5 Simple (But Important) Things I’ll Remember About 2021

I guess 2021 was a bit of a strange year for many of us… Maybe not to the same extent as 2020, but yet another challenging year! I can’t believe it was the year England went into a third national lockdown as it seems so far away now. I couldn’t even go to a restaurant on my birthday, back in January. And a few months later my favourite member of the Royal Family passed away… RIP Prince Philip, it’s never gonna be the same without you (I’m sure the Queen would agree).

If you add to it the fact that our travel perimeter this year was no more than a few kilometres… It couldn’t possibly have been a good year for us. We only had to book a cat-sitter 2 evenings in total for the entire year! And both times we went to a hotel relatively close by, just to disconnect from home. I can’t tell you how much I miss travelling (and writing about it).

But despite all that, I still feel 2021 has been a blast and I can’t think of any better reason to write a new post on the blog after such a long absence – If nothing else, it shows I’ve been busy! So many amazing things happened this year that I feel it’s important to take the time to reflect today.

1. Lockdown allowed me to up my cooking skills and change my bad habits for good

We all found a different way to keep busy during lockdown. This unexpected extra time was spent in the kitchen for me. January is usually an ideal month to commit to new resolutions (that I usually don’t keep) but this time I took it to the next level: I decided to follow Veganuary, with the aim to adopt a fully vegan diet.

Needless to say this is not an easy switch! From an omni/carnivore diet (I used to eat a lot of meat and dislike vegetables) to a plant-based diet, the challenge was pretty big. Why would I do that to myself? I hear you ask. Well, I did attempt to explain the reasons behind such a life-changing decision in some previous posts:

Today, not only I’m still vegan and I can proudly say I adapted quite well, I’m also convinced it was the best decision I’ve ever made. For the environment and for the animals obviously, but most importantly for my health: no more stomachaches! I even cooked a vegan Christmas meal for the first time a few days ago and it was great to know I wasn’t going to feel bloated afterwards.

Finally, the weight loss goal that I set myself in August 2020 was reached in March 2021… While most people were using lockdown as an excuse to put on weight, I did it the other way around. You can read all about how I lost 25 kg in less than 8 months without hitting the gym, if that topic interests you. Spoiler alert: it’s all about nutrition.

2. I left the “old me” behind to become the best version of myself

It’s great to reach your objectives, but then what happens? When it comes to weight loss, it’s super easy to go back to square one in no time. So you can guess where I’m getting at: weight management is by far the most difficult step. When you lose a big portion of yourself (the unwanted part), you need to embrace the new version of you. So this is what I’ve done:

  • I went through my entire wardrobe and removed all the clothes that became way too big (so rewarding!) – Donated them to clothes banks: win-win
  • I also let go of my long hair for a short haircut – Gave 30cm to Little Princess Trust charity: another win-win

I was ready for the next chapter of my life, feeling lighter… physically and mentally.

3. It was always about moving forward, not looking back (or only to be proud)

Talking about new beginnings, lockdown encouraged us to move to a new place with more rooms so we could work from home comfortably, with our own office each. It looked like it was becoming the “new normal” and frankly, I’m not gonna complain for not having to take the tube twice a day like before…

I started a new job right after moving in to our new pad, it was a stressful time as I quit my previous job end of 2019 to go travelling… What feels like an eternity ago! I feel for new mums coming back to work after a long maternity leave (although my come back was probably easier, as at least I don’t have to raise a child at the same time).

In a way, it was great that I could smoothly get used to my new active life without any commute (thank you lockdown) but on the other hand, it was a bit odd not to meet any colleagues in real life… Until 2 months after I joined. I see work differently now and even though it can get quite busy, I have a much better work-life balance and a better definition of my priorities.

4. Patience is a virtue, things happen when they’re meant to

If 2020 has been frustrating because we couldn’t get married, our big day finally happened in 2021… And it was perfect in every way. I feel like this story would benefit a full post as I have a lot to say to future brides and grooms, but for now I’m just gonna stick to the main points:

  • We got the date we wanted (11th November, Armistice day)
  • We kept the guest list to a minimum (10 guests only, all immediate family) and it was way more intimate that way
  • The timing ended up being spot on, even though I worried a lot that my family wouldn’t be able to come from France (it would have been more difficult a week later…)
  • It feels great to get married with a lean figure – Even if it meant resizing my rings 4 sizes down (not exactly cheap) and find myself a new dress (an online job did the trick)
  • The happy and natural pictures taken by family speak volumes, we didn’t hire a professional photographer

This was also the occasion to be reunited with my parents and my sister for the first time in 2 years. Everyone was in good health too, among the things you don’t take for granted anymore. I’m very thankful for allowing all that to happen, 2021.

5. A new year is a new opportunity to carry over the good things and let go of the rest

Back in January, I kept an avocado seed and attempted to grow some roots from it before planting it in soil. I named him Rodrigo because the avocado was from Brazil. Sorry for the bad picture above but it’s winter and the natural light is pretty bad. But you can see that not only he’s still alive, but he grew well, now standing tall and proud! He was doing way better in summer, he seems to be struggling a bit this winter but I’m sure he’ll make it through.

This is a just a metaphor. I thought he was not gonna last more than a few months but he’s still here, ready for 2022. I did some decluterring in the house yesterday, because I didn’t want to start a new year with a bunch of useless stuff. I’m doing the same with my life, keeping the good bits and getting rid of the junk. It turns out there are so many ways to feel as light as a feather at the end…

Of course we unfortunately have to carry over this stupid virus which doesn’t seem to be willing to go just yet. But well, we got double jabbed and boosted this year, which is quite impressive in that short amount of time. Hands down to science which I feel didn’t receive the recognition it deserves just yet. Anyway, there is light at the end of the tunnel!

No new resolutions planned for 2022 on my end, only to try and be the best I can be! I wish the same to you, and if you have some dreams, don’t forget to turn them into goals. All the best for this new year that I’m sure will be another great one, as we received so many valuable lessons from the past 2 years. Happy New Year all!

Big Girl x

Is Your Work Environment Toxic? How to Identify The Signs

toxic environment

Pre-pandemic I was working in a company where the culture was particularly toxic. They had the biggest turnover rate I’ve ever seen and the level of frustration / unhappiness among my colleagues was over the roof. I suppose I have that company to thank for because it triggered my desire to quit my job without anything else lined up, just to travel. How often do you have the opportunity to take a break for several months in life? I believe everything happens for a reason and if I was happy at work I wouldn’t have had the occasion to make this incredible trip in Southeast Asia & the Pacific. Life is too short! It’s never been so important to work in a healthy and supportive environment, so watch out for these signs:

Employees are desperate to impress the boss

If there is a “brown nose club” (as I affectionally call them) whose sole purpose is to be noticed by the boss, it’s a strong sign of individualism. Not only will it impact the trust between people, but unnecessary energy will be spent on office politics. Collaboration will reduce and everyone will look at what’s best for themselves… Not exactly a type of environment you can thrive in! I remember having the feeling I had to watch my back and worry someone would throw me under the bus if that allowed them to shine brighter. Stupid.

Results are more important than employees’ wellbeing

In my previous company, an easy way to be “valued” was to forget about your work-life balance and spend as much time as possible in the office. Presence and commitment were important factors, but it was not exactly a give and take situation. It felt like the business mattered more than our wellbeing… It didn’t bother anyone to see an employee not taking any lunch break and working all weekend, every week. I think it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, you don’t own the business. The business doesn’t own you either. You’re entitled to use your free time for whatever makes you happy: hobbies, family time, etc. Otherwise, watch out for that burnout!

Examples of other red flags: if they discourage you to take a lunch break with your teammates (“divide to conquer” approach) and are being difficult with your holiday request(s), approving them as late as possible.

Employees don’t feel like they have a voice

If you think you might as well keep your thoughts to yourself because you’re afraid to speak your mind, it’s a pretty good sign you don’t feel “safe”. Working in an office where you’re terrified of looking stupid or making mistakes is not good for your self-confidence. You shouldn’t feel punished for raising concerns! It also makes innovation impossible. If they don’t want to hear about your ideas, give them to someone else who will listen to you.

same shit different day

There is toxicity at an individual level

A toxic employee can spread fear or negativity and drag down morale for the entire team. I remember working with a very insecure woman who was clearly in search of power. She was very aggressive and liked to humiliate people by email or in meetings, usually with an audience. As a result, most people were scared of her. Unfortunately, she contributed to the overall toxicity like other senior managers. Culture starts at the top, so if you feel like there is no hope for improvements, just run away and don’t look back.

The company is reluctant to pay for bonuses

Here’s another sign that something is wrong. As an employer, why wouldn’t you want to reward your biggest asset (aka your employees) when they have been working hard to hit their target? If the bonus structure they give you is blurry to say the least, or includes variables you don’t directly have an impact on, it probably means they want to find an easy way to underpay you. Same if they reward you for hitting your target by doubling it the following month and make it impossible to achieve. Again, I speak from personal experience. My advice would be to look for a company who is more than happy to reward you, because you deserve it. And after all, it’s the best way for them to guarantee they’ll keep happy employees who will do their best to perform.

Is your work environment toxic? Or are you lucky enough to work in a healthy and supportive environment? I’ve started a new job 4 months ago (hence why my blog has taken a back seat for now, sorry…) and I can tell you I feel much happier now. It’s a great way for me to confirm what I already knew: my previous workplace was impacting me negatively, even outside of business hours. If you feel it’s also the case for you, leave me a comment below. I would love to hear about your own experience!

Big Girl x

How To Make Moving Home As Stress-Free As Possible

packing boxes

I can make very organised to-do lists every time I move, it will never make it completely stress-free. I must have moved about 20 times in my life already (not kidding) and yet I can safely say the last one has been the most painful. It just doesn’t get any easier with time! It also took me a while to recover and settle in my new place… So I’ve been forced to take a break from the blog for a few weeks. After enjoying a nice bank holiday weekend, now is time to get back to business! What do you need to know to make such a life event as smooth as possible?

Do some decluttering first

The best thing when you move is that you get rid of a lot of useless stuff. Unless you’re an expert in minimalist living, you accumulate a lot over time and only seem to realise it when it’s time to pack everything up. Surely you don’t want to carry unwanted items with you, so start fresh beforehand and declutter to free your mind:

  • Sort out your wardrobe. How many times have you worn that dress? Have you ever had the occasion to wear that expensive pair of high-heel shoes that you might not even be able to walk in? Clothes bank, charities, second-hand shops, the possibilities are endless to get rid of what you don’t need.
  • Go through big items in your garage. Is there anything that has been packed away and never used? Do you really want to keep them in your new home?
  • Check any cupboards prone to stock unnecessary stuff. I’m talking about beauty products, bathroom items, random little things that have been forgotten in a drawer, it could be anything.

It may sound obvious but I was so glad I did this exercise before moving out… Getting rid of half my wardrobe also made me realise I owned way too many clothes. I now have a new policy where I wear anything I want everyday, no more “special occasion” clothes I will never end up wearing. I’m not saying you should wear your wedding dress to go to the supermarket if you fancy, but hopefully you get the idea.

Too many to-do lists will overwhelm you

If you’re like me, you like creating to-do lists for everything. This is usually super useful but when it comes to moving, it could be counterproductive. I ended up with so many lists of things to not forget that I felt my mind was never able to rest… And I ended up tiring myself out as a result. Not needed! It’s like when I go on holiday and I worry about forgetting important things. I use a different mindset now: I just remember that as long as I have my passport and my phone with me, everything will be fine. It’s just a case of prioritising what really matters. What I’m trying to say is: if you forget in what box you packed your sunscreen and the sun is nowhere to be seen, it’s obviously not a big deal.

I will even go further and say you actually don’t need to do much before moving, apart from packing. As long as you know when you need to move out and when you get the keys to your new home, this is pretty much it. The rest will naturally follow as you will be able to do them once you’re settled. That would include:

  • redirect your mail
  • update your new address (bank, insurance, driving licence, various memberships, etc)
  • terminate any direct debit you may have (electricity, gas, water, council tax, etc)

I always try to sort things out as soon as possible but then I realise they could also be done on the spot. Most admin things are done by email nowadays anyway, it’s not like people can’t reach you if you move.

Some things can’t be rushed

That is probably the most underrated advice I could give you. I was trying desperately to do as much as possible, as quickly as possible, but all I needed was patience. There’s no point chasing the agency to send you the contract if you agreed on the move-in date weeks ago. No point packing kitchen stuff a week earlier, unless you want to order a takeaway every day until you move. Chances are you won’t get the keys to your new place earlier than planned so no need to wonder how long is that wall in the living room so you can buy a new dining table right away. You get the idea.

I would say the most difficult thing in a move is to stop feeling anxious something will go wrong. You might end up packing something useful too early or forget to clean the oven before you move out, it’s not going to be the end of the world. Just breathe and relax, you will be just fine. Give yourself some time to fully embrace the experience without stressing out, maybe it means taking a week off work for your own sanity. It’s exciting to move into a new place, so you might as well enjoy it!

As I’m writing these lines, I’ve only just started to settle in… All I need from now on is a well organised routine full of good habits. New home, new life, new adventures! Who can relate?

Big Girl x

The Importance of Being Happy Single Before Meeting The One

self care singleton

Of course you can meet your Mr or Mrs Right at an early stage in your life, but it’s fair to say it tends to become an exception nowadays! If you’re single and wondering if something’s wrong with you, keep reading. It might just be the timing is not right for you to meet someone yet.

Everyone has a different theory when it comes to love but I personally believe there is no “unique soulmate”. It’s romantic to think there is only one person in the entire world meant to be with you but if it was true, it would be pretty much impossible to meet them in a lifetime. May I remind you we’re currently almost 8,000,000,000 people on Earth? Even if you have non-negotiable criteria such as sexual orientation or religion for example, your chances of bumping into your unique soulmate would be close to zero. This pragmatic approach means you make your own definition of “the one”.

Not the right partner… Or not the right time

I was just about to turn 30 when I ended a difficult relationship. To me, it was a blessing, not a fatality. I didn’t know for how long I was going to be single but at the time it didn’t really matter. One day, a Pakistani colleague of mine told me: “You should get married soon, you’re almost 30 now”. He wasn’t trying to tease me, he said that seriously and with good intentions. He met his wife on his wedding day when his parents thought it was about time for him to marry someone. They simply learned how to grow affection towards each other with time. I told him I didn’t want anyone to choose who I would spend my life with, but he didn’t seem to understand.

In a way, religion is the key to lower rates of divorce. A marriage has a spiritual meaning to religious people that makes them more resilient when working through relationship issues. But arranged marriages are not for everyone, and choosing your own partner comes at a price. Because there is a difference between what you want and what you need, and it’s very easy to get confused between the two. I only knew one thing for certain: if I ever got married, it was only going to happen when I found the right partner, not when it was the right time.

Your attitude towards life matters

Before meeting Mr Right, I was single for almost 3 years. I’m convinced this period of my life taught me so much about myself that I was finally ready to meet him. I kept saying I would rather be single than with the wrong person and I meant it. I had a lot of fun, made new friends, went to many parties without holding back, I flourished and I finally felt connected with myself. My level of self-confidence increased, I felt free of drama and didn’t miss the arguments that happened regularly in my previous relationships. You can’t control when you’ll meet someone who will make you want to settle. But you can definitely choose to be happy until you do. It might happen later than you anticipated but chances are your relationship will be more likely to be a success story.

serenity when alone

Why it’s important to enjoy being single

  • You learn a lot about yourself and discover how you deal with situations on your own.
  • The way you react to any life event is not influenced by anyone else.
  • You learn new skills because you can’t rely on a partner to split tasks.
  • You’re more likely to regularly form new friendships rather than falling into a routine.
  • You get to understand better what you want, need and value in life.
  • No one is holding you back: you do what you want, whenever you want to.
  • You can take the time you need to heal over things and fully embrace your emotions.
  • Being single doesn’t mean being lonely, you learn how to enjoy your own company.
  • You have more free time that you can spend with friends.
  • It’s way better to be single than in a toxic relationship destined for failure.
  • You can focus on your own happiness and it’s okay to be selfish!

Being married and wishing to be single is the worst situation you could be in. Hence why it’s so important to make the most of your single period, so you can learn enough about yourself to eventually settle with the right person. It’s important to have a clean start for the next important chapter of your life!

A few tips on how to be happy alone

To get you started:

  • Don’t compare yourself with others.
  • Detach yourself from social media – a detox might be needed.
  • Let your mind wander without distractions, and see where it takes you!
  • Enjoy travelling and discovering new places on your own (if you have the time and budget), or simply sit in a coffee shop and soak in your surroundings.
  • Go for a run or hit the gym regularly, endorphins are known to make people feel happier.
  • Go outside and spend time with nature, feel the breeze on your face.
  • Dance like no one’s watching to your favourite music! (neighbours permitting)
  • Self-care is an obvious one: linger in a bath, make yourself a face mask, give yourself a proper break.
  • Always dreamt of doing something creative? Just do it! Now is the time to step outside your comfort zone. Enrol in a class if it’s easier, plus you’ll meet new like-minded people.
  • Make plans, fill that calendar up with cool and exciting stuff!

In the long run:

  • Don’t get yourself stuck in a routine. Shake things up by reorganising your space, declutter, find new places to go to, etc.
  • Nurture relationships with family and friends: take the time to have meaningful conversations with them.
  • Pay a lot of attention to your health, whether mentally or physically. Make sure you have a balanced diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.
  • Make long-term plans and ask yourself where you want to be in 5-10 years, personally and professionally. What do you need to do to accomplish these goals?
  • Write down all the things you feel grateful for in your life…

Your relationship status is not what defines your happiness. If you want to be in a happy relationship, you first need to be happy on your own. Love yourself first so you can truly love someone else. It could also be that you realise you’re happier on your own than in a relationship, and that’s a choice you’re fully entitled to make. But don’t fall into the trap of listening to what society (and social media?) think is best for you!

Big Girl x

Are You a Dreamer Or a Go-Getter? Let’s Find Out!

dream catcher

A goal without a plan is a dream. We all have dreams… But how many of them turn into reality? That’s right, unless it’s planned, it’s unlikely to happen. You could argue they could come true on their own, but I wouldn’t rely on luck too much these days. I’m a big dreamer myself, I regularly daydream about many things: a future promotion, a future celebration, a future success of any sort… I think the main thing is actually to be aware you need to turn these dreams into goals in order to make them happen. One of my dreams was to get healthier and feel great in my own skin. It took me some time to put a solid plan in motion. But once I started, I became unstoppable because I was focused. I lost 25 kg in less than 8 months and achieved my goal.

The difference between dreams and goals

A dream is something that inspires you. It’s something created from your imagination, most of the time related to the future. A dream is like a wish, or a hope something will happen someday. You can be or achieve anything in your dreams, nothing is impossible in your mind.

A goal brings you down to reality. It’s something tangible and concrete, with a plan to make it happen. Its costs you time and energy, your imagination won’t be enough. The difference seems super clear! But then why are they often confused with one another?

This is key to understand why so many people never accomplish their dreams. They just forget to set clear goals for themselves. How to make the distinction between dreams and goals:

  • Dreams allow you to create whatever your mind wants, regardless of what’s actually possible
  • Dreams give you an easy escape from the real world, instantly
  • Because dreams are imaginary, they don’t produce tangible results
  • Goals require you to take action, in a specific and consistent way
  • Goals have deadlines and they require hard work
  • Because goals are based on reality, they produce results

So how do you make sure a dream can be turned into a goal, and then into a reality? Reaching a goal is a matter of effort and focus, it’s a conscious decision. Below the well-known S.M.A.R.T. technique in order to set the right goals:

  • Specific – Set up a nice, firm and objective goal that is unambiguous in nature.
  • Measurable – If you can measure it, you can easily see if you’re on track or if you need to adjust your plan.
  • Attainable – Take into account your current situation and set realistic expectations for yourself. If it helps, break down your goal into smaller ones!
  • Relevant – Don’t ignore the social conditions and current events in your life which may go against your goal. It will save you a lot of frustration.
  • Time-based – This is when you want to achieve your goal by, like your own time limit.
don't doubt yourself, just do it

Are you more of a dreamer or a go-getter?

You’re a dreamer if you:

  • Use the word “someday” rather than more specific terms
  • Allow yourself to go on exciting adventures when you close your eyes
  • Prefer getting lost in your imagination rather than face reality

You’re a go-getter if you:

  • Have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish
  • Break things down easily into practical steps
  • Know what you want and are determined to be successful

One might come more naturally, while the other requires more conscious cultivation. We can all be either, depending on the situation. The idea is to ask yourself if you’re more of a dreamer or a go-getter for a specific thing you want, not in general. For example, I’m a go-getter when it comes to my own health but I’m also a dreamer when it comes to moving to Singapore. One day… Maybe!

Why dreams are as important as goals

Goals can change your life. But before they do, dreams are what inspire you. They are the starting point, this very first step which is absolutely crucial. If you make sure you don’t stay stuck at that stage, dreams are actually very important too! Don’t be scared to dream big… As long as it’s something you can turn into reality. Visualise your objectives by closing your eyes and imagine how you would feel once you’ve achieved your goal. Having a dream also contributes to your wellbeing. Plan it out as if it’s going to happen. Personally, I think taking the time to dream is what makes the difference when it comes to overall happiness. Take the chance to just sit and dream, let your mind wander, breathe and let yourself relax. And then simply remember this: if dreams don’t usually come true… goals do!

“Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

Suzy Kassem

So which of your dreams do you need to change into a goal?

Big Girl x

How I Lost 25kg During Lockdown Without Hitting The Gym

drinking water for weight loss

I started this blog with a weight goal in mind and the determination to become the best version of myself. The pandemic opened my eyes to how important it was to respect my body and keep it healthy. Whilst many people understandably put on weight during lockdown, I decided to go against the flow and do the opposite. I didn’t just want to lose weight, I wanted to completely revisit my eating habits for good. I was willing to change whatever needed to change by playing the long game.

In the past, I lost weight by going to the gym every day, I didn’t pay much attention to my nutrition. I really liked the vibes of an intense session, with a trainer who made me sweat like crazy. But gyms were closed pretty much all year so it wasn’t possible to go to classes during lockdown. I could have kept active by simply following videos on YouTube but I need a “real” coach. And I’m not a runner either… So I decided to focus on what I put in my mouth instead! After all, it’s the very first thing you need to prioritise for a healthy and sustainable weight loss.

As good as exercise is for you, it won’t help much without dietary modifications. With this post, I’m not saying you don’t need to exercise to lose weight. I’m saying you can still lose weight even if you’re not really active. Because a good diet is key.

Throwback to beginning of August 2020

  • Weight: 85 kg
  • BMI: 31.2
  • Body fat: 37.90 %
  • Waist size: 94 cm (or 37 inches)

It pains me to share this but it’s necessary. Clinically speaking I was obese, at a high risk of developing type II diabetes or other health conditions. Worldwide, obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. This is due to an increased intake of energy-dense foods (high in fat and sugars) and a decrease in physical activity (sedentary lifestyle and changing modes of transportation). Being overweight or obese increases risks of developing diseases such as heart disease and stroke, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and even some cancers. In England, almost two thirds of adults are overweight (BMI between 25 and 30) or obese (BMI above 30). I didn’t want to be part of the majority anymore.

No action, no change

1. I started with a simple calorie counting approach

It’s not about becoming obsessed with the number of calories contained in each food you put in your mouth. But I do think it’s necessary to be aware of all hidden calories you consume without even realising. An extra spoon of oil when you cook, some more sauce added with your meal, one more glass of alcohol… It quickly accumulates and before you know it, you’re already above your calorie budget. The rule is simple (calories out must be greater than calories in) but you need to do the maths right with the correct information. If you haven’t followed my blog from the start, this post will give you more detail about My Weight Loss Journey: Past Failures & Current Plan. By just being more careful with meal portions and cutting out unnecessary snacks, I lost 7 kg within the first 2 months.

2. I then discovered intermittent fasting

It’s actually thanks to my blog, or should I say, thanks to one of my readers, that I first heard of intermittent fasting. I mentioned I didn’t need much for breakfast (just a cup of tea with some honey), so he suggested maybe I didn’t need it at all. Truth is I had “something” in the morning because I’ve been told all my life to never skip a meal. Now I realise I don’t need to eat 3 times a day. That’s the reason why adopting such a different habit was so easy for me! It felt right from the start and gave my weight loss a lot more consistency. Combining intermittent fasting with a healthy diet helped me lose another 10 kg in the next 3 months.

Read more about my experience with intermittent fasting and see if it could be right for you:
Weight Loss Journey: How I Overcame the Dreaded Plateau
Why I Decided to Adopt Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting or Why Skipping Breakfast Could Be a Good Idea
5 Effective Ways To Lose Weight With Intermittent Fasting

3. Finally, I decided to go vegan

This to me is the last piece of the puzzle. I wouldn’t say going vegan is what helped me lose the remaining 8 kg to reach my objective. But cutting out meat and dairy significantly helped reduce my calorie intake. Note: being vegan doesn’t mean being healthy. You can go vegan and have a terrible diet! What I wanted was to adopt a healthy plant-based diet and drastically increase my consumption of fruits and vegetables. It allows me to feel full for longer and naturally suppresses cravings. I also discovered many more delicious and healthy meals. Truth is I’ve never been more excited about food than since I made that decision!

Read more about veganism and see if it could be good for you too:
Veganuary: A Great Way to Start the Year
Surprising Things I Discovered After Going Vegan for a Month

To sum up what I’ve been doing since lockdown (and will keep doing from now on): keep a healthy diet including fruits and vegetables, replace meat and dairy with healthy alternatives for proteins and calcium, and no eating when not hungry. Intermittent fasting gave me more consistency throughout the day, I skip breakfast because I don’t need it and I stop eating after 7pm. This combination of things gave me the results below.

Current situation end of March 2021 (8 months later)

  • Weight: 60 kg | Result: -25 kg
  • BMI: 22 | Result: -9.2
  • Body fat: 24 % | Result: -13.90 %
  • Waist size: 70 cm (or 27.5 inches) | Result: -24 cm (or -9.5 inches)

I am now back to a healthy weight and reached my goal of 60 kg, no need to mention how good it makes me feel! You can accomplish anything if you’re willing to commit to it. No excuses, only results. But this is not over, it’s never going to be over. The part to focus on now is weight maintenance – Let’s keep the weight off! Learning from my mistakes, I am not going to go back to my previous unhealthy lifestyle. The changes I made in my routine are here to stay.

I usually don’t take many pictures of myself but I found a selfie from August last year that grabbed my attention… It was a selfie with our youngest cat Luna (she was a kitten by then) and I realised my face had a much rounder shape back then, compared to today. So I reproduced the same picture (obviously Luna has grown since!) and you can see the difference of my face before and after losing 25 kg:

weight loss - before
August 2020
weight loss - after
March 2021

Summary & Weight Loss Tips

What to keep in mind:

  • The more overweight you are, the easier it is to lose the first kilos! You just need to make a start.
  • Small changes can have big impacts in the long run: reducing alcohol consumption, skipping starters at restaurants, avoiding unnecessary snacks, etc
  • It’s almost certain you are going to face a weight loss plateau at some point. Do not use it as an excuse to give up!
  • It’s OK to ask for support to stay motivated, involve friends and family, or even social media if it helps keeping you accountable for progress.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution, you will have to test and see what works for you.
  • Remember all changes in your lifestyle need to be permanent, not temporary. Otherwise, your weight loss will not be sustainable…
  • Focus on healthy food you already like and limit your consumption of unhealthy food. It’s not about suppression, it’s about moderation.
  • Remember to stay hydrated and drink a lot of water!
  • Hit the pillow. A good sleep routine helps with weight loss, as you will be more prone to make bad decisions if you feel tired.
  • Your body is not replaceable, the food you give it is fuel. The better the fuel, the better it works (a bit like a car…).
  • Eating well is the best way to show your body the respect it deserves, it will give it back to you!

What NOT to do:

  • Don’t associate weight loss with frustration, or you will develop an unhealthy relationship with food. It’s OK to crave chocolate sometimes! As a general rule, try to stick to min. 80% healthy / max. 20% “pleasure” foods.
    Related post: Why a Healthy Mind Is Key to Successful Weight Loss
  • Don’t completely suppress your favourite foods from your diet. That would put them even more on a pedestal, so give in to temptation, just in smaller quantities.
  • Don’t have unrealistic expectations. Weight loss takes time and effort, it doesn’t happen overnight…
  • Don’t set a weight goal that is way too low for yourself. If your BMI is already close to 18, chances are you don’t need to lose much weight at all. Look at other metrics such as body fat % or waist size.
    Related post: Is BMI the Only Important Metric to Measure How Healthy You Are?
  • Never starve yourself. If you experience physical signs of hunger (stomach rumbling for example), it means your body needs fuel.
  • Don’t eat when you’re not hungry. In the same respect, do not use food for comfort.
    Related post: Bored? How to Soothe Yourself Without Food
  • Don’t ignore hidden calories! Do you realise how many calories an extra spoon of oil contains for example? Calories in drinks are also easy to overlook (sodas, alcohol…), so don’t forget to take them into account.

I also previously shared some tips about how to stay motivated during your weight loss, because the journey will be full of obstacles. Focus on WHY you’re doing it: you make choices, not rules. If you’re not satisfied with your weight, I hope my story will inspire you. And if you know people who would benefit from reading it, don’t hesitate to spread the word! Health is a serious topic and very much a global issue worth fighting for.

Big Girl x

How to Recognise an Addiction & Recover From It

casino games

I am no therapist but I want to cover this sensitive topic because I’ve been through it myself in a past relationship. One of my ex boyfriends was addicted to gambling and it took me a year to find out. No one knew about it. I remember the shame and guilt associated with his addiction, the multiple lies that led to trust issues, but also how helpless I felt… At his worst, he was able to lose the equivalent of a month’s salary in a few days, simply by gambling it online. I had to involve his family and he never really forgave me for that.

After a year of struggle, I was still clueless what to do to break the cycle so I eventually ended the relationship. Gamblers tend to think they can always earn back what they lost, “hope” is what causes their downfall. It was not an easy break-up but I figured the best way to help him was to “lose” me for good. Today I’m still convinced it was the right thing to do. But you can’t break up with everyone… What if he was my brother, my dad or a close friend?

Are some people more inclined to become addicted than others? Maybe it’s in our genes. Or are we all addicted to something in the end? I don’t know for certain but I’m hoping I can at least shed some light on the matter.

Types of addiction

Some things are famous to easily create dependence:

  • Drugs (illicit or not)
  • Some medication (prescribed or not)
  • Alcohol
  • Gambling

But you can also be addicted to pretty common things… For example:

  • Junk food
  • Your mobile phone
  • Internet or social media
  • Computer games

Whether it’s an addiction to a substance or a specific behaviour, it can be very dangerous and/or unhealthy. If it’s not identified rapidly, it can lead to serious consequences.

What are the signs to look after

Below are some questions you need to ask yourself if you’re in doubt. Are they:

  • Suddenly lacking interest for a hobby that used to be important?
  • Neglecting relationships?
  • Ignoring the negative consequences of their actions?
  • Noticing any distinct change in their sleeping patterns, causing chronic fatigue?
  • Becoming secretive, lying about the amount of substance used or time spent?
  • Going through an abrupt change of weight?
  • Changing moods and showing signs of irritability?
  • Depressed with suicidal thoughts?
  • Lacking concerns over their physical appearance?

Just remember that someone with an addiction will almost always understate the seriousness of their condition. When confronted, they may make excuses and try to justify their behaviour to you. So unless there are any potential medical reasons for someone’s health decline, there’s an increased chance of an underlying addiction problem.

How to help them recover from it

freedom remove handcuffs

If you know someone who needs help with an addiction, keep in mind they don’t always want to acknowledge they’re addicted. Approaching and helping an addict could be a long, challenging, and painful process. Start with a one-on-one conversation, free of distractions or interruptions. If they’re willing to seek professional help, then great. But in some cases, they won’t. If they become defensive instead, let it go for the time being and start involving family members to plan an intervention. And even when they accept to enrol in a recovery program, stay involved with the process and keep giving support. If they’re still reluctant to change, the most difficult part is to strike a balance and set boundaries in the relationship. Unfortunately, sometimes you may need to cut off contact in order to maintain your own emotional well-being, like I did.

Below are some ways you can attempt to help them:

  • Learn more about their addiction (substance or behavioural), document yourself and read about testimonies, successful recovery stories, etc
  • Stay involved but not in a patronising way, show compassion
  • Provide an environment free of possible triggers
  • Speak up and freely express your concerns
  • Look for a rehab facility or organisations that will be able to help manage the addiction

But at the end of the day, recovering from it has to be their decision, not yours. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you didn’t manage to convince them. Have you ever been in this situation? Did you manage to find the light at the end of the tunnel?

“I’m Not Telling You It Is Going To Be Easy, I’m Telling You It’s Going To Be Worth It.” (Anonymous).

Big Girl x

5 Effective Ways To Lose Weight With Intermittent Fasting

intermittent fasting for weight loss

I’m sure you’ve heard about what recently became a health trend: Intermittent fasting. It’s claimed to cause weight loss, improve metabolic health, and perhaps even extend lifespan, among other things. But the only thing I can personally confirm is the fact that it does help with weight loss. For me, it also improved my relationship with food in many ways. It’s important to mention it’s not right for everyone though. If you’re underweight or have eating disorders like anorexia, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, if you’re under the age of 18: this post is not for you. And if you have a medical condition like diabetes, it’s best to talk to your doctor first. Otherwise, you have no excuse not to give it a try and see what happens!

1. Choose the most appropriate plan for you

First of all, consider choosing an intermittent fasting plan that best matches your lifestyle and can be maintained for the long-haul. For example, some plans will be more or less easy to sustain depending if you have a 9-to-5 office job, if you’re working on shifts, or working from home, etc. It needs to be a plan that doesn’t prevent you from having a social life either (especially when lockdown is finally lifted). Among the most popular plans:

The 16:8 method

  • Eat only during 8 hours a day
  • Fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day
  • You can define your own “feeding window” (you could for example skip breakfast everyday or eat dinner really early)

The 5/2 diet

  • Eat normally for 5 days a week (i.e. your recommended calorie intake)
  • Reduce your calorie intake to only 500-600 for the other 2 days
  • You can pick which days of the week you want to fast

Eat-Stop-Eat

  • Fast for 24 hours, once or twice a week
  • You can pick which day(s) of the week you want to fast

Alternate day fasting

  • Fast every other day
  • An easier version would be to reduce your calorie intake to 500 calories on fasting days

The warrior diet

  • Eat very little during 20 hours a day (mostly small portions of raw fruits and vegetables)
  • Then eat what you want but only during a 4-hour window, at night

2. Drink a lot of water when you fast

No matter what plan you choose to adopt, remember to drink lots of fluid when you fast! Keeping yourself hydrated is extremely important. Water is of course the best option but you can also drink tea or coffee if you like, as long as you don’t add milk or any form of sweetener in it. Some consider it’s also fine to have calorie-free flavoured drinks but I would still avoid them, to guarantee a clean fast.

3. Dissociate fasting and starvation

The idea of fasting can be scary for some, but I think it’s important to remember fasting does not mean starving. The main difference being: starving is not a choice, it’s an involuntary absence of food that can lead to death. By fasting, you choose to avoid food (whether it’s for spiritual, health, or other reasons). It’s about taking control and learning how it actually feels like to be “hungry”. You’re unlikely to faint because you’re simply hungry… And hunger usually passes like a wave, you just need to learn how to ride the hunger waves. Don’t you think food tastes so much better when you’re hungry anyway, rather than when it’s simply “time to eat”? If done correctly, fasting shouldn’t cause suffering or lead to frustration. If that’s the case, pick another method or reduce your fasting window.

colourful fruit bowl vegan

4. Make the calories count

When you eat, do it well! Intermittent fasting is known to focus on when you eat rather than what you eat… But combining the two is always ideal. Binge eating junk food during your “feeding window” is not going to do you any good. It will only teach your mind that your reward for depriving yourself is to comfort eat. That’s why it’s so important to stay in control of what you put in your body.

When it’s time for you to eat, treat yourself to foods you like, preferably the ones packed with nutrients. Be sure to eat a balanced diet comprising fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. Some foods will help you feel full for longer. Planning ahead will help you to achieve that: you’ll always make better choices if you’re well prepared. Remember to treat yourself too (not more than 10-20% of your total food intake) and you’ll be just fine!

5. Adopt your plan as a new way of life

Last but not least, the key to success is to adopt intermittent fasting as your healthy lifestyle, not for the short-term only. Personally I adopted the 16:8 method, which to me means I don’t have breakfast. I feel like I have more energy in the morning thanks to that, my body is not busy digesting a meal I don’t really need. I can focus more on my tasks, without feeling lethargic. Sometimes I extend the fasting period by a few hours (like 18:6 or 20:4 instead of 16:8) if I feel I can easily do it. Your body goes deeper into ketosis and focus on burning fat after 18 hours of fasting. I feel more in control, I have a better routine during the day and it prevents me from eating unnecessary evening snacks too.

Intermittent fasting gives me consistency and I’m now very close to reaching my weight goal! I’m sure it will help with weight maintenance too. If you find the idea too complicated, there is still the option of doing spontaneous meal skipping. The rule couldn’t be easier to follow: just skip a meal if you’re not hungry for example. I know you’ve heard all your life to never skip a meal but it’s just a myth! Simply listen to your body.

Big Girl x

Declutter Your Home to Free Your Mind

couple packing boxes

In less than 3 months from now, we will have to move out because our rental contract is coming to an end and the landlord would like to sell the flat. It’s a situation that could be stressful for some, but this is routine to me. I would need more than 2 hands to count how many times I moved to a different place in my life… I just like a regular change of scenery! Now I can tell you that: it doesn’t matter how many times you did it before, the packing part is always the most painful. In between moves, I always seem to find a way to accumulate too many things.

Letting things go is not an easy task

I have so many clothes that I need 2 big wardrobes to fit everything in. Not because I buy too much but because I never get rid of anything. T-shirts I used to wear 10 years ago (it’s almost sentimental), dresses I never wear (but I might some day, we never know), the list is long. My desk is full of “stuff”, drawers and cupboards are overflowing. A lot of free space represents danger: I will find a way to fill up the space somehow, it’s like a pattern that keeps repeating itself. I now realise it’s very similar to how my mind works: I’m constantly overthinking.

Everything happens for a reason so I’ll use my next move to declutter properly. There’s no better motivation to make a start than when you have a countdown hanging over your head. There is only so much I can procrastinate this time, I have no choice but to do it! And the last thing I want is to fill the emptied space with more things again. My new objective is to keep a more minimalist approach to life. Because at the end of the day, you don’t own things, they own you.

Why should you declutter and learn how to live with less?

Below are some good reasons why:

  • It’s an excellent exercise to learn how to let things go (physically but also mentally) – You will get more space to move around.
  • A home with less stuff will make you feel more calm, peaceful and relaxed – Your energy levels will rise.
  • It’s easier to clean and tidy up when there is less stuff – You will have more time for yourself.
  • Choosing to own less means choosing to buy less – it will also save you money!
decluttering: less is more

In so many ways, decluttering your space will help free your mind and have a positive impact on your wellbeing. Not only you’ll clear up the mess but it will force you to come to terms with things you subconsciously link with the past. And who knows, maybe you will find some hidden gems in the process too: things you forgot you even had under that pile of clutter!

Tips to make a good start

From my own experience, this is what I would suggest:

  1. Break down your home into smaller areas
    • List what requires decluttering: closet, desk, bookshelves, etc
  2. Start with small and easy things you can get rid of easily
    • What doesn’t have any value and is utterly useless, contributes to the mess and doesn’t make you smile when you look at it
    • No difficult decisions at this point
  3. Prepare 2 boxes: one for unwanted things you want to sell, one for unwanted things you want to give away
    • Does it have monetary value? Put it in the “to sell” box
    • Do you have someone in mind who could use it? Any charity who could benefit from it? Put it in the “to give away” box (to prioritise if you don’t need the money)
  4. Ask yourself the right questions
    • When was the last time you used the item? What are the odds you’re ever going to need it again? What do you feel when you touch the item?
    • Remember you need much less than you think you need
  5. Don’t stop until your space looks spacious and harmonious
    • Organise what’s left to keep the space clean

How to do it in a sustainable way

Going through a big decluttering will help you realise how much you own but have never used, and will prevent you from doing the same thing again. By consuming less, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to a greener world. Not buying things that are unnecessary helps improve the environment!

“As consumers we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.”

Emma Watson

REUSE
Before you make a purchase, you should commit to using what you have first. Do you really need to buy this new jumper? Does your kid really need this new extra toy? Some things are obviously reusable, but some others would need a bit more imagination. Look at them with a creative eye: maybe that old piece of linen can be used to wrap up a gift?

DONATE
Some things you own might not be of any use to you, but someone else will definitely use it. Whether it’s a family member, a friend or someone you don’t know via charities, it’s definitely a good thing to do. What’s a better feeling than supporting local non-profits in your community? This is also probably the best chance to give your unwanted items a second life.

RECYCLE
If there’s no better option than discarding it, do it the right way. Recycling stuff will reduce the amount sent to landfill, and make use of resources already available. Remember to keep your cardboard and other recyclables clean and read your local recycling guide.

If you are thinking of decluttering too (whether you’re moving out or not), I know it can seem daunting but you can do it!

Big Girl x

3 Awesome Tofu Recipes You Need to Try

tofu and soya beans

If you recently discovered tofu and want some ideas about ways to cook it, this post is definitely for you. If you think you dislike tofu, this post is also for you. After all, it used to be the case for me until this year… It’s never too late to change your mind. And if you’re a tofu lover and already an expert, keep reading… You might still be inspired, who knows!

First of all, it’s important to keep an open mind when you try something new (especially when it comes to food). I used to really dislike tofu, but it plays a huge part in a plant-based diet. I had to ignore my childhood’s memories and at least give it another go as an adult. The first time I cooked with it was a complete fail… It took me 2 or 3 attempts before I mastered it. But I persisted, and now I’m glad I didn’t give up so easily.

What is tofu?

Tofu is made from dried soybeans that are soaked in water, crushed, and boiled. Then the curdled fresh soya milk is pressed into a solid block and cooled… It’s not far from the process used for dairy cheese, made by curdling and solidifying milk. Except it’s healthier for you! This solid white block comes in varying softness: it can be silken, soft, firm, or extra firm.

Health benefits

It’s a great source of protein, probably one of the main reasons why it’s such a staple in a vegetarian / vegan diet. It also contains all nine essential amino acids, as well as magnesium, copper and zinc. In addition to this, tofu is a valuable plant source of iron and calcium. Can we say it’s healthier than meat? Yes, because just like meat, soy provides an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals – but without the cholesterol and saturated fat. Not to mention it’s a lot lower in calories. Basically, it can replace foods that may compromise your health.

Cooking with tofu

Tofu is pretty bland on its own, which makes it a very versatile ingredient. It will soak in any flavours you want to give it. But it could be a bit intimidating for beginners: how do you learn how to cook with it? Trying with my own ingredients didn’t work well, I had no idea what sauce and/or spice to add with it. So I decided to try a recipe box to give me a good basic knowledge, using Mindful Chef. They have a good range of recipes and you get delivered the exact quantities you need for each ingredient. It’s really convenient when you’re not sure what you’re doing at the beginning.

Below are 3 ways to cook tofu I recently learnt, thanks to them. I have to say I was really impressed with the results. Maybe it tasted even better because I put the effort in… For the 3 recipes below, indicated quantities are always for 2 people. I used the organic super-firm tofu from Dragonfly (300g) each time, which is really easy to find in any supermarket.

1. Tofu & apricot harissa tagine with quinoa

tofu apricot harissa

Here, it’s the apricot harissa that gives the main flavour to the dish. The method is simple: cut the tofu in cubes and add to a pan on medium-high heat with 1/2 tbsp oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes to briefly colour all sides. Then you can add the sauce you mixed beforehand: 2 large diced tomatoes, 2 tbsp tomato puree, 2 tbsp apricot harissa paste and 50ml boiled water. It melts in the mouth and the after taste is the right mix of tomato and spice.

Add a bit of coriander if you like, and 20g of flaked almonds for the presentation. For the sides: 180g of green beans and 250g of quinoa are a good option. Total calories per person: 586.

2. Mexican-style beans with scrambled tofu & avocado

tofu scrambled eggs

Eggs are not part of a plant-based diet, so I was really excited to try the tofu version. You just have to scramble it into small pieces with your fingers. Then cook it in a pan on medium heat with 1/2 tbsp oil. Stir for 10 minutes with a pinch of black pepper and 1/2 tsp turmeric, until it turns golden. Then add in 1 tbsp nutritional yeast and a pinch of chilli flakes. It tastes amazing!

The other ingredients added many colours on the plate and made the entire meal very appealing. You need 1 avocado and 120g baby plum tomatoes mixed with a handful of fresh coriander. For the Mexican-style beans: 240g kidney beans, 1 tbsp Mexican spice, 4 tbsp tomato puree and 40g baby spinach. Total calories per person: 573.

3. Sesame tofu & rice bowl

tofu in buddha bowl

Finally, if you fancy a salad-type meal, this recipe is great and doesn’t require much cooking. Tofu is cooked like in the first recipe but cut in triangles instead (or whatever shape you fancy, after all). For the dressing: peel and grate 4cm fresh ginger and add 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp maple syrup and 1 tbsp rice vinegar. Mix well and add in the saucepan once the tofu has turned golden in colour.

Simply cook 250g brown basmati rice for the base. And for the rest of the salad: grate 100g carrot, thinly slice 1 baby cucumber and 60g radishes. You could also add some kimchi or anything else you want. Sprinkle some sesame seeds for the final touch. That’s it! Total calories per person: 481.

Do any of these 3 recipes take your fancy?

If you’re convinced about the many health benefits of tofu and want to explore further, you can easily find online tons of other great tofu recipes. Let me know how you cook it!

Big Girl x

How to Identify Your Time Robbers and Take Back Ownership

time management

We all have the same number of hours in a day, yet we don’t manage this precious resource the same way. Before the pandemic happened, we all had the excuse of being “busy” with work, not fitting everything in the schedule because of many other commitments. Would you say things have changed since we suddenly had a lot more time for ourselves during lockdown? Chances are you still caught yourself saying: “I didn’t have time to do this!”. Is not having enough time really the issue? Or could it be something else stealing your time away?

Identify what are your hidden time drains

Now, your go-to excuse has been exposed as a lie… Even if it’s socially acceptable to say you didn’t have time, you know it’s not true. It’s not that easy to identify what’s sabotaging yourself as you’re probably not aware of it. Below are a few examples of possible reasons:

Procrastination

This is probably the most common thief of time… Sometimes it’s necessary to procrastinate, if you feel you don’t have what you need to complete a specific task (lack of information, energy, input, etc). But if it’s avoidance, it’s often a response to uncertainty and fear. Whether it’s a fear of failure or a fear of success, it protects you from disappointment. People who procrastinate the most are anxious people who have a vivid imagination of all the things that could possibly go wrong. Is that you? If so, try and welcome your thoughts and emotions next time you feel like procrastinating. Be kind to yourself and remember that you’ll feel more motivated after you’ve started.

Overcommitment

Having too much on your plate is for sure going to affect your wellbeing over time. People who overcommit are often people pleasers who don’t know how to say no. They enjoy helping others and don’t want to miss out on opportunities and life events, they simply like being “busy”. But if you recognise yourself here, make sure the bulk of your time is spent on your own priorities. You don’t want to feel busy and stuck at the same time, otherwise it will create anxiety because you’ll feel that life is passing by too quickly. Make sure you schedule time for yourself too, protect that space and resist the urge to fill it up with something else.

Overthinking

Another big time thief would be overthinking. Do you spend an insane amount of time ruminating things from the past? Recent events, conversations where you wish you said things differently, decisions you didn’t take, etc. Overthinkers struggle to switch off at the end of the day, their mind is always busy. Are you one of them? I know I am… I sometimes get stuck in preparation mode. It doesn’t show because I appear calm but it wouldn’t reflect what it’s like in my head. If you’re like me, bring your focus to the present next time you catch yourself in an overthinking spiral.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is the enemy of good, you could get stuck on the same task for too long if you’re not careful. It’s fine to have high standards but what if it actually works against you? Perfectionists want to do things properly, they give 100% whether it’s a small task or a big one. Do you set the bar too high? If yes, then maybe you need to be careful about not postponing any enjoyment in life too much. Don’t wait until “you have time” to fully appreciate time for yourself, or you would run the risk of burnout. Learn how to accept “good enough” instead of “perfect”, so you can find more time in your day for more fun stuff.

self care isn't selfish

Timekeeping tips to make space for what really matters to you

It’s all about self-awareness. Do you make enough time for what truly matters to you? Unlike money, which you can save for a rainy day, you can only either use time or lose it. And when it’s gone, it’s gone. Below are my few tips to help on the matter:

1. Divide your time into units

Break down your day into smaller segments. Make a list of non-negotiables first: sleep time, commute time (if applicable), cooking time, etc. Then reflect on the previous day, fill the rest of the time with everything you’ve actually done vs what you planned to do. Did you underestimate how long you needed to complete a task? Did you spend a long time doing unnecessary things? This process will help you identify where you’re wasting time and give you tools to better manage your time.

2. Don’t make yourself excuses

A lot of things can disrupt your day: a notification flashing on your phone, an email reminder you need to reorder some food for your pets, your social media feed, etc. And that’s how time is easily stolen away from you. Don’t make yourself excuses and take back ownership of your time by removing any distractions when you need to be focused on a specific task.

3. Start with what’s difficult

It’s always tempting to start with what’s quick and easy. But if at the end of the day, you didn’t manage to complete the difficult tasks, it will stay in your mind and even overwhelm you with guilt, anxiety, stress… By “difficult tasks”, I mean anything you absolutely have to do, but really can’t be bothered to do (it could be anything, really). If you can’t tackle it in one go, aim to at least make some progress on it. It will make you feel good about yourself!

4. Identify when you’re the most productive

Are you an early bird or a night owl? When do you feel like you have the most energy? Know yourself and identify when is the best time of the day for each type of activity. If you’re unsure, try and experiment to find out. For example, if you’re performing best with admin tasks in the morning, don’t plan to spend time on the phone with a friend instead. It’s ok to set some time zones as off limits in your diary!

5. Stick to only a couple of goals a day

As much as everyone loves ticking things off the list, it gives you more focus to have only one or two key objectives for the day. Identify what’s really important and everything else will get done as a bonus. You can keep a long to-do list if that helps, but accept the fact that most of it will not be completed today or tomorrow. That way you won’t get drowned in your own mess. It comes back to your priorities and what you know needs to be done first, not what you want to do first.

Conclusion

There are so many time thieves in our day-to-day lives, it’s crucial to be aware of them to manage our time more efficiently. This is applicable to everything in life of course, not only at work. Among big projects in my life right now, I have to organise a move to another flat in a few months (with all associated admin tasks you can imagine) and plan a wedding (with the added challenges, due to COVID). It keeps my excitement up for what’s coming next, but I know I’ll have to be organised!

Have you identified what are your main roadblocks?

Big Girl x

Is Your Food Colourful Enough? How to Improve Your Health With Nutrition

How colourful is your food

If humans can see colours so well, it’s because it’s actually important for us to pay attention to them in our diet. Cooking is an art, the most colourful plates are also the most appealing. And we are more likely to enjoy eating an attractive meal! As it’s recommended to eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day, this section itself represents over a third of the food we eat each day. So let’s go through each colour category and what it actually means for us.

White

White Food

Vegetables in this category include: cauliflower, garlic, shallots, onions, leeks, parsnips, white beans (cannellini, lima beans, navy beans, soybeans), potatoes, brown lentils, mushrooms. Fruits in this category include: bananas (considered white), pears, lychees, white peaches, white nectarine.

Properties and health benefits: White foods get their pigment from anthoxanthins, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Mushrooms, parsnips and bananas are also good sources of potassium, an important mineral for normal heart and muscle function. White fruits and vegetables protect against certain cancers, keep bones strong, and are a heart-healthy choice.

Note: despite being a vegetable, potatoes don’t count in the recommended 5-a-day because they’re classed as a starchy food (from a nutrition perspective). Although, they are an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium! Just avoid adding fat when cooking them and eat the skin for extra fibre.

Yellow

Yellow Food

Vegetables in this category include: butternut squash, swede, yellow peppers, sweetcorn. Fruits in this category include: honeydew melon, lemons, pineapple.

Properties and health benefits: yellow foods are rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Yellow peppers contain nutrients (lutein and zeaxanthin) that help prevent and slow the progression of eye disease.

Orange

Orange Food

Vegetables in this category include: carrots, orange peppers, pumpkin, sweet potatoes. Fruits in this category include: cantaloupe melon, mangoes, nectarines, apricots.

Properties and health benefits: orange foods are high in carotenoids, converted to vitamin A in the body. It helps us make hormones and keeps our eyes healthy (just in case you were wondering why people say that “eating carrots will help you see in the dark”). Apart from carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin and sweet potato are all good sources of vitamin A.

Note: yellow and orange categories are often put together because of their similar properties. Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges are low in vitamin A but high in vitamin C, which helps with the absorption of iron and wound healing, as well as protecting cells from damage. Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables improve immune function, reduce the risk of heart disease and promote eye health.

Red

Red Food

Vegetables in this category include: radishes, red peppers, red beans, beets, rhubarb. Fruits in this category include: cherries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, red apples, tomatoes, watermelon, pomegranate.

Properties and health benefits: red foods contain antioxidants, reported to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Lycopene gives red foods their colour. Red fruits and vegetables help fight cancer, reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease as well as improving skin quality.

Green

Green Food

Vegetables in this category include: asparagus, avocados, celery, courgettes, cucumbers, leeks, lettuce, green peas, brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli. Fruits in this category include: green apples, green grapes, limes, kiwis.

Properties and health benefits: green foods get their colour from chlorophyll but are also rich in other nutrients, like sulforaphane and glucosinolate. They may help protect against blood-vessel damage and certain cancers. Green fruits and vegetables boost the immune system, help detoxify the body, restore energy and vitality. By far the healthiest, you can’t go wrong with this colour.

Blue/Purple

Blue / Purple Food

Vegetables in this category include: red cabbage, eggplant, black olives. Fruits in this category include: blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, purple grapes, purple plums, prunes.

Properties and health benefits: blue and purple foods get their colour from powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins. They may have a role in protecting cells from damage. Blue and purple fruits and vegetables fight cancer and unwanted inflammation and help keep you young.

References:

Everyone loves a good rainbow! Don’t forget to eat varied colours to guarantee a healthy diet! (I’m not talking about skittles…). You can also check this super useful infographic about the benefits of eating the rainbow.

Is your food colourful enough?

Big Girl x

Why a Healthy Mind Is Key to Successful Weight Loss

Why a Healthy Mind Is Key to Successful Weight Loss

If you think you struggle to lose weight because you’re a foodie, I’m afraid you’re just giving yourself excuses. Having to lose weight means you indulged yourself a bit too much in the past. It means the calorie intake was offset, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have eaten any of what you love. It may come across as a bit of a shock to some of you, but it is possible to love food AND keep a healthy weight at the same time! You just need to work on your mindset first.

Life is always going to throw challenges at you

Most people accept the idea of gaining weight during the Christmas period, with the idea of being “good” in January to compensate. It happens every year at the same time so at least you can rely on a community spirit to make temporary good resolutions. But what about other occasions throughout the year (birthdays, parties, etc) or unexpected moments when food is used for comfort (lockdown…)? You get it, temptation is around every corner and constantly threatens your weight loss journey.

How to deal with temptation

If it tastes great, it’s probably because it’s bad for you. Not fair, I know. And if it’s bad for you, then you feel guilty for eating it. You enter a negative loop: eat more of what you love, feel even more guilty, put on weight, let yourself go, feel even worse, etc. Unhealthy food can be like a powerful drug, extremely addictive. But is there a solution to this first world problem?

1. Embrace your cravings

There is only one caveat: moderation. It’s fine to crave for unhealthy food sometimes. After all, no one has ever desperately craved for some lettuce. We all have at least one guilty pleasure when it comes to food. If it’s not chocolate (which is probably the most common), it could be sweets, biscuits, pizza, cheese… No matter what rocks your boat, remember they’re not your real enemy.

2. Healthy mind = Healthy body

If you’re planning to use your guilty pleasure as a reward once you’ve reached your weight goals, it probably means your relationship with food is not healthy. This could be a warning sign that you’re going to put your weight back on very quickly when your diet is over. The key to losing weight in a healthy way is to avoid the word “diet” because it has a negative connotation, which is counter-productive.

Good news is you don’t have to suffer to lose weight! Restricting yourself too much is only going to make you lose motivation, and even make you question if it’s really worth it. So instead of forbidding yourself to eat that chocolate cake you really crave for, simply include it within your calorie budget.

3. Don’t ban the food you love

At the end of the day, you just need to find the right balance between what your body “needs” and what your mind “wants”. If you only listen to your head, you’ll have a healthier body but you’ll feel very frustrated. If you only listen to your heart, your bad decisions will eventually impact your self-esteem in a negative way. Every choice you make has consequences, whether you’re trying to lose weight or not. To find the right mix between health and pleasure, simply aim to limit your cravings to 20% of your total food consumption. You’re all good as long as the big majority of your diet includes what your body really needs.

I did it myself recently

My birthday was 10 days ago… I usually go to a restaurant but they’re all currently closed in London. So I had my first (and hopefully last) lockdown birthday! As a result I was desperate for some treats, I wanted to satisfy my sweet tooth. And you know what? I did receive plenty of brownies to celebrate my special day. All vegan and gluten-free, but just as “bad”.

At no point did I feel guilty though, I simply included them in my healthy eating habits. I limited myself to 2 bites a day (each bite contains more than 100 calories!), ate each piece mindfully and looked forward to the next day to treat myself again. I don’t think brownies ever tasted that good. What’s the point overeating what you love if you don’t fully appreciate it? Result: it didn’t affect my weight loss. I now only have about 3 more kilos to lose before I reach my objective of 60 kg. Was it worth it? Yes, 100%.

So tell me… What’s your guilty pleasure(s)?

Big Girl x

How a Powerful Mind Can Turn Any Failure Into Success

How a Powerful Mind Can Turn Any Failure Into Success

Everyone has experienced failure at some point in their lives. What matters is how you react and what you learn from it. After all, many successful people have failed big time before succeeding. Some famous examples include: Walt Disney, Stephen King, Oprah Winfrey, JK Rowling or even Bill Gates. And there are many others… You might not necessarily aim for so much fame (I know I don’t) but this is applicable to everyone!

Failure is part of success

I think it is actually very important to fail in life. It helps you build strength and resilience, which are amazing qualities to have. The world is full of “successful failures”. So let’s just acknowledge it when it happens and turn it into a positive. My life is full of failures… Although I feel a lot more proud than ashamed when I look in the rear-view mirror. Let me give you 4 examples from my personal experience.

1. I’ve been in several long-term relationships

For some it would actually be an achievement, especially for those who don’t manage to keep a relationship alive for a more than a few weeks. But if you invest several years in a relationship, how can you not see it as a failure when it ends?

I had to recover from 4 difficult breakups in my adult life. Each time, I initially thought they were “the one”. But then I eventually walked away when I realised the relationship was broken, I didn’t see any way to turn things around. It was like the candle in my heart suddenly stopped burning. To me, it was always a brave decision to make, because society constantly pressures you to be in a relationship. As a result, some people would avoid being single at all costs. I’d rather be single than with the wrong person by my side.

My learnings? My past experiences taught me so much about what I wanted and needed, but also what I couldn’t tolerate in a relationship. I met the one who was “husband material” to me, hence why I’m marrying him (hopefully) this year!

2. I never managed to keep the weight off

Now this could be the situation most people can relate to. Who can “naturally” maintain a healthy weight anyway? Not many. In my situation, I succeeded in losing more than 20 kilos 4 times in my adult life already. Is that a success or a failure? Probably both.

I would consider it a full success when I manage to keep it off permanently. I wouldn’t have had to do it all again if I didn’t put the weight back on… 4 times. But I never gave up or accepted to stay overweight. I never gave myself excuses, such as: “Oh well, maybe some people are not meant to be lean”, the classic “I have heavy bones” or even “I’d rather eat whatever I want, even if it means I put my health at risk”.

My learnings? I’ve just lost 20 kilos in the past 6 months. Yes, it’s the 4th time I’ve done it. But this time, I know it’s different. I learnt from my previous experiences and identified why it never lasted long. If you’re following this blog, you already know what long-term eating habits I’m putting in place to stay healthy. Stay tuned for more weight loss & weight maintenance related posts in the coming months!

3. I changed my career path several times

I grew up being convinced I wanted to become a doctor. So when I finished high school, I knew exactly what university to go to. But I failed the 1st year final exam and at the time I was devastated. It felt like my childhood dreams were all my pure imagination, I didn’t turn them into reality… I then realised I failed because I didn’t want it enough. I was young and immature. Why would I even want to become a doctor? In hindsight, I was living a lie. I liked the honourable aspect of this occupation, but I couldn’t have coped emotionally with everything it involves. Today the pandemic has confirmed what I already knew: I’m glad I’m not a doctor.

But finding my way wasn’t straightforward. Initially, I turned to programming, thinking: “At least if a computer dies, it’s not a big deal”. Truth is it’s extremely difficult to know what you should be doing when you’re in your early 20s. I found myself in a geek world I didn’t feel I belonged to. Was it still not the right path for me? It is even harder to accept you’ve made the wrong decision when it’s the second time already. After that, I had no choice but to make it right. Finally, I opted for sales & marketing and 5 years later I completed my Master’s degree. I was 4 years older than my schoolmates.

My learnings? I strongly believe that because I failed before, I had even more to prove. I enrolled in a sandwich course, alternating between studies and apprenticeship every year until graduation. It was hard but it was the best way to get work experience and also start my life without debts – the companies paid for my school fees. This is not something I would have even considered doing if I didn’t go through my previous disappointments.

4. I failed a job interview last month

When I quit my last job in September 2019, it was to travel in Southeast Asia & the Pacific. It was supposed to be a 6-month sabbatical only (it’s been more than a year now). Of course it was a risk, you never know what to expect upon your return. How about a worldwide pandemic? You get the picture, the job market is not what it used to be.

I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I don’t have to rush to find a job. So I’m focusing on finding the right job that will positively impact my mental health. I thought I found it when I was interviewing for this company recently. I got to the 4th and final stage of the process, but a few days later I found out I didn’t get the role.

My learnings? It’s a normal reaction to be disappointed and feel discouraged when you receive bad news. This is my most recent failure. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall, it still hurts every time you do. But I know better now, my mind is powerful and I’m not going to let that negative experience impact my energy. And I do believe everything happens for a reason.

“As I look back on my life, I realise that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.”

Steve Maraboli

It’s too easy to enter a negative loop

Not everyone has the mental strength to keep trying until they succeed. The way I picture it is a bit like Alice in Wonderland when she falls into that never-ending rabbit hole. If you let negativity take away the best of you, it becomes even harder to recover from failure. I know that if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it. It’s definitely not easy. But it’s a learning curve.

Last week, I received an email from a recruiter. She was asking me if I was interested in one of the vacancies she was working on. I never get too excited when I receive emails from recruiters, because I know from experience they never fully grasp your profile. So of course the vacancy didn’t fit my skills whatsoever. Something in her signature made me tick though. There was a quote saying: “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”. Life can send you signs… You just have to be attentive and notice them.

If you fall, get back up right away

My piece of advice will not be rocket science I’m afraid. I’m sure you’ve heard of the proverb: “If you fall off the horse, get back on every single time”. I would like to insist on how important it is to keep going in life. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many times you fall. What matters is that you got back up one more time than you fell…

Who needed to hear these stories today? Don’t forget to share it to whoever needs to stay motivated around you!

Big Girl x