Whole30 Day 8 – why I am I doing it, and how is it going?

Whole 30 banner

Those of you who follow me on Instagram and Twitter will have seen me talking about the Whole30 program recently, and will have also seen that I’m on Day 8 of 30! I’ve had lots of questions online and in real life about it – more than anything else health-related I have tried – so I thought I’d write a post to update you on my progress and the reasons why I am doing this. I’ll also post when I complete my Whole30 and let you know how I got on and what benefits I’ve seen.

About a month ago, I realised that I just wasn’t feeling great. I’ve been under a fair bit of stress, and it was really starting to affect me physically with a return of my IBS, heartburn, eczema flare ups and random skin conditions. I’d also been tracking my food for several months as I’ve been on a calorie controlled diet – I have managed to lose about half a stone, painfully slow progress, but more importantly I could see that I wasn’t eating well. My old nemesis dairy had crept back into my diet in increasing amounts, I was drinking alcohol more regularly and was really reliant on caffeine and sweet treats to get me over the 3pm energy slump. I had no energy to exercise and my sleep was terrible, making everything else feel worse.

I began to look for something I could do to help myself. Sadly some of the stresses in my life are not going to resolve themselves quickly, but I could see that the way I was eating wasn’t helping me and was possibly causing more physical stress on top of the life stress! I stumbled across the Whole30 and thought it sounded like it could help, then had positive feedback from a few friends who had tried it so I bought the book to find out more about the plan. The scientific explanation convinced me and several other parts of the book really resonated – for example, this bit about weighing yourself:

extract from Whole30 book

So many times in my life I’ve started a “health kick” with the real, deep down motivation to lose weight and when I haven’t seen progress on the scales I’ve become really disheartened and given up – even if I was feeling better in other ways. A plan that claims to help with a lot of my symptoms by reducing the stress my body is under, and that also helps build a better relationship with my body and with food? I’m in.

I won’t go into the details of the Whole30 as there’s loads of information on the website, but essentially for 30 days you eat unprocessed foods, made from scratch where possible and free of grains (including rice, quinoa), legumes, alcohol, added sugar, soy, dairy, and some additives and oils detailed in the plan. The idea is that you perform a bit of a reset for your brain and body, regulating your energy levels and psychological dependency on sweets and highly processed foods so you can reintroduce only the things that are really special and truly enjoyable, not the things that provide minimum goodness and take a toll on the body. The plan is medium-high protein but not as often portrayed super-low carb; fruit like bananas are allowed along with sweet potatoes and white potatoes and you are encouraged to add more starchy veggies in if you are struggling with energy or are very active.

My first shopping trip was pretty epic as I realised many of my cupboard staples like peanut butter, Kind bars and sriracha were no longer ok and I bought “compliant” replacements to make my month easier. I was also truly shocked at how sugar gets into everything; sundried tomatoes, stock cubes, cured meats of all kinds….it really is everywhere in our diets. Lidl was my surprise saviour with loads of fresh veggies along with an amazing sugar free smoked salmon – yum!

Whole30 shopping trip - thanks Lidl UK!
Whole30 shopping trip – thanks Lidl UK!

I bought the Whole30 book (I read “It starts with food” on my Kindle) as I wanted the recipes and guidance, though I must admit so far I’ve been winging it or adapting recipes we already use for our evening meals. The book is a brilliant reference guide but the recipes do seem to be aimed more at people who aren’t super fond of cooking or are nervous about changing their diet.  I’m also keen that D and Little M don’t end up having to make drastic changes to their meals, and that I don’t appear to be eating “special food” all the time! Breakfasts have included poached eggs with chard and mushrooms cooked in ghee, salad veggies with avocado and prosciutto and apples and berries with this amazing almond butter. Lunches have been either salads or leftovers from supper, and I’ve only been snacking when my supper is going to be 8pm or later, choosing unsalted nuts or a Naked bar. Suppers have been things like spaghetti bolognese with shredded veg instead of pasta, grilled chicken and salad with sweet potato wedges, roasted salmon with steamed veg and stuffed peppers with grated sweet potato added to the meat rather than rice or couscous. D commented that he really hasn’t found supper any different. I think eating this way is a bit easier in the summer in the UK – I’m all about salads like these at the moment:

Chicken salad with avocado, kimchi and the best coconut water
Chicken salad with avocado, kimchi and the best coconut water
Salad with smoked salmon, green beans and avocado
Salad with smoked salmon, green beans and avocado

I’m only on Day 8 and so far I’ve been finding the food OK. Breakfast has involved more prep time than I am used to – without granola, bread or smoothies I’ve been a bit stumped and I haven’t been able to find a sugar-free bacon. I’ve been enjoying my lunches and suppers and have found that if I include the recommended amount of healthy fats I really am staying pretty full. I’ve also reduced my caffeine intake as recommended down to one black coffee a day plus a green tea in the afternoon and after the first few days I haven’t needed my afternoon coffee hit. I’m not missing sweets as much as I thought I would, although I have been having fruit after meals so maybe that’s why?

I have managed to go out for the day (packed a picnic and some coconut water) and eat out twice (once I had grilled chicken with roast sweet potato wedges and an undressed salad, once I had steak with new potatoes and salad, hardly a hardship) and take Little M out for a drink and cake (I had fresh fruit and an espresso) without breaking the plan. Meal planning and having the right kinds of foods to hand is a necessity for success though, without that you’ll find yourself without anything easy to hand that fits the plan and it would be easy to give up.

So how am I feeling? Well, the plan’s authors tell you that you may well feel worse before you feel better and there’s even a timeline with idea of what to expect. I started the plan after a nasty sickness bug, and I’m not sure how that affected me, but I had a splitting headache on Day 1 although I didn’t have any of the other “hangover” symptoms except feeling super exhausted. Days 2-6 I couldn’t wait to crawl into bed, I was done by 9pm! I also found that my digestion was a bit unhappy during the first four days – I’m guessing from the big dietary change alongside the bug – but now it has settled. I’ve seen an improvement to my eczema and my energy levels, even on early start days the afternoon slump is so much less pronounced and I’m not getting as hungry, I was always starving by 4pm even if I’d consumed my bodyweight in sweets. I’ve not noticed any other improvements yet though, I think it’s too early. I would also probably bite your arm off for bread if I thought it was plan compliant 😉

Weirdly having a time limit on this way of eating helps me mentally – when I have been tempted by cake or am dying for a gin and tonic, I remind myself I will be able to have them fairly soon and it doesn’t seem so bad. Having a clearly defined list of foods also helps as there’s no “well if I have that cake maybe I’ll eat a smaller dinner” juggling – it’s either on the list, or not, and so the decision is simple. It’s been so refreshing not to be weighing out foods or writing down everything I eat, too – I’ve realised how much mental energy I spend on that and it’s depressing.

This has turned into a bit of an essay so I’ll leave it here but feel free to ask me any questions here or on social media – I’d also love to hear your Whole30 experiences! Thanks for reading.

Things I love right now – June

Botanics cleanser, Kikki K Pause planner, Rimmel contour, Chanel Perfection Lumiere, Sainsburys sunglassesHello readers – it’s been a while. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I blog and what I want to do here (post on this to follow!) and here’s the first change; I’m going to move towards a monthly “things I love” post that goes beyond beauty reviews. This is partly because I want to share more of my best finds with you, and partly because as I don’t regularly work with brands I don’t have stacks of new products to review every month! I’d love to hear what you think of these mixed reviews.

I have also decided not to carry on with affiliate links on the blog, so you won’t see them any more. All the products below this month were bought by me with my own money.

Right, onto this month’s “things I love right now”:

Boots Botanics Hydration Burst dual action cleanser, £5.99: This has fast become my favourite evening cleanser ever, I honestly can’t believe the price point. Straight out of the tube, this is a thick gel with a very mild scent, which you massage into the face and neck. At first, it seems a bit too stiff but as you keep massaging it transforms into a silky oil that easily removes eyeliner, sunscreen and foundation. I then work a little warm water in to emulsify and remove with a few swipes of a hot flannel. This performs as well and is as pleasant to use as much more expensive gel-to-oil cleansers and the bonus of the gel-to-oil step is that it really encourages you to spend the time to work it in. It is suitable for dehydrated and sensitive skins, and leaves your face feeling refreshed but supple and soft, ready for the next step in your skincare routine. Having used this for about a month some persistent congestion on my cheeks has cleared up and my skin looks better than it has for a long time.  Contains no mineral oil.

GOSH Lip Oil in RaspberryI picked this up on a whim in Superdrug for £7.49 and it’s become a handbag staple for the summer. Containing a mixture of natural oils with a very slight tint, it gives my lips the sheen of a gloss without the stickiness and drying glosses can sometimes give you. It’s also perfect to add a bit of polish when you have light makeup on and don’t want to wear a lipstick – something I tend to wear less in warm weather – and I’ve found it very hydrating, my lips really benefit from wearing it. You need to apply quite frequently but when a product is this lovely and foolproof I really don’t mind that! GOSH don’t disclose ingredients but list this as vegan friendly and not tested on animals.

Kikki.K large “Pause” personal plannerThose of you who follow me on Instagram will have already seen this beauty; I love a chunky A5 planner to keep me organised at home and at work, and really enjoy setting out my week. I went back to paper as I find the ritual of writing really helps me remember and prioritise, funny for an iPhone and blog addict who spends her time typing! This planner was a very thoughtful birthday gift – the monochrome polka dot outside won’t date and I’ve already begun to experiment with additional inserts. Etsy is a fabulous source of planner goodies like the pink sparkly clip from RoyalPlanner also pictured, but be warned, it gets addictive!

Chanel Perfection Lumiere Velvet foundation, £33: I always feel a little guilty recommending something so pricy, in case people don’t like it, but I have to say I have completely fallen in love with this lightweight foundation! It describes itself as “second skin” and “smoothing” and I can confirm that it somehow hits the miracle of evening everything out without making you look and feel caked in makeup and without drying out the skin. It is “velvet matte” in finish, but doesn’t give that flat look some mattifying foundations do; in fact I feel like my skin gains some radiance from this and looks healthier. This is recommended for normal to combination skins and I wouldn’t advise it for the very dry unless you use a hefty moisturising primer, however I think anyone else could give it a go. I give it a good shake, then apply with fingers and find it easy to build up over problem areas. Plus the beautiful little bottle is so dinky and so practical! I wear shade 10, or shade 20 when I have a bit of a tan like I do now. A splurge, but definitely worth it for me.

Kate Moss for Rimmel Sculpting Kit in Coral Glow, £6.99:  Now I do want to point out that I am not in on the extreme contouring/face changing trend as I just don’t have enough time, so I can’t comment on whether this is suitable for that or not! What it is, is a lovely, reasonably-priced blush/bronze/highlighter set with a silky texture and decent colour pay off. The highlight shade is also fine enough not to make you look like a robot which can be an issue with cheaper palettes. The three colours work well on my fair skin and the back has a handy diagram showing you where to use the shades to get a contour effect. There’s also a “golden bronze” colourway for darker skin tones. I like this kit as it’s simple, effective and also a great travel/holiday bag staple, as you wouldn’t need to take separate boxes. There’s no brush included but I’d prefer to have a slimmer case than the cheap brush you tend to get at this price point. Definitely worth a look.

Sainsbury’s sunnies, £8.49: I picked these up on a total whim and have worn them loads – a fun update, didn’t cost the earth so perfect for the beach/festival/days out with a sunglasses obsessed toddler.

What are you loving this June? Any suggestions on how I could improve these posts?

Shocks, setbacks and self-care

Bluebells in Ashridge

Hello readers,

Yet again it seems like a long time since my last post. Things have been pretty tough here, with a family member unwell and also finding myself under threat of redundancy. I suddenly have a whole lot of decisions to make that I wasn’t expecting to face, and my insomnia has come back with a vengeance. I’ve begun to write a new post several times, but just haven’t been able to find any words to share with you all.

Things aren’t really any easier for me just yet, but over the past week I’ve been thinking a lot about the best way to weather this storm. As a mum, wife and manager, I normally try and just keep on going, relying on to-do lists, convenience food and coffee to get me through the day and keep things as normal as possible. Unfortunately when things are uncertain or there’s a long-term issue this coping strategy becomes unhelpful, stopping me from having a chance to reflect and making me feel guilty if I don’t keep everything running as smoothly as normal. I wanted to share some of the approaches that are proving more helpful and sustaining in the long term in the hope that they’ll be useful for others too.

  • Get outside: The photo above was from this Sunday – we’ve been blessed with glorious Spring weather here in Hertfordshire and so the whole family spent a lot of time outside this weekend. Even on grey days, I’ve been making a real effort to get out for a walk or a cup of tea outside and I find it really helps my mood. I know daylight is very helpful for most of us, but I think there’s also something about being outside surrounded by nature that helps bring clarity and perspective when I’m under pressure. Plus a run around outside is the perfect low-effort way to entertain an inquisitive preschooler!
  • Talk to people: Tell people what you are going through and how you are feeling, even if these feelings change day to day. Let your partner know what you need from them, let friends know why you may not be on your best form. Speak to people in a similar situation – I’m lucky to have close friends at work, so I’ve been taking a lot of time to discuss the job situation and work through options and have found this massively helpful. Allowing people to see you struggle doesn’t make you weaker or a failure, in fact admitting times are tough allows those who care about you to support you or suggest solutions you may not have thought about. If you really can’t face talking to the people closest to you, consider counselling or other talking therapies – I’ve found this really helpful in the past and a good therapist will also help you find other healthy coping solutions to get you through difficult times.
  • Notice the good things: Sometimes when life is overwhelming and a new crisis seems to loom every week I find myself in a negative spiral where I expect every next thing to go wrong. Taking some time to notice the little positives, like M giving me a cuddle or five minutes enjoying my favourite green tea in the sunshine, is massively helpful for me. I’m not trying to suggest that these things somehow balance out the really tough stuff – that’s still there, it’s still horrible and it still needs to be got through. Taking time for gratitude does however remind me that things really aren’t all bad and gives me a bit of perspective.
  • Remember to prioritise self-care: Everyone’s needs are different, but when I am stressed and under pressure I’ve tended to drop the things that make me feel good as they feel indulgent or like too much of an effort. Sadly though this often leads to a cycle of feeling worse and worse as I become tired and tense. I’ve been drinking a bit more than normal recently, eating a lot more convenience food and not exercising as much as I’d like, and it’s time for me to draw a line underneath this and get back to the behaviour that works for me. Self-care isn’t just about fitness and food though; making time to look after yourself more broadly, whether by crafting, watching your favourite shows, taking a hot bath or taking time out to go and have a cup of tea with your best friend are all equally important. No-one is superhuman and it’s even more important to give ourselves space to rest and play when life is hard – in the long term it makes it much easier to cope.
  • Cut yourself some slack: This sounds simple but I personally find it really difficult, which is why I have left it till last! I hate giving up on plans, and am excellent at beating myself up for being a bad parent, unproductive colleague or rubbish friend when under pressure and forced to do things differently. However I’m beginning to realise that when we face really difficult times, we need to give ourselves permission to be a bit slower, to take time out from our social group, to eat more cake than normal – and it’s OK, because our energy and brainpower is all being directed towards the current problem. It’s natural to feel angry, burnt out or upset by events and need to do things a little differently, and that doesn’t make you a failure at life or a lesser person. Do what you need to do to get through this phase, let others help you and be kind to yourself – you don’t need to maintain a perfect facade.

What do you think about this? What would your best tip be for someone facing difficult times?


Current beauty favourites

I think I should stop calling these “monthly” posts as they seem to be more like every five to six weeks – oops.
Here’s my latest favourites, these have been getting my face, hair and body through the last few cold weeks:Revlon AllSoft, Melvita L'Or Bio, La Roche Posay Redermic, Caudalie Polyphenol eye

Caudalie Polyphenol C15 Anti-Wrinkle Eye & Lip Cream, £22: I have sensitive skin under my eyes, dark circles and if that wasn’t enough to deal with I’ve also been getting a bit concerned about lines on my upper lip recently. I love the Caudalie Polyphenol C15 range so I was excited to give this lightweight cream a try. I use this morning and night around my eyes and top lip, and I have definitely noticed a reduction in the appearance of fine lines; this cream really hydrates and brightens and I’m now on my second tube! I’ve had no irritation thanks to the fragrance free, ophthalmologist tested formula and I love the lightweight but hygienic packaging. As for dark circles, I don’t think anything will truly rid you of them but this has helped a bit. A tube lasts a good while and I think this is one of the best eye creams I have ever used.

La Roche Posay Redermic R Anti-Wrinkle Treatment , £25: As previously mentioned, now I’m in my thirties I’ve really benefited from adding a gentle retinol treatment to my routine. However, while I love the thisworks product I have been using and would still recommend it, I haven’t been so in love with the price and it can be hard to find without access to a big store. I picked up this cream as an alternative in my local Boots. This is a lightweight, almost gel-like cream, unfragranced, with retinol alongside ingredients that claim to increase the retinol’s effects. It’s very soothing on the skin, they recommend starting carefully and increasing the nights you use this if your skin feels OK and I haven’t experienced any irritation. It isn’t as hydrating as the thisworks serum so I normally let it absorb into my skin and top with a few drops of my favourite face oil. I have been impressed as this combination of treatment and oil has left my skin feeling smoother and areas of pigmentation are noticeably lighter. A little goes a long way and the packaging is great, super practical – there’s nothing not to like about this one.

Melvita L’Or Bio, £25: This was a Christmas gift from Melvita and it’s been a lifesaver. I’ve had real issues with dry skin during this recent cold snap, I’ve also been a bit stressed out and my eczema has flared up so keeping my body hydrated has been really important. This is a lovely, subtly fragranced oil in a beautiful spray bottle, it soothes and absorbs quickly after a shower and feels like a real treat to use. I’ve also used this on my hair as the ends can be dry, and it just soaks in leaving my hair feeling soft. Melvita are known for their use of natural, sustainable ingredients so you know you are getting a really high quality oil and this large bottle with its spray nozzle lasts for ages. If you fancy a bit of pampering get one of these for your bathroom – you won’t regret it!

Redken ALL SOFT Supple Touch spray, £15: This conditioning spray is really versatile. My hair is getting pretty long and is highlighted to a light blonde which I then colour pink, so with cold weather and heat styling it does get pretty dry at the ends. I use this as a leave-in before blowdrying for much sleeker, softer hair with a bit of shine; I’ve also used it before adding a sea salt spray and twisting for more of a natural wave, or in combination with a heat protector for an extra moisture boost before straightening. This doesn’t have ‘hold’ so it doesn’t seem to leave my hair sticky as some heat protector sprays or balms can, and I like the slightly beachy smell. I’d definitely recommend this for anyone with longer, colour or heat treated hair.

That’s all for this set of reviews; hopefully we will have some sunny Spring weather soon but for now these should tide you over!

This post contains affiliate links. The Melvita L’Or Bio was sent to me as a Christmas gift by Melvita. The other items were purchased by me. 

Tea and toast and turning three

M with ladybirds and daisies

Dear Little M,

You’ve turned three now, and your personality is becoming so clear – you are independent, chatty and sociable, with a big, big heart. You love cuddles (still) and give the biggest kisses and hugs, you love the moon and the stars and aeroplanes, Frozen and the Clangers, painting, puzzles and playing outside. You are quite sensitive for someone so young; you hate seeing any of your friends or family upset and ask some pretty insightful questions. You love reading stories, can write ‘M’ and I think we need to begin teaching you to read and write as you are so interested in this at the moment, it feels like the right time.

You are still pretty good with food, although you “don’t like mushrooms or peppers, Mumma!”. You love to help me peel carrots or pick up things in the supermarket, but you don’t want to ride in the trolley any more, you are a “big girl”. You still seem pretty little to me, but I can’t deny that all traces of the baby have left you and I won’t be able to describe you as a toddler for much longer. You tell me you are going to be a doctor when you are big, making people all better with your best friend A, or a yoga teacher doing ‘balances’.

We are definitely in full on tantrum/argue back territory now and I know it frustrates you when you don’t understand why you can’t have things your way, even when you said ‘please’. When it all goes wrong you are quick to say “sowwy” though, and your mood always brightens up pretty quickly. The positive side to this is that you love chatting with anyone we meet, you are so friendly and confident and I really hope you’ll keep that.

I vividly remember the first thing I ate after giving birth; hot toast made from cheap white bread with loads of butter, washed down with a strong cup of tea with sugar in (I never normally have sugar). It tasted incredible – I said at the time I thought it was the best toast I would ever have in my life! I was wrong though. The best toast I’ve ever tasted was the toast you helped your Daddy make me, to go with my ‘dippy egg’ for my Mother’s Day breakfast this year. You were so excited to help, and I’m so proud of you. I just hope I can keep up and keep being the Mum you need me to be.

Lots of love and BIG BIG cuddles,