holy Moly I’m Starting to Like Running

Baby Steps; or, Holy Moly I’m Starting to Like Running

As part of my year of trying new things, I’ve been making my first attempts at running. Like I said, I’m a girl who doesn’t run – and never has. Even before those four knee surgeries, I was the fat girl who’d go out of her way to avoid running. Frankly, I just didn’t get the point. I mean… Where are you even going? Wait… You’re going in a circle?

Plus, for a long time, it’s been something I’ve been a little reluctant to do. As a short summary of my knee surgeries, I’ve had “tibial tubercle transfers,” “patellofemoral ligament reconstructions,” and all sorts of other things I couldn’t even guess how to spell – leaving me a lil’ nervous to hit the pavement too hard for fear of shakin’ out a structure that’s not supposed to shake.

And that means when I have knee pain, I have to try to figure out if that’s the ‘should be expected, given you’re the Bionic Woman’ kinda pain, or the ‘no, you should probably stop now’ sort – and that, right there, is something that very much depends on my mood. If I’m feeling negative, you can bet your ass I’m more inclined to plump for the latter – and given I’ve never really found running anything but a chore, it’s been many, many a year since I’ve had anything bar negative feelings about it.

However.

I’ve also spent the last few months suffering from severe workout envy over the people who litter my Twitter feed with their joyous ‘just ran a thousand miles and now I’m going to eat all the carbs in Europe’ updates, and who don’t have to spend money on an expensive gym membership (or just a house with more than half a metre’s floor space) in order to get in some exercise. They’re all so happy – meaning I’ve been doubting my own ‘running = torture’ logic.

I mean, if everyone loves it except me – could it be (god forbid) I might be wrong?

So that was the attitude I took for my first few attempts – each of which taught me a little more about making my next run a tad easier.

First up: the boobs. As a girl who tends to feel more at home in the weights area, I’ve never had to invest in a bells-and-whistles sports bra – instead, I’ve managed to get by on a fairly low-budget affair that holds things in, unless I bounce.

Turns out running’s a bit different – and having narrowly avoided a severely bruised chin after my first go, I invested in a Shock Absorber bra. That thing, right there, was revolutionary – although hell. Let’s just say it’s a good job it was two days after payday, because it turns out boob engineering is expensive.

Secondly: the music. I have a workout playlist, and it is epic – but it turns out, when I’m running, epic ain’t really what I’m pitching for. While bad-ass hip hop and the like might suit that weights area, it’d appear what I’m looking for when I’m running is something a bit more… Cheesy.

Yes, you heard: my running workout playlist includes Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and Mama Do the Hump. In fact, I’ll wager I’m the cheeriest person in London when I’m stepping out the door at 6am to Nina Simone’s Ain’t Got No, so judge all you want. I’m nailing it.

Then, there’s the hands. Turns out trying to hold a phone, money, keys and a bottle of water when you’re on the move is kindofabitch – not insurmountable, mind, but just a bit of an inconvenience. Fortunately, I managed to wangle a Tune Belt armband and sports headphones courtesy of Tesco (I refer you to my ‘yay free stuff’ policy) – which solved that issue nicely, and also made me feel slightly more like I looked the part, because… Well, armbands mean business in any context, right?

And finally – the shoes. I’m going to review these in full at some point, because they really are fabulous – but the folks at SportShoes.com sent me some gorgeous running shoes by Adidas, and… Well, I didn’t think it was possible to fall in love with a piece of sportswear, but it is.

It’s not just because they’re super gorgeous – although they are – but they’ve been pretty revolutionary on the ol’ knees. I’ve always been a bit of a trainer skeptic, because I’ve always been poor – and for god’s sake, don’t ever think you shouldn’t at least have a go at exercising because you’re on a tight sportswear budget.

But I’d honestly say – if you’re inclined to feel knee pain when exercising, try changing yo’ shoes. On this, I am no longer a skeptic.

Because on Run No. 5 (which reminds me – must see if Mambo No. 5 would fit on my cheese playlist) – it all came together.

Boob issues solved, playlist nailed, shoes at the ready, and everything prepared the night before so I could just get up and hit the road – these things solved the practical aspect.

But more than all that, there was one big change that made all the difference. I went out there, pretty certain this was something I could do – without being laughed at, or falling over, or dying on the pavement. I felt positive about it.

So I went.

And having been plumping for the ‘one minute run, one minute walk’ method for the last few attempts, you can imagine my surprise when – twelve minutes later – I was still going at near enough the same pace I’d started out. I was – gulp – enjoying myself.

For the first time ever, I was running, because I wanted to – and I didn’t particularly want to stop.

Now, the message I’m trying to get across here isn’t that you need to buy loads of stuff to run. Far from it. I’ll be honest – for all the snazzy wares I’m currently sporting, I still feel a bit ‘all gear, no idea,’ and I’m definitely more Phoebe from Friends than Paula Radcliffe, if you know what I mean.

But the thing is – whenever you’re trying something new, fitness or otherwise, you’ve got to find the balance between the things you can change, and the things you’re going to just have to work through. And that’ll involve a lil’ bit of trial and error.

In my case, that’s meant strapping down the boobs, styling out new shoes, and making the conscious decision to think myself into it – despite 26 years of being someone who Hates To Run.

It’s also meant knowing that after about two and a half minutes, I’ll feel like I may never be able to breathe again – but if I can drag myself on for another thirty seconds, my body will catch up with my brain, and I’ll be able to keep going.

And if that ain’t a big ol’ metaphor for every other aspect of this whole health journey malarkey, I don’t know what is.

In other words – try new things. Have a go at the things you don’t think you can do. And take a positive attitude with you.

‘Cause you never know – you might end up having fun.

Quick plug, y’all. I’m running three miles for Sport Relief tomorrow – so if you fancy helping me raise money for people that really need it, click here. Every single penny is appreciated, so please donate!
Apparently, My Relationship Status is Super Interesting; or, Go Forth and Love Thyself

Apparently, My Relationship Status is Super Interesting; or, Go Forth and Love Thyself

I know some awesome women. I really, really do. I know women who fit and defy every definition. I know women who make their personal life choices from every which way. My phone book is a directory of awesomeness, and my Twitter feed is a […]

Trust No-One; or, That Time I Was Offered Money To Flog Diet Pills

Trust No-One; or, That Time I Was Offered Money To Flog Diet Pills

I hate diet pills. Hate ’em. And recently, I was approached by a certain diet pill manufacturer offering me a pretty hefty amount of money to plug them on here.  By hefty, I mean more than my salary. Considerably more. Enough to give this perpetually-poor […]

The Year of Trying New Things

The Year of Trying New Things

It’s been over a year since I made my big move to the big smoke – and what a year it’s been. I’ve been really lucky to have landed on my feet – ending up with a job I love, a house that I’m glad to come home to (even if it is a little worse for wear), and most importantly – I’ve made some incredible friends. Including one I’ve just been to visit, living in the manor pictured above.

I know, right?

Needless to say I’ve come back – after a nine mile country walk, I might add – feeling very zen, and a lil’ bit philosophical.

I’m grateful to finally feel properly settled here in my new home – which is starting to really feel like that, rather than ‘some place I live for work’ – because for various reasons, it’s not exactly been an easy year. A lot of things going on beyond my control means I’ve been living pretty intensely over the last twelve months, so this sense of normality is a genuine relief – and I intend to enjoy it.

…Sort of.

See, being the kind of frustrating person that I am, I’ve reached this settled point – and now I’m itching to change it up.  Not in the big ‘full life overhaul’ way – mostly ’cause all those big things like my job, and my house, have fallen nicely into place. But having been a bit under the weather recently, and feeling a lil’ settled… I’m ready to make some changes.

So I’ve decided: 2014 is going to be the year I try new things.

See, I’ve got this fitness thing pretty much figured out – but having been doing variations on a weights ‘n’ walkin’ theme for the best part of four years, I’m kinda ready for… Well, new stuff.

So last week, I made my first step towards it. I made an attempt – drum roll please – to run.

To help you understand that for the big ass freakin’ deal it is, let me give y’all a bit of backstory on my history with running.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’ve always been a fat girl. So when people say ‘you could run as a child, it’s just a matter of re-learning it,’ strictly speaking… That ain’t true. I was more at home in front of a book, and the only time I recall attempting to run when I wasn’t actually being forced to, I tripped on a paving slab and hit the deck with such force I broke both my front teeth.

So I didn’t run. And in PE class, I’d go out of my way to escape it. I’d fake a stitch, perform an impressive pratfall, or just get a sicknote for ‘period pains,’ and thus never actually run. I may not be Usain Bolt, but nobody, nowhere, gets to argue with the fact that I can be resourceful in getting outta exercise.

Then, I broke my knees, gained ten stone, and found myself unable to walk for three years – only to re-learn, slowly, lose the weight, and find myself where I am now: fit, healthy, a lil’ bit fat by stupid-ass magazine standards, and still definitely not a runner.

But damn. I don’t know if it’s the city, or the fact that I’ve not had the internet for a few weeks, or whether it’s just some kind of weird primal urge – but I’ve been fantasising about running. I’ve had a couple of dreams about it; I’ve been scoping out routes; I’ve just been thinking about how nice it’d be to feel my heart pounding in the crisp spring air.

It’s bloody weird, and it’s kinda freaking me out – but the way I see it, I’ve got no other option. I’ve got to give it a try.

Now, it just so happens, too, that my gym membership expired yesterday – and being six runs into the ‘couch to 5k’ programme, I’m feeling pretty optimistic. Nothing’s broken – yet – and my knees seem to be holdin’ up. Not only that, but I’m in a better mood on the days I’ve been out and about – so that’s a boost, and one I’m really lovin’.

And it’s not just running I’m trying out. I’ve recently been sent a couple of awesome things to review – which is amazing, because my bank account is feeling a lil’ tender after Christmas (yes, still) so anything that saves a girl having to hustle is a-ok by me.

So I’m trying out something called a MisFit Shine – a snazzy lil’ tracker that measures your activity over the course of a day – and last night, I made my first attempt at creating a green juice after the folks at John Lewis very kindly furnished me with a juicer to play with. So far, so delicious:

Juice

And next week, I’m hitting up a hot pilates class for the first time – so my horizons are going to be well and truly broadened over the next month, I can tell you.

I want to try new things, and gain new experiences, because there are a million ways to get active out there – all of which will appeal to different people. There are so many diet brands and so-called gurus out there who’ll tell you there’s only one way to get healthy – which just so happens to be their way, retailing at £99 – that it’s easy to overlook the joy of just doing healthy things for the heck of it.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who – at this time of year, when it starts to be lighter in the mornings, and the air seems fresher with something like potential – gets the urge to do something different. You don’t have to be thin, or perfect, or even all-that-fit to try new things, fitness-wise – you’ve just got to be an optimist, and up for a challenge.

In other words, you’ve got to be prepared to fall on your ass, and ready to pick yourself up when you do.

So join me. Try new things. Do more good stuff. And love every minute – ’cause when you get out there with a positive attitude, I’m pretty sure you’ll be amazed at what you can do.

Q&A: What Does ‘Processed Food’ Mean, Anyway?

Q&A: What Does ‘Processed Food’ Mean, Anyway?

I get asked this question all the time – and the ‘right answer’ depends on where you’re coming from, and how strictly you want to manage your nutrition. Personally, I’m lazy, and short on time, so a girl’s gotta hustle – and that means my […]

Diet, or Disordered Eating?

Diet, or Disordered Eating?

First up – I’m really sorry. I’ve been a terrible blogger of late, thanks to a combination of long hours at work and a really gross winter bug. But I’m back, y’all – and while I’ve been lying around feeling sorry for myself, I’ve done […]

The Psychology of Extremes; or, Why Diet Language is Making Us Sick

The Psychology of Extremes; or, Why Diet Language is Making Us Sick

Get a cup of tea, guys. This is likely to be a long ‘un.

You ready?

Okay.

It’s been a bad week for international bullshit connoisseurs and my long-standing nemesis, the diet industry. And if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a moment to rub my hands together gleefully to prepare my typin’ fingers. Feel free to join in, if you feel so inclined.

Now: first up, and so I can publicise this a lil’ more than it has been – Dr. Pierre Dukan, of Dukan Diet fame, has been struck off the French medical register for peddling what can only be described as dangerously unhealthy quick fix quack-toolery that studies are increasingly suggesting causes kidney stones, and all sorts of other renal diseases. Oh, and also ’cause he wanted to fat shame kids.

One word, you guys: asshat.

In the interests of full disclosure – in darker times, I tried the Dukan Diet. My old housemate and I gave it a damned good shot, for about three weeks – which shows some serious willpower living an experience that I can only assume is a lil’ like going through a war. I lost about 20lbs, and gained bad breath, horrible skin, frizzy hair, fatigue, headaches – oh, and about 22lbs, shortly after. So I’d like to think that constitutes a very scientific real life study, on my part.

That news goes nicely with Wednesday’s BBC2 Horizon show, Sugar vs. Fat, which I’d strongly recommend you watch, ’cause it caused me to do some serious fistbumps. The gist was that some (quite cute – ahem) twin doctors each tried diets that cut out sugar (or, rather, carbs – which metabolise into sugars) and fat, respectively.

They concluded – after a whole bunch of tests – that cutting out either sugar or fat on the whole is a terrible idea. Both will make you sick, in different ways – so don’t do it.

Seriously. Don’t.

Their advice was thus: you’re more likely to stay healthy and live well if you minimise the amount of processed foods that you eat, and don’t buy into any ridiculous fad diets.

I hate to say I told you so. I really do. I’m British, after all. But come on guys – how long have Matt and I been saying things to that effect?

(It’s two years, FYI. That question ain’t rhetorical.)

Now, they also touched upon the fact that sugar and fat, combined in the right ratios, create that ‘taste sensation’ that makes us go all soft and gooey for the ol’ processed foods – like donuts, cookies, pizza, and so on – which is what makes them so compulsively damn delicious. This isn’t exactly news – and if you’re interested in this kind of thing I’d strongly recommend reading Dr. David Kessler’s ‘The End of Overeating’ which basically concludes:

Chronic exposure to highly palatable foods changes our brains, conditioning us to seek continued stimulation. Over time a powerful drive for sugar, fat and salt competes with our conscious capacity to say no.

Let’s talk about that first word: chronic. I don’t believe in extreme dieting, and I don’t believe you should ever have to entirely cut out anything from your diet unless it’s medically advised (by a real doctor – not Monsieur Dukan). I do, however, believe – along with Dr. Kessler and Dr. Jepp, quoted in the Horizon documentary – that we live in a society that makes it incredibly difficult to avoid hyper-processed foods. It’s all too easy to choose unhealthy, quick options than healthy, nutritious ones – and it’s something you have to actively think about, and more often than not, plan in advance.

However.

I think there is a dangerous rhetoric around this well-intentioned logic that can do more harm than good – because it’s still buying into a psychology of extremes. The word ‘chronic’ means long-term, or habitual – so once in a while, treating yourself to something that’s got that sugar/fat combo won’t really do you any harm.

I’ve talked at length about the way our language around our bodies colours the way we see ourselves, and interact with the world around us – and I think there’s a lot to be said for the language we use around food and exercise, too.

We talk about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods; we ‘cut out’ food groups, or ‘never’ eat, say, processed foods – and when we do, we declare ourselves ‘failures’ and run headlong into a two month binge.

We injure ourselves diving headlong into workouts we found on Pinterest, and we try to go from couch potato to marathon runner, only to end up hobbling back to the couch.

And we’re disappointed when we only lose 2lbs a week – even though 2lbs a week can mean over 100lbs in a year. And – as I’ve said many times before – we ‘hate’ our bodies, because they ain’t perfect.

In other words, the pervasive language of extremes – the ‘all or nothing’ mentality that the diet industry thrives upon – is screwing us all out of a healthy lifestyle. And this, to me, is the ‘ticking timebomb’ nobody’s talking about.

I mean, another study published this week claimed that physical inactivity is on the rise in the UK – with inactivity defined as ‘less than 30 minutes of exercise per week.’ But I think we – culturally – need to redefine our idea of exercise. You don’t have to be doing a Biggest Loser style training session or running an ultra-marathon to be improving your health.

Hell – the catalyst for me losing half my body weight was walking, one painful step at a time. I’d still falter at what those Biggest Loser contestants go through, even now.

But unfortunately, as I’ve said many a time, extreme language is what makes it so attractive, and such an easy sell. Just like nobody ever sold a product (except maybe Ronseal) by saying ‘it does exactly what it should do, and that’s about it,’ there’s no hook to ‘everything in moderation.’ And the ‘wow’ factor in ‘I lost 130lbs over two years,’ is a lot less likely to draw in a person who’s stuck in diet-language than ‘I lost half my body weight in two months’ (unless we’re talking about me, obviously. I’m wow factor to the bone.

But moderation, and long-term good health, is something you’ve gotta take on trust. A happy, good life isn’t one of extremes (thank gawd) – it’s one of day-by-day positive choices, occasional treats and the million tiny lil’ boring, unglamorous, quietly imperfect things that make life worth living.

So don’t fall into the rhetoric of extremes, and please – for god’s sake – don’t diet. It ain’t worth it. Instead, make moderation cool. Exercise a lil’, eat things that make you feel good – and make happiness something that happens while you’re living, rather than after you’re perfect.

‘Cause chances are, the second you give up diet language, you’ll realise you’re already pretty damn perfect as you are.

A Beautiful Alternative to Shame Culture (In Which I Vandalise Magazines)

A Beautiful Alternative to Shame Culture (In Which I Vandalise Magazines)

I hate trashy magazines. And I particularly hated the recent Now magazine cover – as you’ll probably know, if you follow me on Twitter, because it caused me to fly into such a rage my poor ol’ Mum ended up having to bring me a […]

Recipe: Harissa Topped Burger & Sweet Potato Fries

Recipe: Harissa Topped Burger & Sweet Potato Fries

I made this tonight – and it was so damned delicious, I had to write it up straight away. It was pretty thrown together, because frankly, I was ravenous – so the fact it turned out so tasty was something of a miracle. It’s a […]

Quick and Easy High Protein Breakfasts (for People as Lazy as Me)

Quick and Easy High Protein Breakfasts (for People as Lazy as Me)

These days, I’m really into protein-filled breakfasts. The lovely Tom Dyer at Ultimate City Fitness introduced me to the idea – and I have to say, I’m a fan. I find they keep me full for hours, and they feel a bit more indulgent than a bowl o’cereal or a slice of toast. There’s also something really satisfying about having greens at breakfast time that somehow makes me more inclined to stay on track.

On weekends, I’m able to take my time rustling up something that takes a bit of cooking – but on a weekday? Screw ‘dat. I have to leave the house at 7:30 to get to work, so it’s just not going to happen. And that’s why it’s a good idea to have a few super-easy recipes on standby. I eat a variation on one of these pretty much every day, with a big cup of coffee – and they’re all gluten and (mostly) dairy-free.

If you’re not a coeliac like yours truly, you might want to have a nice slice of crusty bread with them to balance out your carbs – or, do as I do and have a bit of fruit, like an apple or a banana, for pudding.

Because yes, I do consider breakfast to be a meal that warrants dessert. Sue me.

For a vegetarian option, substitute with tofu, tempeh, or whatever your preferred protein source is – and maybe have a handful of nuts to give you an extra protein boost.

So: here are a few of my favourite super-quick, super-easy breakfast recipes – bon appétit!

BBQ Salmon Crunchy Brunch

BBQ Salmon Brunch

This, right here, is a tasty mixture of BBQ salmon fillets (I got mine from Sainsbury’s, but the Saucy Fish Co. do some gorgeous ones), a chopped sweet red pepper, and some spinach – and that’s it.

Seriously. I told you these things were easy.

Calories: 300
Protein: 26g
Carbohydrates: 12g
Fat: 16g

Ham, Sweet Red Peppers, & Sugar Snap Peas

Ham, Peppers & Sugar Snaps

No explanation required… Right? The nutrition info here is for a whole 5-slice pack of quality ham, but you could also have half a pack with a boiled egg, if you feel like mixin’ it up a bit.

Calories: 268
Protein: 39g
Carbohydrates: 11g
Fat: 2g

Tuna, Red Peppers, Avocado & Spinach

Tuna, Red Pepper & Spinach

This can be a little dry, if you’re not careful – I’d recommend mixing in a tablespoon of 0% fat Greek yogurt and dill if you’re feeling super snazzy. But it packs a powerful protein punch (and will keep you full for hours!) I use a whole tin of tuna and half an avocado – but if you’d rather switch these around, that’s all good in the hood.

Calories: 330
Protein: 42g
Carbohydrates: 17g
Fat: 11g

Mackerel, Avocado, Mixed Vegetables & Spinach

Mackerel, Avocado & Vegetables

I know frozen vegetables are a bit of a faux-pas, especially if you’re feeling cheffy – but I live and die by them. They’re super useful when you need some greens but you’re short on time. I boil ’em up for a couple of minutes, or even stick ’em in the microwave (follow the instructions on the bag) – they’re not glamorous, but they get the job done.

I’m also big on (ethically sourced) tinned mackerel towards the end of the month, when I’m feeling a bit on the poor side – ’cause for about £1 a tin, you can have a nutritious, tasty breakfast every day of the week. Boom.

Calories: 365
Protein: 20g
Carbohydrates: 17g
Fat: 26g

Mackerel, Boiled Egg, & Tenderstem Broccoli

Mackerel, Boiled Egg & Broccoli

You can get some amazing varieties of smoked mackerel these days, and it’s really very cheap for such a tasty, fresh fish. I’m a big fan of the black pepper variety, but there are loads – so follow your heart on this. I like to make boiled eggs in batches so there’s usually a couple in the fridge – and you can cook your broccoli perfectly by just popping them in a bowl of boiled water for 2-3 minutes.

Easy peasy.

Calories: 362
Protein: 26g
Carbohydrates: 5g
Fat: 27g

Smoked Salmon, Boiled Egg, Spinach & Chives

Smoked Salmon, Boiled Egg & Chives

Again – this does what it says on the tin. The fresh chives give it a nice bit of a kick – and you can see I’ve chucked in some pea shoots that needed using up for an extra bit of bite. You can have two boiled eggs and 60g of smoked salmon; or 90g of smoked salmon with one boiled egg – either way, it’s delicious.

Calories: 352
Protein: 33g
Carbohydrates: 17g
Fat: 17g

Lazy, Lazy Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled eggs can be delicious, tasty, and – most importantly – ridiculously easy, especially when combined with those frozen veggies (told you I love ’em!) Heat up a small pan with a teaspoon of olive or coconut oil, and chuck in your frozen veg.

I know, I know, it doesn’t say you can do that. But you totally can, and I do. So there.

In a little bowl, beat two or three eggs, and throw in some spices. My favourites are those dried Cajun seasonings, or a combination of fresh parsley, basil, and black pepper to taste. Give it another beating, and then once your vegetables are soft, pour it in.

The most important thing is to keep it on the move – otherwise they’ll stick to the pan, which is probably the worst thing in the world. Probably. Keep stirring until they’re no longer runny, and serve on a bed of spinach… And then, Bob’s your proverbial. You’re done.

Calories: 342
Protein: 23g
Carbohydrates: 10g
Fat: 23g

So… That’s it! Enjoy – and let me know your high-protein breakfast ideas, too!

Things You Should Know Before You Start Your New Year Diet

Things You Should Know Before You Start Your New Year Diet

Ah, man. You know how I hate the diet industry, right? We’re clear on that? Well, this week, I’m filled with even more rage than ever. I am floored – floored, I tells ye – at how many people I’ve heard say they’re going on […]

Recipe: Spicy King Prawn Stir Fry

Recipe: Spicy King Prawn Stir Fry

Now, it’s probably a bit weird – but sometimes, on weekends, I’d happily eat prawns for breakfast. You know I’m a big seafood fan anyway – but seriously, I’d happily eat this meal any time of the day, any damn day of the week. I […]

Merry Christmas, You Lovely Bunch

Merry Christmas, You Lovely Bunch

Now, I’m not saying I’m like the Queen or anything.

Well, maybe I’m a bit like the Queen. I reckon I could do an equally good job of styling out a crown. I mean… Check me out in a Santa hat.

Palace or no, however, I do find Christmas gives me pause to reflect on things – not least because it’s one of the few times of the year I actually stop for a proper break. I love it. I love the food, the music, the iddy biddy twinkly lights… Christmas just nails it for me. It’s got everything.

Especially the food.

This Christmas, though, has seemed really important. It’s crazy how much life has changed in the last year – a year in which I’ve gained more new, amazing relationships than I can possibly count; I’ve moved to London, changed jobs, met my gorgeous agent and started writing a book; and I’ve learned a lot about myself, both good and bad.

And all these things are amazing. I’m incredibly, ridiculously privileged to have all this going on in my life.

Unfortunately, in being kept busy by these things, I’ve fallen face-first into the habit of living life too quickly. And that’s meant the pressure’s been on to have the Most Perfect Disney Christmas of All Time. I’ve been trying to drag Christmas spirit out of myself by any means necessary – whether that’s wandering around Hyde Park with a glass of mulled wine, listening to Christmas music on the tube, or decorating the house I’d be leaving for Christmas… Just to try to bring back that crazy, blissed-out feeling I remember from Christmasses past.

And I know for a fact that’s not just me. I see people freaking out in the run-up to Christmas, stressing about the food, the presents, the decorations and travel arrangements; I hear about the arguments and passive-aggressive awkward family moments; I get the emails about the Boxing Day Sales starting at 6am… In other words, I see the million little things that get in the way of what – it seems to me – is the whole point of Christmas.

It’s about taking the time to appreciate what’s important; to take stock, and savour the things you’ve got; and to love as much as you possibly can.

Turns out, I kinda forgot that this year. But it’s just arrived. I’m sitting here, writing to you guys, while my Mum, Dad and sister are dozing on the sofa, and it’s perfect. This lil’ moment might never happen again, and even if it does, we’ll all be different – because life changes. Fast.

I’m immensely privileged to be in this position, not only at home, but with this blog – where you guys have shared so much kindness,  joy and hope over the last 12 months that I could run on Christmas spirit all year round.

So: a serious, full-hearted Merry Christmas to you, team. I’m lucky to know those of you I do; and I hope the next year will give me time to get to know those of you I don’t. I hope today – and every day, for that matter – you get to appreciate and enjoy the important, sweet things that make life great.

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I’m off to pour another glass of fizz.

Season’s greetings, y’all!

Herbs, Spices & Tasty Stuff 101

Herbs, Spices & Tasty Stuff 101

In the lead up to January’s 30 Days of Good Stuff, you’ll notice a whole bunch of new recipes around these parts. However, a celebrity chef I am not – and it won’t take long for you to notice that there’s a lot of overlap in my recipes. […]

Recipe: Mexican Chicken, Grilled Peppers & Asparagus

Recipe: Mexican Chicken, Grilled Peppers & Asparagus

I’m not quite sure this qualifies as a recipe, really – because there’s hardly any cooking involved. However, it’s a solid, tasty and satisfying lunch that can be pretty much thrown together with hardly any cooking equipment – which makes it absolutely perfect when you’re […]

Recipe: Steak, Watermelon & Lentil Salad

Recipe: Steak, Watermelon & Lentil Salad

Okay, okay – I know this one sounds kinda weird, but trust me on this: it’s delicious.

I mean, look at it:

Steak and Watermelon Salad

I mean… Dayum.

The thing is, I have a bit of a sweet tooth, and I think quite often with steak you need a lil’ something to add a bit of moisture – especially if, like me, you get distracted and over-cook the meat every damn time. This salad, though – it’s got you covered.

So what’s in it?

1 steak (approx. 180g), grilled
5 leaves of fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 – 1 tsp Very Lazy chopped chillies
1/2 tsp Very Lazy chopped garlic
1 slice of watermelon, diced
3 mushrooms, sliced
1/2 an avocado
1/2 pack of puy lentils and quinoa
As much spinach or greens as you like!

This was a lunch on-the-go for me, so I’d cooked the steak in advance, but there’s no reason you can’t serve it warm with dinner – just make sure you add the steak at the very last moment so you don’t wilt your salad.

First, rub the balsamic vinegar, basil, chillies, garlic and black pepper into the steak and pop it on the grill. If you can do this in advance, so it has time to marinade, even better – but trust me, it’s not a disaster if you can’t.

Depending on the size of the steak, and how well you like it cooked, your grilling time is likely to vary – but for me, personally, for a steak that’s about an inch thick, I tend to give it about 2-3 minutes on each side (or 5 in total on the George Foreman.) Pop the mushrooms on the grill under the steak for the last few minutes, so they can soak up some of the lovely flavour coming off that steak.

In a mixing bowl, throw in your greens, avocado, watermelon and those puy lentils, and give ’em a good stir. I know adding in a mixing bowl sounds like an extra bit of washing up, but trust me – when you make your salad in the same place you serve it, you don’t get it mixed as well because you’re trying not to make a mess. The secret to a good salad, though?

Mess.

The last thing anyone wants to be stuck with is a pile of lettuce after they’ve finished all the good bits – so get in there and give it a good stir. Once your steak’s done, chuck that in there too, give it another good stir, and chuck it on the plate… Et voila.

Bob is your proverbial uncle.

Enjoy!

 

Nutritional Information

Calories: 487
Carbs: 45g
Protein: 41g
Fat: 16g

Dear Body (Part II)

Dear Body (Part II)

Missed Part I? Read it here. Dear Body, Things have been weird between us for a while. You’ve noticed it too, right? We’ve been on-again, off-again for so long that I figured I ought to take a bit of time to put my feelings into […]

Dear Body (Part I)

Dear Body (Part I)

This, right here, is my first two-parter. I received this email from the amazing Chiara – a friend and (amazingly) a reader, a couple of weeks ago. I’d toyed with taking a couple of parts out so I’d have the room to respond in the […]