Surprising Things I Discovered After Going Vegan for a Month

Every year since 2014, some people commit to Veganuary by adopting a vegan diet for a month – in January. I would have never considered it in the past but this year I was intrigued… We all have preconceived ideas about the unknown, so why not try and see if they’re actually valid? And if it’s the most effective way to save the planet, it’s probably worth keeping an open mind. But not at all costs! Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life, I want to keep enjoying it. Sticking to what you know is always easier… So let me tell you the main 3 things I learnt after trying it myself for a month:

1. It’s actually quite easy to eat vegan every day

If your main reason for going vegan is the environment and/or the animals, then it’s not difficult to stick to it. First of all, many popular foods are already vegan (potatoes, rice, pasta, fruits…). Treats and things that are not especially good for you (like biscuits, sweets, etc) are easy to fit in a vegan diet too, if you read the labels properly. Secondly, more and more companies diversify their range to offer vegan options. Meat alternatives are everywhere nowadays (especially in big cities like London) so it’s really not difficult to avoid animal products. They’re not always the healthiest as some of them are highly processed, but they are a great way to help you while you’re transitioning. You won’t have to eat fries everyday to have a clear conscience.

Basically, if your health is not the main reason, the switch will be relatively easy. It’s when you want to have a healthy and balanced diet (as you should) that things can get a bit more complicated… Especially if you’re a fussy eater like me. But even that turned out to be a lot easier that I anticipated.

2. A vegan diet is very varied and not boring at all

If you asked me several months ago what I thought about a vegan diet, I would have said I wasn’t interested in eating lettuce everyday. I didn’t understand how you could enjoy life with “boring” food. I thought it was a sacrifice not worth doing. It was made worse by the fact I’ve always disliked vegetables (especially the green ones…).

Now I wish I did it sooner

Take it from someone who had a lot of negative opinions about veganism not so long ago. Someone who would never willingly put vegetables on their plate… I realise how ignorant I was to have never tried most of the foods available! Don’t get me wrong, it seems daunting to remove from your diet all products derived from animals. Because they’re literally everywhere. But I can honestly tell you I eat a lot more varied now than I ever have in my entire life.

I’m always looking forward to my next meal

I now feel I have almost too much choice when I prepare the food plan for the week. Before it was a lot easier to plan our meals, it was always the same thing (roast chicken, beef burger or salmon, with either rice, fries or pasta). Now I feel like I should do a food plan for the entire month, just so I can fit in everything I fancy. And my cupboards have never been so full of varied things!

In fact, I added so many things in my diet by going vegan. Things I didn’t even know existed. Things I’m now willing to try because I realised I don’t even know what it tastes like. It also forces me to play more with spices and sauces, giving amazing flavours to every meal.

3. Eating cruelty-free makes food more enjoyable

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that no animals have been killed to feed me… But something makes the whole eating experience very rewarding. You know when you feel guilty after eating too much for example? It’s usually because you know it’s not good for your body to overeat. But I wonder if it could also be because most of the time food industries control what you eat, not you. By cooking with plants I don’t experience that guilt anymore. And eating used to make me feel a bit lethargic after each meal… Like I would need all of my body’s energy just to digest it. That feeling is gone too.

Eating vegan also makes cooking more enjoyable, because I don’t have to deal with what used to put me off before: blood from a steak, nerves from chicken, fat from bacon, etc. When I cook with raw ingredients only involving plants, the smell in the kitchen feels a lot more “natural”. I eat more for less calories and feel full for longer, without any sluggish feeling afterwards. It means I have more energy and feel “lighter” at the same time. It’s a win in all aspects!

Other things I discovered:

  • Because I eat a lot more fibre than I used to, my digestive system has improved a lot (my guts are happier)
  • I haven’t missed meat at all, not once…
  • Cooking with tofu is actually quite fun, it’s such a versatile ingredient and an excellent source of proteins
  • I would pick a plant-based burger over a beef burger without hesitation
  • Cauliflower can be an amazing snack
  • Cashews are used a lot in vegan meals to give a cheesy flavour
  • We can “learn” to appreciate healthy food and even thrive for it
  • I get to be more creative with my cooking skills and it makes me feel proud when my partner enjoys a home-cooked meal – I can’t wait to invite friends & family to try
  • There is so much more to vegan food than simply tofu, cauliflower and cashews… These are my personal favourites for now, but I still have so much more to experience and discover (a month is far from being enough!)

Going forward

I considered Veganuary like a test and I passed it. So I’ve decided, I’m not going back to my previous diet! Why would I even consider eating meat again with all the benefits I discovered from a plant-based diet? Long term, the only thing I may find hard to never eat again is salmon. It’s difficult because it’s an obvious source of omega-3 and also it tastes great (I especially love salmon sushi). It’s still an animal product though! And if we don’t do anything, our oceans will be empty in the next few decades. It’s as simple as that. Making the wrong choice would be a way to contribute to this huge killing machine that is destroying our planet.

Would you not consider changing your eating habits if it meant saving the planet, the animals and yourself at the same time?

Big Girl x

Intermittent Fasting or Why Skipping Breakfast Could Be a Good Idea

Intermittent Fasting or Why Skipping Breakfast Could Be a Good Idea

As I get older, I realise some things I always thought were true are now being questioned, especially when it comes to health & nutrition. For example: “You need dairy to get enough calcium”, “You need to eat meat to get enough proteins”, “Never skip a meal” or even “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, etc. Really? I’m not so sure anymore… After all, some doctors used to recommend their patients to smoke cigarettes in the past! Wouldn’t it sound crazy nowadays?

With time, research keeps improving and we’re constantly changing our minds on various things, but in the meantime the end consumer is vulnerable to wrong information. Everyone has a different truth so maybe the only way to find out what works for you is to monitor your own health and not believe everything the food industry tries to put in your head so they can maximise their profit.

As a simple rule, don’t eat when you’re not hungry

That, to me, might be the only thing that should be universal. Having the ability to listen to your body and know when you need “fuel” is the best way to avoid putting on weight. The problem is we’re only human and it’s a very difficult skill to master. We’re all susceptible to use food for comfort, to compensate boredom, when we feel stressed or simply when we have food easily available (out of sight, out of mind!). But what if not eating when not hungry meant skipping breakfast? Not so easy, as everyone will encourage you to by telling you that “breakfast is too important to skip”. I love breakfast food but if I’m completely honest, I never feel hungry when I wake up. In fact, I only start feeling hungry 4-5 hours later. I’m not sure why but it has always been the case.

When I was a teenager, I remember I used to struggle to get out of bed in the morning and my grandma never understood it, she once said to me: “When I feel tired in the morning, I get up anyway, just because I know I’m going to have breakfast and that’s a good enough incentive to me! Why don’t you try this approach?”. Bless her. I miss her quite often, even though she used to believe everything the TV said. I just never felt that way about breakfast… Could it be because it is NOT necessarily the most important meal of the day for everyone? Who decided we needed at least 3 meals a day anyway? I’m pretty sure I don’t.

It doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself

When people hear the word “fasting”, they freak out, with or without the word “intermittent” beforehand. Understandably, because it sounds like a sacrifice or something people would only do as a religious practise for example. But what if it was a natural way to give more time for your body to digest better all the food it constantly has to process? What if we ate too much, too often? No one has ever died from starvation because they didn’t eat for more than 12 hours.

Actually, that’s what most of us naturally do every day (unless you wake up at night craving for food, but that’s not common). Maybe the reason why we eat so often without necessarily feeling hungry and why we struggle not to fill our plate too much comes from something that is hardwired in our genes: the fear of starving, leading our body to develop amazing survival mechanisms. Historically, our ancestors would have starved in times of scarcity, but let’s face it, we’re a lot less likely to experience this in the Western world nowadays. I guess what I’m trying to say is that doing intermittent fasting means forgetting about that anxious feeling of lacking food, as realistically, it’s not going to happen. We’re currently going through a worldwide pandemic and the main thing supermarkets have been running out of was toilet paper… Just saying.

Why Intermittent Fasting (IF) is the solution for me

Of course I can only talk about what I know, from my personal experience. It was a big revelation for me when I first heard about it and did some research. I found out more and more scientists agreed this eating pattern had many health benefits, including weight loss/maintenance. I wonder if forcing myself to eat breakfast when I was never hungry was the main reason why I always struggled to maintain a healthy weight. I’ll never know for certain but all I can say is IF seems to be working great for me.

I have 1 or 2 full glasses of water when I wake up, I eat at the same time every day (it gives me a lot more consistency) and I even enjoy going for a long walk just before breaking the fast, during the weekend. My fasting window is usually about 19 hours every day, but I would find it harder to push it to 20 hours. I started with the 16:8 method though, which means fasting for (only) 16 hours. I might have to go back to it after lockdown because it will be easier to maintain in the long term. Don’t forget you can be flexible and adapt your fasting schedule around your routine if need be. I encourage you to read my previous posts on this topic if you haven’t already:

What happens to your body when you fast

I think that imagining my body repairing itself when I give it the time to do so is also making me feel better mentally. I’ve been doing IF for almost 14 weeks now and I believe it has allowed me to be consistent with my weight loss (roughly 800-900g per week). I’ve been using a fasting tracker app that helped to start with and I still find it useful to make sure I drink enough water. It tells you about the steps your body goes through:

  • 0h-2h: Blood sugar rises
    • You feel pretty normal during the first hours of fasting because your body is going through the regular process of breaking down glycogen. Your blood sugar rises, your pancreas releases insulin to break down glucose for energy and stores the extra glucose for later.
  • 2h-5h: Blood sugar falls
    • As a result of the effects of insulin, your blood sugar decreases to near normal after spiking. And it typically doesn’t continue climbing because insulin is immediately delivered into your circulatory system after eating.
  • 5h-8h: Glycogen reserve drops
    • Your stomach is reminding you that it’s been a while since your last meal, however you’re not actually that hungry. You’re not going to starve to death, shrivel up and lose your muscle mass… Actually, your glycogen reserves will begin to fall and you might even lose a little body fat. You body will continue to digest your last food intake. It starts to use stored glucose for energy and continues to function as if you’ll eat again soon.
  • 8h-10h: Gluconeogenesis
    • 8 hours after your last meal, your liver will use up the last of its glucose reserves. Now your body goes into a state called gluconeogenesis, which indicates that your body has switched into the fasting mode.
  • 10h-12h: Little glycogen left
    • Your glycogen reserves are running out! As a result, you may become irritable or “hangry”: sign that your body is burning fat. With little glycogen left, fat cells (adipocyte) will release fat into your bloodstream. They also go straight into your liver and are converted into energy for your body. You’re basically cheating your body into burning fat in order to survive.
  • 12h-18h: Ketosis state
    • Now it’s the turn of fat to fuel your body. You’re in the metabolic state called ketosis. The glycogen is almost used up and your liver converts fat into ketone bodies – an alternative energy source for your body. Fat reserves are readily released and consumed. For this reason, ketosis is sometimes referred to as the body’s “fat-burning” mode. Ketosis produces fewer inflammatory by-products, so it provides health benefits to your heart, metabolism and brain.
  • 18h-24h: Burn fat
    • The longer you fast, the deeper into ketosis you’ll go. By 18 hours, your body has switched into fat burning mode. Research shows that after fasting for 12 to 24 hours, the energy supply from fat will increase by 60% and it has a significant increase after 18 hours.

I would just advise you not to be put off right away by the word “fasting” and try it for yourself, monitoring constantly any side effects you may (or may not) experience. You can read more about different types of intermittent fasting here. Note: you shouldn’t do intermittent fasting if you’re under 18, you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, you’re underweight, you have a history of eating disorders, you’re diabetic and/or need medication at regular intervals to be taken with food.

Have you ever experienced any type of fasting in your life? Is it something you would consider trying yourself to see the benefits?

Big Girl x

Veganuary: A Great Way to Start the Year

Veganuary, A Good Way to Start the Year

Veganism is on the rise… Could it be because of 2020 events, leading many people to realise the effects of climate change and/or the importance of being healthy? I don’t know about you but that was definitely the trigger for me. I started doing more research about our impact on the environment and how we could save the planet. David Attenborough contributed a lot in people’s awareness with his movie “A life on our planet” where he advised everyone to adopt a more sustainable diet based on plants. Veganuary (Vegan + January) aims at educating non-vegans about veganism by creating a community of people who will share their feedback, tips and recipes throughout the month. Veganism is actually way more than just a diet but I’m going to focus only on food & nutrition in this post.

Why is it a good idea to take part in Veganuary?

It gives you the opportunity to try something new

If you eat a lot of meat and dairy (like I used to), it seems daunting to stop consuming any products derived from animals. You’re probably thinking: “It includes too many foods I love, how can I be happy eating lettuce every day? I want to keep enjoying food and have a normal social life! It’s not worth such a huge sacrifice”. Veganuary is here to give you the opportunity to be open-minded and try a vegan diet just for a month, with the help of people who have done it before. How many times have you had a strong opinion on something before even trying, then changed your mind after you finally tried?

It’s the right time to do it

There are 3 possible reasons why someone would decide to become vegan (even for a month): for the environment, for the animals, and/or for their own health. I think it’s extremely important to know and remember why you’re doing it. To me, it would be all of these reasons. Not everyone would find this diet suitable (and that’s fair enough), but at the very least everyone should open their eyes on what it’s really about. Switching to a diet powered only by plants is like re-learning everything you thought you knew about food & nutrition. It’s quite difficult in a non-vegan and extremely industrialised world where meat and dairy are everywhere. My main concern is how it will impact my social life when eating out. But we are being locked down anyway (at least in England…) so it’s actually the perfect time to do it!

There is a huge community online here to help

This month, more than 500,000 people committed online to do Veganuary and we can expect even more people doing it by themselves without signing up. It breaks the record of 400,000 people who registered in January 2020, across 192 countries. It means the food industry has to follow the trend and offer more interesting no-meat options, more restaurants will offer additional vegan meals, etc. There are tonnes of vegan recipes online and advice on where to start, but what’s better than a community of open-minded non-vegans who share their own tips & feedback on their findings? It’s not always that obvious what’s vegan or not, so there are also some mobile apps and tools online to help you check if you have any doubts: isitvegan.net, doublecheckvegan.com or barnivore.com (for alcoholic drinks).

The impact it had over the past 7 years is powerful

Since Veganuary was created in 2014, this is the impact the previous one million participants had on the planet:

  • 103,840 tonnes of CO2eq saved – which is equivalent to driving around the world almost 15,000 times
  • 405 tonnes of PO43-eq (eutrophication) saved – which is the same as 1,645 tonnes of sewage
  • 6.2 million litres of water saved – which is the same as flushing the toilet almost half a million times
  • more than 3.4 million animals were saved

Even if you’re not prepared to make such a drastic change in your life, think about how much positive impact it would already have to do it just for a month! And who knows, you might feel healthier too.

vegan food platter

Becoming aware takes a lot of intellectual humility

There are many preconceived ideas when it comes to veganism. I would know because I was among the ones who thought they would never be converted… ever. And yet today I’m writing about veganuary and why you should do it too. Everything changed in my head after I did my own research and found out I was wrong. Until then, I made the mistake to automatically discount any information that was conflicting my own beliefs, even if it was objectively more credible. So I wanted to share 3 important facts:

You don’t need to eat meat to get enough proteins

“Where do you find your proteins?” is a very common question, because we’ve been told our whole life that proteins only come from animal products. Now I know it upsets vegetarians & vegans and I finally understand why. Plants do have all the essential amino acids we need in our daily protein requirements. Think about it this way: if all creatures need protein to live, then where are the plant-eating animals (such as cows, bulls or oxen to name just a few) getting their protein from? The answer is simple: plants.

You don’t need to drink dairy milk to get enough calcium

Most of us were encouraged to drink milk to get strong bones, because it’s a great source of calcium. It was definitely a big part of my childhood, until I realised I didn’t digest it very well. Not surprising, given the fact that 70% of the global population is indeed lactose intolerant. It strikes the question: do we really need dairy milk? I don’t think so, especially if we look at the many alternatives we have available that are way healthier and at least as rich in calcium than dairy. I compared 4 vegan milks in this post if you’re wondering which one you should go for.

Vegan food is actually very varied

The main reason I always discarded a vegetarian, or even worse, vegan diet, is that I’ve always been a fussy eater. I dislike most vegetables like mushrooms, broccolis or any sort of green leaves, which I don’t think I’ll ever like. But by going through all ingredients that could be part of a very healthy vegan meal, I have to admit I haven’t tried half of them yet. For the ones I’ve never been forced to eat when I was a kid, there is a chance I will actually learn how to appreciate them as an adult. I’m actually excited to learn many new recipes and find new flavours I like! So far, I have loved every vegan meal I’ve had!

Somehow it seems to make me feel fuller without the heavy, sluggish feeling I used to have after eating meat. I also feel happier and proud to make a positive contribution to all living beings, as well as my own health. But doing it at home is easy. I will use the extra time in lockdown to become knowledgeable enough to keep doing it in social life (the hardest part), among meat lover friends, colleagues and family. I even considered opting for a flexitarian diet for that reason, but making exceptions whenever suits me is probably not the right way to fully commit to it. Plus I don’t really have any excuse, I live in London, the most vegan-friendly city in the world. If others can do it, I also can!

colourful fruit bowl vegan

Educate yourself before making your mind up

Doing your research is the only way to understand why some people would give up on all animal products. Are they crazy? I will let you be the judge of that. Below are some useful resources so you can make up your own mind with a much better knowledge.

Documentaries:

Books:

Blogs:

Hopefully this is useful to the curious minds among you! But if you’ve adopted a plant-based / vegan diet already and have any more advice or recommendations to give from personal experience, please feel free to do so in the comments below!

Big Girl x

What If I Told You 2020 Has Been a Great Year?

I know we won’t really look back at 2020 thinking “What a great year!” but if we look at how much we learnt from it, I would say it wasn’t such a bad year in the end. As today is (finally?) the last day of the year, I thought it was time to reflect and try a different outlook on what’s now almost behind us. When I started this blog, I was very frustrated by how much the pandemic impacted my plans. Today, I’m glad I managed to use the second part of the year the best way I could possibly have. Let me go through why I think 2020 has been a great year on reflection.

2020 started with awesome travels

It would be easy to focus on how the pandemic interrupted my travels and dwell on the fact I couldn’t finish my trip like initially planned. Because of it, I didn’t go to Japan this year. I’ve been before though, and I will definitely go back again – this is where my mum was born after all. Instead I’ll focus on what I was able to do: an amazing month spent road tripping along the east coast of Australia, from Sydney to Cairns. I even got the opportunity to finally go back to Brisbane, where I had so many fond memories from 2006. And after that, we were lucky enough to spend another 6 weeks in New Zealand, which is probably one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. With happy memories I will carry for the rest of my life, 2020 didn’t start too bad!

It opened my eyes on the urgency to save the planet

What would seem like bad timing may have actually been a great eye-opener for me: I was in Australia during the bushfires that caused a lot of damage on the planet and wildlife. It also reminded me that some sunny countries like Australia don’t get as much rain compared to what we’re used to in Europe, therefore they have no choice but to make constant efforts to save water (which we may take for granted elsewhere in the world…). I was already starting to question our impact on climate change when the pandemic happened. If anything, it confirmed how urgent it has become to take responsibility on our actions and their consequences on the planet. It is quite simple: if we don’t do anything and keep ignoring the facts, there will be nothing left to see for the next generations.

My health & wellbeing became a priority

Focus on mental health

I never got to know myself better than this year. I usually don’t panic easily, I know what I want and (maybe more importantly) what I don’t want in life, I have a strong temper and sometimes strong opinions on things I feel passionate about. I like to be organised and plan everything so I can keep my head on my shoulders. In short, I’m a control freak. That’s probably why the level of uncertainty caused by the pandemic hit me hard. I lost all sense of anticipation, torn between a naïve optimism and a desperate need to stay hopeful, struggling with the feeling of being completely helpless. But I learnt how to deal with this uncertainty, I overcame my new anxiety and faced my fears in a way that developed new strengths in me. I’ve found that my patience, resilience and courage have grown. Thanks 2020 for this life lesson.

… But also physical health

An invisible killer threatening the most vulnerable people was all it took for me to prioritise the right things. I knew I indulged myself too much during our travels, I needed to do something to avoid falling into the category of those who have “existing underlying health conditions”. It freaked me out so much that I gave myself 3 clear objectives:
1 – go back to a healthy weight by the end of the year (below 68 kg according to my BMI)
2 – eventually aim for 60 kg (I’m 165 cm tall so this is roughly what I need to be at)
3 – keep a sustainable and improved lifestyle that will guarantee I will never have to lose so much weight ever again.
But one thing at a time. I’ve been focussing on the first objective this year and these are today’s figures:

I use the app VeSyncFit to track progress
All data is now in “green” (= healthy)

I wouldn’t usually share publicly such information about me, but I’m hoping it would inspire someone else on the same journey. On Sunday 2nd August 2020, my weight was 84.80 kg and today, Thursday 31st December 2020, I’m at 67.55 kg, which means I lost 17.25 kg in only 5 months. My BMI came down from 31.1 (obese category) to 24.8 (healthy category). My body fat went down from 37.9% (way too high) to 28.2% (acceptable). I also lost almost 15 cm around the waist, where you store the most dangerous fat that can significantly increase the risk of chronic diseases. I’m happy to be starting 2021 on a healthy base, because 2020 put me back on track. That’s my first objective smashed! Now I’m ready to tackle the next two.

I identified who I really wanted to keep in my life

It’s either make or break

Being locked down with a special someone, even if you picked that someone to be your partner for the rest of your life, could be a challenging situation for many couples. No wonder why the divorce rate has increased drastically in 2020! It does make me wonder how long people stay married without really knowing each other. You only get to know someone fully when you travel with them, but our recent 6-month trip was never a test for us. We knew what our families and friends still needed to see: we were never meant to break. Being stranded abroad was a stressful experience but it only made our relationship (even) stronger, staying at home together was always going to be a piece of cake in comparison. If we couldn’t tie the knot in 2020, we’re determined to make 2021 our year.

I cut off ties with toxic people

It’s always easy to identify who you really want to keep in your life: some close family members, your partner, some of your best friends, kind people who make a difference, etc. But what about people who don’t deserve you / hurt your feelings / bring you down with their negativity and/or judgmental behaviour / don’t make any efforts to stay in touch? My tolerance level decreased because I realised I didn’t have to accept the unacceptable, I don’t have to forgive easily either. Raising your standards when it comes to relationships is an excellent thing, it’s so important to surround yourself with like-minded people. Of course there are always going to be people you’d rather detach yourself from but can’t: some family members or even colleagues… Just keep in mind kindness is contagious. Oh, and I also deleted my personal social media accounts. Freedom!

My conclusion on 2020

Looking back, I can’t really say it’s been a bad year… I used to blog between 2007 and 2017 but had to stop eventually, because I didn’t have enough time for it anymore. 2020 gave me the extra time I needed to start this new blog and it’s been a powerful form of therapy to help me heal from my wounds. Now I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. 2020 has changed me forever, in a very positive way. I’m ready for 2021, bring it on!

Have you turned the negatives into positives too? What learning(s) do you want to apply in 2021 and onwards?

Big Girl x

Poll Results: Your Favourite Topics on the Blog

[Poll Results] Your Favourite Topics on the Blog

Last month, I asked you to vote for your favourite topic(s) on the blog, multiple answers were allowed. First of all, thank you to everyone who voted! It showed me that all categories and topics I love writing about are relevant to you and that matters a lot to me. It’s also interesting to see that no specific theme really stands out: the 5 of them received more or less 20% of the 134 total votes. Today’s post is the perfect opportunity for me to recommend my own top 3 articles for each category. Let’s go through the poll results below!

1. Mental Health wins with 21.64% of votes

I think this year has put a strain on mental health, which at least has had the positive consequence to make it less taboo – it has become a very important topic in our every day life! I have so much to talk about on the matter, how mental health changes our behaviour and how to prioritise wellbeing before anything else. Self-preservation is not selfish, it’s absolutely necessary to be happy and let go of what we can’t control. Within this category, I would recommend reading the 3 posts below:

2. Weight Loss is a close second with 20.90% of votes

According to the posts that received the most likes so far (featured on the sidebar as your favourite posts), this is the most popular category by far… It surprised me it didn’t have the majority of votes on the poll but it was very close! After reviewing the blog, I decided to put weight loss and mental health categories under a more generic one: health & wellbeing. It makes more sense as they can be very intertwined, one can influence the other and vice versa. The 3 posts below are my personal favourites:

3. Environment is just behind with 20.15% of votes

This is a huge topic for me as it’s probably the one which made me want to create this blog in the first place: how to help save the planet. I think 2020 has been the year many people started to open their eyes about how quickly we’re destroying our environment and how it’s still time to act before it’s too late. Good news is we have a lot more control than we think on all this, starting with our diet. It turns out both our own health and the planet are strongly impacted by our food choices. If you haven’t already, see these 3 posts for example:

4. Travel is next with 19.40% of votes

You could argue this category is less related to self-improvement compared to other topics but to me, it is strongly linked. My most recent travelling experience had a big impact on the way I see things now. I believe travelling unlocks new parts of our brain that remain closed if we never get to see the world with our own eyes. Being on the road for several months on the other side of the globe was an experience that changed my mindset forever. Throwback to my 2019-2020 adventure with my own top 3 below:

5. Relationships is last with 17.91% of votes

The fact that this category is slightly less popular didn’t surprise me as it could be a bit more niche, especially wedding-related topics. I fully appreciate that my followers are not all (if any) currently planning to get married so it’s more difficult to relate. But this is also about other sort of relationships: family, friends, the rest of the world… Below 3 posts that are personal but yet very relatable:

Are you surprised by the results? Is there a post (or several posts) you particularly enjoyed reading? Let me know in the comments!

Big Girl x

Is BMI the Only Important Metric to Measure How Healthy You Are?

BMI stands for Body Mass Index, it gives you an indication if your weight is healthy compared to your height. It’s really easy to calculate as it only uses your body mass (in kilograms), divided by your height (in metres squared). It doesn’t take into account age and gender, except for young people under 18. If maths is not your thing and you want to know what your BMI is, just type “BMI Calculator” on your search bar and you’ll be spoilt for choice. An adult is considered healthy if their BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, underweight if it’s under 18.5, overweight above 24.9 and in the obese range above 30. Now, I’m sure most of you already know this, but I would like to have a closer look at why you shouldn’t rely on it by itself.

Update on my own weight loss journey

I started to write about my weight loss journey in one of my very first posts on this blog. By then I was at 78 kg and had already lost 7 kg. Since this post, I’ve carried on with my new healthy lifestyle and I am today near 68 kg, which means I lost another 10 kg. In terms of BMI, I went down from the obese range to just overweight and I’m now on the verge on being back to healthy. Hallelujah. I’m 165 cm tall so a healthy range for me means between 50 kg and 68 kg. I was aiming at 60 kg (in the middle) to have some sort of exact number in mind but I know by experience I’m starting to look very skinny under 60 kg, so that would actually be my absolute minimum! What would still be considered “healthy” for me (between 50 kg and 60 kg) would probably look underweight as I would start worrying people around me. That’s why I say BMI is a great tool to give some sort of indication but no one knows your body better than you.

BMI by itself has its limits

If BMI only uses people’s height and weight to indicate their healthy range, you can see why it would have its limits. It cannot tell the difference between excess fat, muscle or bone. Even though the range is quite big to take into account natural variations in body shape, some athletes with a high muscle mass could easily be within an overweight or obese category while they’re actually very healthy. Ethnicity also matters: according to the NHS, Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups have a higher risk of developing some long-term conditions (such as type 2 diabetes) with a BMI above 23, so even if they’re within the healthy range (which is between 18.5 and 24.9). Pregnant women should obviously not use BMI as an indicator as it wouldn’t be accurate either.

What other metrics should you watch out for?

If BMI is pretty straight forward to tell you if you weight too much (or not enough), it won’t tell you if you have too much fat. Ultimately, that’s what you want to focus on because that’s what puts you at greater risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke or even cancer. Basically, you can have a healthy BMI and still carry too much fat around your stomach. One way of finding out would be to invest in a smart scale that will give you more detailed information about your body composition. Another one is to take measurements of your waist size to check if you need to lose dangerous fat. Regardless of your BMI, you should try to lose weight if your waist size is more than 80 cm (for women) or 94 cm (for men). This is not easy but necessary, my waist size was 92 cm for a weight at 85 kg back in August. More than 4 months later, I lost 17 kg and 13 cm around the waist. I am now only starting to be healthy in that area too with a waist size at 79 cm, which translates into significantly less risk of developing a long-term disease.

The bottom line

In conclusion, I would say BMI gives a good indication about how healthy you are, but only if it is used in combination with other factors. If you’re way above or under the healthy BMI range, you should definitely act. But don’t necessarily aim to be right in the middle to have the perfect body, as everyone has a different body shape that doesn’t always reflect their weight. If I’m aiming at 60 kg now, I know my weight will increase again when I focus on toning up because my muscle mass will increase, which is heavier than fat. By then, I’ll replace my objective with a more appropriate one! I can tell you I already feel the positive impact this journey is having on me. I hope January will see more people making good (and lasting) healthy resolutions.

Do you consider being the best version of yourself already or do you need to make a change?

Big Girl x

The Power of a Good Sleep Routine on Your Health & Wellbeing

If you’re also a night owl and (used to) have a long commute to work that forces you to wake up earlier in the morning, you understand how difficult it is to get the right amount of sleep every night. For that, the Government telling us to stay home with the pandemic has been a blessing: the opportunity to spend more time in bed! I remember how it always used to be a struggle for me to wake up early in the morning, I wish I could be wide awake before my alarm clock even rings and get up feeling fresh but it’s simply not the case. We’re not all equal when it comes to our ability to fall asleep but focusing on getting a good sleep routine is essential for our mental health, weight management, mood etc, basically our overall wellbeing.

The importance of sleep

Sleeping is as important as breathing, eating and drinking, it plays a vital role in our mental and physical health. The connection between sleep and health is very strong: if you don’t sleep well, it will impact your health, and if you’re not healthy, you will not sleep well. It could quickly turn into a vicious circle: lack of sleep => tiredness => difficulty coping with daily life => low self-esteem => feelings of worry and/or stress => lack of sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. A good night’s sleep can facilitate weight loss too. Associated with a lower stress level, you can double your chances of slimming down. Sleep patterns affect weight loss.

What happens if you don’t get enough sleep

A lack of sleep in the short term can happen easily to anyone, but it’s more the long term impact you need to worry about. It can affect your mood, energy, concentration levels, relationships, and your ability to stay awake and function at work during the day. Poor sleep can make it much more difficult to cope with relatively minor stress. A lack of sleep can cause depression, anxiety, symptoms of mania or hypomania, and can also reinforce schizophrenia or aggravate symptoms if you already have ADHD. On top of all that, poor sleep dramatically alters the way the body responds to food: it’s a major risk factor for weight gain and obesity because it can increase your appetite and therefore increase your calorie intake. It can also decrease your resting metabolism and cause cells to become insulin resistant.

How you can improve your sleep

The Mental Health Foundation recommends “HEAL” as the 4 pillars of good sleep: Health, Environment, Attitude and Lifestyle. You can download their “how to sleep better” guide here for free.

Personally, I find useful to use a sleep tracker to look at my record in the morning. I use an Oura ring because their reports are very well done, below some screenshots of my sleep record last night as an example (click on images to enlarge them). They give you a score out of 100 (over 85 is considered optimal), based on different contributors. You can see on the graph I seem to have been awake just before 4am… 2 options: my bladder or my cats. But overall I’m doing pretty good with my sleep.

There are 4 sleep stages: one called REM (rapid eye-movement, also known as “active sleep”) and one called non-REM, subdivided in 3 stages (including light and deep sleep). Overall, it usually goes in cycles through each stage of the sleep but you spend the majority of the night in light sleep. Based on data gathered from Oura users, deep sleep represents on average 13-23% and REM 20-25% (it can vary widely by individual). These 2 phases are extremely important for good recovery.

If you struggle to fall asleep

Meditation can help, as well as other techniques used to fall asleep in no time. You can find some illustrations in this useful article from Healthline. If you think you have insomnia (like about a third of the global population), maybe you need to check if it’s actually the case by doing a sleep self-assessment here, it will also give you some do’s and don’ts to treat insomnia yourself. But if it’s more serious, you should get help from a professional.

Extra tips

Since I’ve had the chance to this year, I’ve been focusing on my sleep a lot lately. I make sure to wake up and go to bed at similar times every day (including weekends) and I have a light dinner early (around 6pm) to leave plenty of time for digestion before bedtime. If I feel tired during the day, I make sure not to nap so I can sleep better at night. I try to relax and avoid big screens just before going to bed but sometimes 2 little fellas are not cooperating: my cats get more active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk, like other crepuscular animals. But they also contribute positively to my mental health so it compensates the occasional sleep disturbance. Overall, I’ve never felt better!

Have you been getting enough sleep lately?

Big Girl x

Which Plant-Based Milk Is the Best for You and the Environment?

It is particularly difficult to be dairy-free these days, because dairy milk is literally everywhere. We’ve all been told to drink milk to have strong bones and up until a few years ago, I didn’t suspect it could actually harm my body. I did a food intolerance test to confirm what I suspected and dairy was at the top of my list. Did you know that almost 70% of the population in the world is lactose intolerant? Some people probably are and don’t even know about it. So here it is, even Santa will get a glass of plant-based milk this year.

I can’t tell you how much better I feel since I stopped drinking milk and avoiding dairy products. As a cheese lover, this is not always easy but my guts have been thanking me and I decided it was my priority. When you think about it, why would we even drink something that is naturally designed as a growth hormone for baby cows, not fully grown humans? Also, dairy milk production has a huge negative impact on the planet, on top of being cruel to cows. There are many reasons why I think every adult should choose to consume plant-based milk instead, it’s definitely worth considering and at least trying (more research needs to be done for children though). From all options you can find in most supermarkets, the main ones are: soy milk (the original plant-based alternative), almond milk, rice milk and oat milk. Let’s go through a quick comparison:

What alternative is best for me?

Soy Milk

Pros: high in protein, fortified in calcium and potassium, source of vitamins B2, B12 and D, available unsweetened or flavoured (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla), contains all the essential amino acids, easy to find in supermarkets.
Cons: soy is one of the most common allergens, and not everyone likes the taste.
Best for: baking, cooking

Almond Milk

Pros: contains more calcium than dairy milk, high in vitamins A, D and E, high in monounsaturated fatty acids (considered helpful in weight loss and weight management), low in calories, has a popular nutty taste.
Cons: low in protein compared to other plant-based milk, nuts are also a common allergen.
Best for: cereals

Rice Milk

Pros: contains as much calcium as dairy milk, has a naturally sweet taste, non-allergenic so it’s a good option for people with dairy, soy and nut allergies.
Cons: low in nutrients, rich in sugar, high in carbohydrates.
Best for: smoothies

Oat Milk

Pros: good nutrition and includes more calcium than dairy milk, good source of soluble fibre (which supports heart and digestive health), fortified with vitamins A, D, B2 and B12.
Cons: high in calories (as much as dairy milk) and unsweetened options can be hard to find, not suitable for gluten-free diets (unless specifically labelled as such).
Best for: coffee, tea

What alternative is best for the planet?

Now let’s have a look at the impact it has on the environment. The production of a plant-based milk cuts the water use by at least half compared to dairy milk, the emissions by at least two thirds, and significantly decreases the land use too :

From the article: “Climate change: Which vegan milk is best?” – BBC UK

It’s time to make the switch!

From what I gathered, soy milk and oat milk seem to be the best alternatives by far. But no matter what plant-based milk you pick, it will always be a much better option than dairy milk, for the planet but also for yourself as an adult. What’s your favourite milk alternative and why?

Big Girl x

Quick & Easy Recipe For a Refreshing Banana Sorbet

ingredients for a refreshing banana sorbet

That’s a problem we all had at some point in our kitchen: too many leftover bananas and no idea what to do with them before they become too ripe to eat. The most obvious answer would be to make a banana cake, of course… but isn’t there a healthier option? My mum actually gave me that idea recently and after trying it myself, I thought I had to share my own banana ice cream recipe! It’s easy to make, requires only 4 ingredients, it’s gluten-free and dairy-free (if you opt for a plant-based milk).

Ingredients – for 4 people:

  • 5 bananas (small/medium)
  • 150ml milk (I used unsweetened soya milk)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons honey

Put everything in the blender and mix it until smooth:

bananas in the blender

Pour the mixture into 4 ramequins and leave in the freezer overnight:

banana mixture in ramequins

And the next day: tadaaa…. Enjoy!

delicious banana sorbet

Who said it was too cold for ice cream? Plus you can keep it in the freezer several weeks, it’s really convenient on top of being a healthy alternative to banana cake. One ramequin following this recipe would be less than 150 calories. I love this dessert, it’s sweet and refreshing!

How will you use your ripe bananas next time?

Big Girl x

How To Enjoy a Big Family Feast Without Compromising Your Healthy Lifestyle

The festive season can represent a big risk for anyone trying to lose or maintain their weight. How many times have you heard someone say: “I’ll wait until January to start a diet” or “I wanted to start eating healthy but I know I’ll eat a lot at Christmas so I’ll start afterwards”. If you wait for big festive events to be behind you before you start living healthier, then you might never start at all. I’m a strong believer you don’t need to wait for the new year to make good resolutions in life, the sooner the better. And if you’re already on the path to become a better version of yourself, you can still enjoy the festivities without letting them ruin your efforts.

When you think about it, why would people consciously overeat to celebrate? Surely you shouldn’t have to compromise your health to celebrate anything. I know temptation is everywhere and sometimes difficult to avoid, especially if there is a buffet in front of you (out of sight, out of mind) but you ARE strong enough to indulge yourself without feeling like a beached whale afterwards. The keyword is moderation. But I know it’s not enough to say that, so below are 4 important points that hopefully will help you keep in mind that the Christmas period doesn’t have to compromise your healthy plans.

Underestimate your food portions

I know you’re really looking forward to these Christmas delicacies, just try to put on your plate smaller portions than you would usually! When we’re hungry, we tend to overestimate the quantity of food we need and then we’re left with no choice but to keep eating after we’re already full. Putting less on your plate would allow you to ask yourself if you want more or not. And don’t worry, there will be enough food for you to come back to – actually, chances are there will be way too much food so don’t be greedy. Now, this advice sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many of us don’t listen: if you’re not hungry, do not eat. For the Christmas edition, I would go further: if there is anything you don’t like, don’t eat it! Yes, Brussels sprouts are part of the traditional British dinner but if you don’t like them, save space to enjoy other foods you really like. If you’re planning to have dessert, you don’t want to be already full by then. And when you eat, do it mindfully, take the time to really appreciate it. It’s not a quantity game and binge eating will not do you any good (even on healthy food).

Drink a lot… of water

Festivities almost always include alcohol, but drinking doesn’t make you feel fuller… Unless it’s water. If all you drink is sugary and/or alcohol, not only are you going to go way above your calorie budget but you’re going to feel dehydrated (and then drink more alcohol, you know how this works). And when you’ve had too much alcohol, you’ll make poorer choices between your food options. Try to limit your consumption of alcohol and increase your water intake. If you’re struggling with the idea, remember that water cleanses your body and is a natural hunger suppressant. It’s the number 1 thing your body needs to function properly (after the air you’re breathing obviously). Still not convinced? Take a look at how many calories each alcoholic drink contains on average. It quickly adds up.

Allow your body to digest

By that, I don’t necessarily mean vegetating in front of TV (let’s be honest, we’ve all seen Christmas movies several times, they’re not as good). Think of your body like a machine that needs to process everything you give it. If you keep feeding it when it’s already full, it won’t have time to process what it already has. Why not go for a walk to help burn some calories? It doesn’t have to be a long walk, even 30 minutes in the neighbourhood would be beneficial. If you’re bored, don’t think of food as the solution to keep yourself busy, offer to play a game that will keep everyone entertained. Remember to stop eating at least 2 hours before bedtime to allow enough time for digestion. You could also prepare to fast the next day to clean up your body, or practise intermittent fasting, although this is not an ideal solution for everyone.

Learn how to say ‘no’

You will 100% be offered extra food or another glass of alcohol when you’re already full. Don’t be polite and accept because you can’t say no. Prioritise your body, not the host (I know it sounds selfish but no one else but you is responsible for your own health). People tend to insist when they’re feeling very festive but they won’t remember the next day you said no. There is nothing more unpleasant than forcing yourself, so just be honest (don’t forget to smile while doing it) and it will be all good! If there is too much food (there will be), offer to take some leftovers with you to enjoy the next day as an alternative.

Finally, I think it’s important to remind you this: don’t forget to enjoy yourself in the process. Doing things in moderation shouldn’t be boring or prevent you from having fun! Remember why you’re doing this and all the benefits in the long term! Happy body, healthy mind, healthy soul, everything goes together. And if you know this time you ate more than you should have, it’s all fine, you’ll lose it naturally over time if you stick to your healthy lifestyle. Christmas is only 2 weeks away now… Do you feel you have enough mental tools to overcome the family feast this year?

Big Girl x

How Pets Can Significantly Improve Your Mental Health

how pets can improve our mental health

We all know how lockdown has affected people’s mental health this year and pets may have played a key role in our wellbeing. Pets could indeed be lifesavers through a period of social loneliness, but not only then. In so many ways, they can help us live mentally healthier lives! The healing power of the human-animal bond is real.

My story

I was only 22 and still a student when I adopted Miko (the tabby cat in the picture below). I was in the middle of a crisis in my life: I was just back from Australia (I lived 6 months in Brisbane), feeling nostalgic about my experience over there and started to question some of my life choices: Was I studying at the right school? What exactly did I want to do with my life? Where did I see myself in the upcoming years? I didn’t have the answer and I felt lost. Suddenly, the opportunity presented itself to adopt a cat, a friend of a friend didn’t know what to do with their new litter of kittens. We had cats in my family when I was younger so I felt educated enough on the matter, I didn’t hesitate and decided to adopt one of them.

miko and luna in their cat tree

It gave me stability

Another living being was now depending on me and I had no choice but to be responsible and take ownership of my life decisions. Since then, Miko has been the stability I didn’t have with my nomad life: I’ve moved 9 times in France and England within the last 13 years. Cats are creatures of habit and don’t usually enjoy changing their territory so regularly, but he has never seemed too bothered. Or maybe he knew it was my style. He’s the one who picked me after all, not the other way around, and that makes a huge difference.

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France

Two is better than one

Now that he’s a senior cat (13 cat years is equivalent to 68 human years!), I thought it would be nice to give him a feline friend… A human’s company doesn’t always compensate the special bond they develop with each other. If you think cats are solitary animals who enjoy spending time alone, you couldn’t be more wrong.

I had to separate him from his sister when I adopted him, because I couldn’t afford both of them at the time. She was all black, that’s why I started to look for a similar cat online and found our second cat Luna. Sometimes I wonder if he knows exactly why I picked her. These two are so happy together now, it fills our hearts with joy every time we look at them. Of course they also fight sometimes (like siblings would do) but I know it was meant to be. Do you also believe everything happens for a reason?

miko and luna on the sofa

How pets help you make healthy lifestyle changes

Among all the things I can think of, they:

  • encourage you to exercise and help you lose weight (in case of dogs)
  • encourage playfulness and laughter
  • can make you socialise with other animal lovers (I strongly believe someone who loves animals can’t be a bad person)
  • give you a healthy routine (I have to wake up every day at the same time to feed my cats – no matter what my mood is…)

How pets impact your overall health

And they also:

  • are a great motivator
  • relax and calm your mind when you stroke them
  • can lower your blood pressure in stressful situations
  • are great company and give you a sense of security
  • fulfil the basic human need for touch
  • make you feel needed
  • increase our sense of self-esteem and wellbeing
  • teach you how to live in the moment (they don’t worry about the past or the future)
  • teach kids empathy and sense of responsibility, as well as building better relationships with other people
  • are great help to people in later life, but also to children with ADHD or autism

Note: By no means I recommend you to adopt a pet as the solution if you’re temporarily feeling anxious, depressed or lonely. An animal is a huge responsibility and it’s important not to take this decision lightly. A good animal charity would ensure your home is suitable for them. They’re not “just for Christmas”, or “just for lockdown” either.

Do you believe in the pet effect and the human-animal bond? You can get involved, support HABRI (the Human Animal Bond Research Institute) by: donating, becoming an advocate or simply staying informed!

Big Girl x

Possible Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight & Tips to Regain Control

Possible Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight And Tips to Regain Control

If you’re on a weight loss journey, December is probably the worst month of the year to stay motivated. It’s getting cold, days are shorter, and it’s more difficult to stay active… Switching to “couch potato” mode and watch your favourite shows instead (with some comfort food?) seems like a much better idea. Plus it’s Christmas soon so why bother losing weight now, let’s postpone to January when everyone will be making good resolutions, right? Well I don’t want you to give up now! There is no one-size-fits-all solution but if you feel demotivated because you’re doing everything by the book and still don’t lose weight, then let’s go through the most common reasons why it’s not happening and how to overcome this phase.

Possible reasons why you’re not losing weight

It’s important to know losing weight and losing fat are not the same thing. Losing fat is ultimately what you want… And if you’re not losing weight, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not losing fat. So before going through the list below, ask yourself if your new lifestyle is making positive impacts on your body and soul. If the answer is yes, then you have nothing to worry about, just carry on!

  • If you recently started to exercise, then you can gain muscle (which is heavy) and therefore think you’re doing something wrong. As it’s fat you want to lose anyway, this is actually a good thing.
  • Have you been keeping track of what you’re eating? Sometimes the difference between what you think you eat and what you actually eat can be huge… You could be eating too many calories without even noticing.
  • If you “drink” your calories, it will jeopardise your efforts of eating healthy and won’t even fill you up. A can of coke contains 140 calories, a glass of wine 80 calories, a pint of beer 200 calories. Remember than water is what you really need to stay hydrated and it contains 0 calories.
  • Sleep deprivation can not only lead to mental health issues but could also be a risk factor for obesity. Have you been getting enough sleep lately?
  • Maybe you’re not eating when you’re really hungry. You could either stop and think if you really need food right now, or you could try intermittent fasting to limit your feeding window during the day (but do not starve yourself!).
  • Have you already hit your healthy set point? Your body will naturally go towards its ideal weight if you have a healthy lifestyle. Question is: do you and your body both agree on what your ideal weight is? Have realistic expectations.
  • Some medical conditions can make weight loss a lot harder. If you think it could be your case or have any doubts, speak to a doctor about your options.
you can win if you want

Tips to regain control of your weight loss

I can’t tell you exactly what you should eat (or stop eating) to suddenly lose weight, but I can give you some tips to stay focused on your healthy goals. If you’ve ever been promised to lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time by eating a specific food, your chances of success are very slim. Dieticians would agree it’s more about a lifestyle change and building a long-term habit! So play the long game.

  • Focus on your wellbeing – How do you feel?
  • Remember why you’re doing it – Think long term. For example: “I want to be a healthy person and live a high quality life. I want to feel good about myself too.”
  • Create a food plan when you’re not hungry – Know in advance what and when you eat (even better if you eat at the same time every day), it will give you control over your food choices and make impulsive unhealthy meals less frequent.
  • Eat mindfully, enjoy each meal and focus on your food (no distractions like TV, phone, etc).
  • Make sure you accurately estimate food portions and be wary of hidden calories. Sometimes you don’t realise the impact of small additions to your meal: an extra tablespoon of olive oil is 120 calories, an extra tablespoon of mayonnaise is another 100 calories, etc. Sugary drinks and alcohol are also very high in calories (as mentioned earlier), so it’s best to avoid them completely or at least reduce your consumption in your day-to-day routine.
  • Remember you make choices, not rules. If you have too many food restrictions in your diet, it will eventually frustrate you and make you subconsciously want them more. Focus instead on healthy food you love.
  • Sleep well and drink more water (and stay consistent). The right amount of sleep and staying hydrated will help you manage your appetite better!
  • Don’t focus only on weight – it’s just one indicator among others – and track other healthful changes that may have happened, like your waist and hips circumferences. You can also use a smart scale to get more information on your body composition (% fat, % water, muscle mass, etc).
  • Don’t compensate your boredom with food and distract yourself – I give you a few ideas how in this post.
  • Be patient and realistic, things won’t happen overnight.

I think it’s pretty normal to experience a weight loss plateau at some point. The key is to not give up, weight loss will eventually resume, unless you’re doing something wrong without knowing… This is why I wanted to list the most common reasons why you’re not losing weight and how to overcome it. And if you constantly remind yourself of how far you’ve come, it should definitely keep you on track. Not everyone can succeed in changing their lifestyle for good, because it requires dedication, self-discipline, perseverance and resilience. Do you have what it takes? I know you do!

Big Girl x

How to Look for a Job That Will Positively Impact Your Mental Health

How to Look for a Job That Will Positively Impact Your Mental Health

Last year I was working in a finance company where the culture was really bad: ignoring people’s work-life balance, asking employees to work during the weekend without any compensation, expecting us to arrive at the office as early as possible in the morning and leave as late as possible in the evening, not to mention taking a lunch break was frowned upon.

But maybe the worst was the fact that meetings (especially between heads of departments) were emotionally difficult, one of us would expect to be mentally beaten up and humiliated in front of everyone else without warnings. It resulted in an atmosphere where we were scared to speak up (in case we said something silly), always kept on our toes and desperate to impress the most influential people within the company. Staying in their good books was essential to survive and I hated witnessing “brown nose clubs” doing whatever it took to be on the “right” side.

This experience was a great school of life though, I stayed 2 years in this company until I realised I needed to reassess my priorities. I then decided to quit and go travelling for 6 months.

Why you should always prioritise your wellbeing

I think you can see where I’m going with it: it’s great to have a job that pays well… except if it impacts your mental health, which will also affect your overall health. In response to stress, I found comfort in food and gained more than 20 kg during these 2 years. I’ve never seen so many unhappy employees. The turnover rate was so high that most teams were completely different between when I joined the company and when I left 2 years later. I left with no other job lined up, nothing else than a travel plan and yet I know I made one of the best decisions of my life – even if I’m still unemployed today.

Define what values are the most important to you

Of course I didn’t think I would struggle to find a new job upon my return when I decided to do a short career break. I’ve never found it hard to find a new job in the past, I’ve never stayed in the same company for more than a few years. Things are different in 2020 though. The economic impact of COVID is real and the unemployment rate hit its highest level in 3 years. But at least now I know my priorities in life, I had a lot of time to reflect and think about how I need to pick my next work opportunity. Below a few values I overlooked in the past but won’t in the future:

  • strong leadership that empowers employees
  • fun and modern company culture
  • good employee retention
  • respect of work-life balance
  • flexibility on work schedule and possibility to work from home
  • healthy environment at the office

Get a better idea of what your dream job would be

Starting this blog also helped me narrow down the industry I ideally want to work in. As a marketing professional, I have worked in many different industries because it never really mattered to me what I had to sell, I liked the variety. Marketing is a tool and the techniques stay more or less the same between companies. But now I’m starting to realise how much it actually matters to personally have an interest in the company’s business. So I would love my next job to be in health, wellbeing and/or fitness industry. Have you ever noticed how much you could influence your future with a clear plan in mind and a positive attitude?

The new “normal”

Old fashioned companies like my previous one are thankfully less common nowadays. Mental health is an important topic, we spend way too much time at work to tolerate a toxic atmosphere. Even the worst companies had to adapt during lockdown, allowing employees to work from home (that would have been unthinkable for some in the past). Nowadays, more companies realise they can trust their employees to do their job, without having to micro-manage them. This pandemic definitely had some positive influence in some areas. But it’s too soon to tell if the change is going to last after it’s all over…

How did the pandemic impact your work life?

Big Girl x

How to Improve Your Diet to Positively Impact The Planet

burger and fries

Have you decided to become a healthier version of yourself? If so, I’m proud of you and I’m looking forward to sharing that journey with you! What if doing that also gave you the opportunity to take actions and save the planet? I hope you are interested because you can actually do both at the same time. Sustainable nutrition is the future we need.

What is sustainable nutrition?

What I mean is changing your food choices provides the simplest and largest impact you can have on the world and your body. Meat production has a heavy impact on the environment and it’s no secret to anyone that red meat (especially beef) requires a lot more land and more water to produce than poultry, resulting in significantly higher climate-warming emissions. By simply choosing chicken over beef for example, you could reduce your dietary carbon footprint by half! Or you can simply remove animal products from your diet to have an even bigger impact on the planet.

Is a plant-based diet the only solution?

I’ve always found it annoying when someone who chose to be vegan tries to make you feel bad for eating meat, but the truth is their diet is the least damaging for the planet. After a lot of research on the matter, my view on the topic has evolved quite a lot over the past few years. I think it’s all about limiting your carbon footprint without necessarily having to remove your favourite foods from your diet, sometimes it makes a vegan diet easy to adopt, sometimes it feels impossible. So for now I’ve decided to go halfway and have at least one plant-based meal a day.

Huel, short for Human Fuel

huel products in my kitchen

One of the reasons I love this brand so much is that they really care about the environment and are making an effort to talk about it more: “Halting climate change is possible, eating for our health is achievable and lowering our carbon emissions is simple. It all starts with changing the way we eat. It’s time to change the way we think about food.” Huel is 100% plant-based and any food waste becomes renewable energy. They provide all nutrients you need and they constantly innovate with new flavours, no wonder why they keep growing (and it’s really good news for the environment).

What can you do to improve your diet and reduce your carbon footprint?

  • choose fish/poultry over beef/lamb
  • choose plant proteins over animal products
  • eat less food high in sugar/fat
  • avoid fried foods
  • limit your consumption of alcohol
  • eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes (lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas), nuts and seeds

How I choose to contribute

Personally, I skip breakfast as part of my intermittent fasting so I have only 2 meals a day (which is not recommended for everyone so make sure you talk to a dietician if you have any doubts). I have Huel for lunch (I love their coffee caramel black edition, I add matcha powder to it) and I eat mostly fish or poultry for dinner (more and more rarely red meat compared to before but it still happens occasionally).

I have nuts as a healthy snack and include a lot of fruits in my diet. Also, I don’t eat gluten anymore and avoid dairy products as my body doesn’t seem to tolerate any of these very well. Gluten-free & dairy-free diets are not always easy to follow but it also benefits the planet, not just me. Bearing in mind I want it to be a lifestyle I can adopt in the long run, not just a temporary measure.

Want to find out more?

If you want to read more on the topic, check out the links below:

What positive change for both your health and the planet have you made so far?

Big Girl x