Category Archives: fitness

Why Flexible Dieting is a FAD

“Flexible Dieting”, “If It Fits Your Macros”, “IIFYM”, “Macro-Tracking” – call it what you want and say what you want about it, but it’s a diet.

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Before we go any further, allow me to explain what Flexible Dieting/IIFYM is.  Within food we have 3 macronutrients – carbs, protein and fat.  All foods contain these macronutrients or ‘macros’ in varying amounts.  For example; things like bread, oats, fruit and vegetables will tend to have more carbs; meat, fish and eggs tend to have more protein; and things like avocado, oils and butter will be have more fat.

The idea of tracking macros is that you input food into an app – such as the incredibly popular MyFitnessPal – or simply write it down and take note of how much of each macronutrient you eat throughout the day – being careful not to exceed your pre-calculated limit for the day.

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Some of you who have been following me for a while will know that a couple of years ago I tracked macros religiously – I was the flexible dieting queen.  I swore by it.  So I feel like I can talk from experience when I say how damaging it can be – rather that just being opinionated about something I haven’t even tried.  I also know how responsible I have been in the past for advocating tracking macros but you know what – I was wrong.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for tracking macros.  I currently work with athletes and know that in some sports, especially those that are weight categorised (such as rowing or powerlifting) or require an extremely low body fat percentage (such as bodybuilding) tracking macros can be essential for improving performance.  I also think it’s great to have an idea of what different foods comprise of  – but you do not need to track macros in order to do that.

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However, tracking macros should not be for the average Joe.  And here’s why:

Firstly and most importantly: 9/10 times it leads to an unhealthy relationship with food.  Gone over your macros for the day?  Ah well, might as well blow it and binge on everything you can find in the house.  Hungry in the evening?  Sorry, you can’t eat anything else because it won’t fit your macros.  It can lead to complete obsession with food; constant thoughts about food, when and what you will eat next, planning ahead to see what you can “fit” into your daily intake.

Sure, people make results when tracking macros – any diet that restricts your intake will lead to you losing weight and, in some cases, becoming extremely lean.  However, you can see what tracking macros does to people’s bodies but you can’t see what it’s doing to their mind.  

Tracking macros can often be a precursor for disordered eating and even eating disorders.  And in some cases, it’s a way for people previously suffering from eating disorders to mask that they are still suffering – weighing yourself, weighing food, preoccupation with bodyweight and size, tracking every morsel of food – see any scary similarities?

Tracking macros can also put you completely out of tune with your own body.  You forget how it feels to be hungry or full and instead eat because it’s what you’ve planned for your daily intake.  You end up losing some satisfaction from food because you eat things that “fit your macros” rather than something that is filling and satisfying both physically and mentally.

Some could argue that tracking macros is also mostly completely pointless as there is so much room for error.  From errors in tracking the actual food to errors in working out your macros in the first place.  There are calculations we can use to estimate how many calories we need a day, which in itself is pretty inaccurate.  To be more accurate you could measure your Resting Energy Expenditure via direct or indirect calorimetry.  But even still, this is never going to be 100% accurate.  The truth is, our bodies need differing amounts of fuel on a daily, weekly, monthly basis because things are always changing internally and externally – the human body is far more complex than we can imagine.  We don’t know exactly how much food is being digested, absorbed and utilised in each of our bodies because we are all individual, and this can change every day depending on a number of factors.

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For a large proportion of people, tracking macros takes the focus away from health, especially when taking a “flexible dieting” approach.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you can’t enjoy your favourite foods – I do on the daily, but I don’t feel the need to track it.  Tracking your favourite foods is just allowing yourself to eat things you like without guilt – but guess what, you can do that without tracking what you eat!  People often end up eliminating things from their diet that are perfectly healthy because they don’t “fit” (e.g. not having fruit because of the sugar content) but will happily eat something less nutrient-dense because it’s “macro-friendly”.

It’s not something you can keep up forever – imagine having a partner and kids and still tracking what you eat.  It certainly doesn’t promote having a good relationship with food to your kids (or anyone else around you) and is so time-consuming – honestly, who can be arsed for that?!  We need to start thinking of our health and fitness in terms of longevity and enjoyment – its not about being the most shredded or even being the strongest or fastest.

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One of the problems is that we are so dissatisfied with how we look these days that we go to extreme measures to get the body we want.  Well guess what – I tracked macros, became extremely lean (to a near dangerous point) and still wasn’t happy with my body (not to mention how unhealthy I was).  Now that I’m much less lean and have started to accept my body for how it is and what it can do, I enjoy eating and exercising for how it makes me feel, I am so much happier and healthier.

Tracking macros is still dieting, even though some swear it’s a lifestyle.  What kind of lifestyle doesn’t allow you to eat in the evenings when you are hungry because you’ve “used all your carbs up for the day”?  Or stops you going out for food with friends out of fear that you “don’t know what the macros are”?  Or means that you turn down your Grandmother’s homemade cake because it “doesn’t fit your macros”?  Certainly not a lifestyle I want.

 

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Why Social Media is Ruining our Lives

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Now, you may think the title of this blog is a little dramatic, but to some extent it’s definitely true!  Don’t get me wrong, there are so many positives to social media like staying in touch with friends and family, connecting with people that you have things in common with, getting inspiration, education, plus foodie photos and networking.  However, there are many downsides and I’ve listed some below:

1.  We compare ourselves to others

Now, we all know this is a major problem.  And you can argue all you want that you don’t compare yourself to others but we all do it, even if it’s subconsciously.  Have you ever scrolled through instagram for 10 minutes only to come off feeling a little bit worse?  That’s because we compare ourselves to how other people look, eat, how successful their careers and lives are, the material things they have, their fitness regime.  Everything.  As a result we’re ruining our self-esteem and damaging our relationship with ourselves, our bodies, food and even other people.  Spend less time mindlessly scrolling and I guarantee you will feel a thousand times better when you focus solely on you and what you are doing and what makes you happy.

2. “Influencers”

One of my current pet peeves at the moment is the word “influencer”, especially a self-confessed “influencer” (more like self-obsessed).  Mostly famous for showing their bare-bum, be wary of which “influencers” you follow and what they are “influencing” you to do.  A lot of the time these people aren’t interested in your wellbeing; they’re interested in increasing their following and selling their precious guides.

3. Everyone’s an expert

Following on nicely from my last point is the fact that everyone thinks they are an expert.  Too many times I see bloggers/vloggers trying to be a personal trainer, nutritionist and lifestyle coach all in one.  Now, I know qualifications don’t count for everything but they do count for a hell of a lot.  To save on time, I’m going to talk specifically about nutrition – there are far too many people trying to give out nutrition advice and talk about topics that are out of their scope of knowledge/experience.  If you are not a registered nutritionist/dietitian you have no right to educate people about complex nutrition matters.  Nutrition is not an “eat like me, look like me” thing, and by dishing out nutrition advise without proper knowledge you could do some serious damage, mentally and physically.  I have far more respect for people who know that something is out of their depth and instead refer you on to someone who does know what they’re talking about.

4. Everyone is too concerned with followers

Everyone has a fitness account, a youtube channel, is posting foodie photos and is posing for a gym-selfie.  I get it, I really do.  Previously, my account was all about these things.  But now I just post what I want to post and if people follow me that’s cool and if they unfollow me, that’s cool too!  The problem now is that everyone wants to be “insta-famous” and instead of focusing on real-life relationships, the focus is on the number of people who look at our photos online everyday.  Think about how dumb that sounds for a second and then reevaluate why you post online.

5. We aren’t present

Probably my biggest problem with social media (and technology in general) is that it takes away from our presence in real life.  Social media isn’t real life.  It’s not and never will be.  You can tell me you’re aware of that, and that’s great.  But until you actually start spending less time on social media, you are still being sucked into this fake world for a disproportionate amount of time each day.  I see people everyday walking around with their head in their phone, not looking where they’re going, or out for food with friends and every single person is scrolling online instead of talking to each other.  There is nothing worse than talking to someone who is more concerned with their phone than what you have to say.  We are always trying to catch the perfect moment to post it on social media rather than enjoying it for what it is.  Spend less time on your phone and more time appreciating others and the world around you.

6. It is prioritised over everything

And last but by no means least, I hate how social media is prioritised over all else.   “Wait there let me just post this” “I need to post this on snapchat” “That has to be a tweet”.  Not everything you say and do has to be posted on social media.  Social media won’t help you improve at your job, make you a better student or a better friend: in fact it will probably do the complete opposite.  Stop prioritising posting/looking/being online and instead prioritise things that are important to you in real life.  If you worry too much about what’s happening on social media, there is a serious problem.

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Hopefully this blog has made you open your eyes a little, and you may think about spending a little less time on social media (and your phone in general!)  Remember there are SO many more important things to life (real life) so look up from your phone now and again!  And if that still hasn’t convinced you, just think how happy grandparents are – I am almost sure part of that is because they didn’t have the burden of having to live up to the expectations on social media and were more concerned with their own lives than everyone else’s!

Lou x

**This blog is not trying to throw shade on anyone and isn’t based on anyone in particular, but is a general trend I’ve noticed lately.  I completely understand that for some people, social media is genuinely their job and livelihood but for the vast majority of us, it is just an extra, a hobby.**

2016 Round-up & 2017 Resolutions

So, it’s the end of ANOTHER year – how did we get here so fast?!

It’s now 2 whole years since I first started this blog and a lot has changed, both with this blog and with myself.  I’m going to do a round-up of 2016 but if you just want to see my goals & resolutions for 2017, scroll down a little!  So, where do I begin?

Academically; I finished my first year of my Nutrition degree at the University of Surrey, doing even better than I imagined in my first year exams.  I enjoyed a summer at home in South Wales before coming back to Surrey more ready than ever to start my second year.  Whilst it’s been more stressful than first year, the content of my degree in second year is SO interesting and I count myself lucky everyday to be studying something that I am truly passionate about.

I also managed to secure a placement for my third year of study doing exactly what I want to do and I couldn’t be happier – although I can’t reveal details at the moment I will do so as soon as possible (keep an eye out on my social media!)

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The beautiful University of Surrey Campus!

Fitness; If anything, I’ve felt as if 2016 has been a bit of a step-back for my fitness.  As you may know, I was a keen rower in my first year at uni.  Unfortunately, my relationship with rowing has been a bit of a rocky one since then!  I continued to row for the remainder of my first year at Uni and was then chosen to be Beginner Women’s Captain for 2016/17 but it all started to go a little downhill from there!

I kept up my fitness over the summer and came back hard to rowing in September with an amazing couple of weeks of preseason training.  Unfortunately, this was to little avail as during the next few weeks I suffered a back injury.  (I’ve talked quite a lot about this over on my instagram and will be writing a separate blog post about it soon).  This lower back injury had me out of training for weeks and is part of the reason that I came to the decision of giving up rowing for the foreseeable future.  I have mixed emotions about this but I am enjoying being able to dedicate more time to supporting the beginner rowers as their captain, as well as putting more time into my studies and other hobbies such as baking (which, if you follow my IG, you’ll know is something I’ve been loving a lot lately!)

I have now started to recover (although my back still niggles!) and have started a new strength training programme but I am still very cautious when training.  I am also focusing a lot on mobility/flexibility and am starting to feel more supple than ever!   My cardiovascular fitness has suffered a bit, but I have started running more often, frequently running  5-10k a few times a week!  I am looking forward to smashing some fitness goals in 2017 now that my injury is finally calming down!

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Nutrition; Like my fitness, my nutrition has also been a bit all over the place!  As you may know, I was a keen flexible-dieter/macro-tracker towards to the end of 2015.  I continued this for the majority of 2016 until I started second year of uni.  This is definitely a post for another day, but in short I decided to give macros a break – I think after tracking them for so long I just mentally needed a break and felt ready to eat more intuitively.  It was also starting to feel like more stress than it was worth as I had so many other things to think about!

Since then, I have been on and off tracking macros.  Admittedly, my nutrition hasn’t been as good as I’d have wanted towards the end of 2016.  I started to feel a bit sorry for myself because I wasn’t able to train as often (due to my injury) and this, along with the other stresses in my life, caused me to become a bit demotivated and get into some bad eating habits!  Don’t get me wrong, I was still eating plenty of veg, fruit, protein, healthy fats etc, but I was definitely just generally overeating and having a few too many treats!

Now that I’m getting back to my usual, frequent training and things have started to settle down in my life, it’s time to get back to eating healthily and balanced.  I may go back to tracking macros in the future; I have nothing against it and I think it is a great tool but it just hasn’t really fit into my lifestyle lately!

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Body Image; truthfully, this has probably been the worst year for my body image and mentally I have struggled.  I went from being extremely lean when I was rowing (a little too lean if anything!) to slowly gaining weight over the summer and even more-so when I became injured and stopped rowing.  A little weight-gain is completely normal and was actually extremely necessary for me; in hindsight I was probably not quite eating enough for the amount of exercise I was doing.  I know this little weight-gain is probably not noticeable to anyone but myself, but mentally I was really struggling (and still am some days!) to accept that I was becoming a little curvier.  When I think about this it is the most ridiculous thing: being lean doesn’t define health, personality, relationships, fitness or anything else.  The most important things in life aren’t aesthetic: what matters is being healthy & happy, your character, doing what you love and loving what you do, and living and loving life.  I am also so lucky to have the best boyfriend, friends and family who love me for me, and I am continually reminding myself that I am beautiful in my own skin.

Personal Life; This is probably where life has been the best but also the worst.  I have been with my incredible boyfriend, Kyle, for just over a year now and I couldn’t be happier that I’ve found someone who is so caring and supportive.  I also have the best friends in the world who I’ve continued to make some incredible memories with.  I also turned 21 and had one of the best birthdays of my life surrounded by my favourite people.

However, probably one of the most difficult things I’ve had to deal with, not only this year but also in my entire life, is the passing of my dear Grampy.  Last Christmas my family and I were celebrating him beating cancer, but unfortunately it returned fiercer than before and we lost him in early summer.  This was, and still is, absolutely heart-breaking for myself and my family and not a day goes by that I don’t think about and miss him.  His passing is a constant reminder that life is for living and loving those around us, grabbing every possible opportunity, and having as many exciting experiences as possible.

 

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So, sorry for the ramble there, but a lot has happened this year and it feels good to get it all down!  It’s been a year of change, a year of endings but also a year of new beginnings and opportunities.  Overall though, it’s safe to say I’m ready to say goodbye to 2016 and a warm welcome to 2017!

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2017 Goals & Resolutions:

  1. Squat 100kg – a fitness goal I’ve had in mind for a while but one that I really want to crack on with.  Now that I’m not rowing it’s time to get hella strong (and it’ll be nice to concentrate on some fitness goals that aren’t aesthetic!)
  2. Run 5k in under 24minutes – a fitness goal ensuring that I keep up some cardiovascular fitness.  This may seem quite slow but I’ve only got little legs and this would be pretty quick for them!
  3. Enter a race – following goal 2, I want to enter some 5/10k (possible longer!) races this year.  I intended to do that last year but unfortunately it didn’t come to anything.  This year I am going to sign up to races and runs to give myself something to focus on and work towards.
  4. Be consistent with my nutrition –  whether this is tracking macros, eating intuitively or both, I need to let go of some bad habits I picked up in 2016 and get back to focusing on health and performance when it comes to my diet in 2017.
  5. Spend less time on my phone – this goes for when I’m alone but especially with other people.  I hate being in restaurants or just generally out in public and people are out with each other but looking at their phones!  I’m going to be spending less time with my head in my phone/on social media and more time enjoying the people I’m with and concentrating on what’s in front of me!
  6. Be present – this very much links to the last point but I just want to reiterate that I want to experience the here and now for what it is; not worry about the past or what’s to come but simply live and be right now and appreciate everything to its fullest.
  7. Read more – this is something I’ve definitely started doing a lot more lately, both fiction and non-fiction.  I want to start turning my phone/laptop off at least half an hour before bed and give myself time to switch off and read something before I sleep!
  8. Blog more  – with how busy my life is, I always struggle to fit in time for blogging but this year will be different.  With the evolution of Loutritious in 2016, I am so excited for my blog and social media to grow in 2017 so that I can reach more people and share all things nutrition, health and fitness.  Exciting things are coming for Loutritious this year, and I am going to put a lot more time and effort into it so keep your eyes peeled!
  9. Work hard – on all aspects of my life; academic, fitness, nutrition, relationships and myself.  I want to keep pushing myself to keep doing what I love and love what I do to build an incredible and happy life.
  10. Love myself – this has definitely been a difficult one for me this year as there have been many times of self-doubt and lack of confidence.  It’s time to stop being so hard on myself, be proud of how much I’ve achieved and start loving myself, inside and out.

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Thank you so much if you’ve made it this far!  I know this was a bit of a long babble but so much has happened this year and I truly think this has been the most challenging year yet.  However, I am going into 2017 with an open mind and am so excited for things to come!

Lou x

Welcome to Loutritious

Hey Everyone!

So, as you may have noticed, my blog and social media sites have had a bit of a revamp and have changed from Lou’s Lean Lifestyle to Loutritious.  I just thought I’d write a little blog post explaining how this has come about and why I’ve decided to have a little change-up!

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As you know, this blog used to be called Lou’s Lean Lifestyle.  I started it in January 2015 and whilst at the time it seemed like a great name, I feel like a lot has changed since then.

I first starting getting into health & fitness in April 2014, with me just wanting to “lose weight” and get a little healthier – which I certainly did! I did become somewhat very “lean” and so the name Lou’s Lean Lifestyle seemed appropriate when it first came about.  However, since then a lot of things have happened which have made me want to change this.

Starting my degree in Nutrition and taking up rowing in September 2015 were the first things.   The final thing for me was watching my dear Grampy suffering with Cancer and sadly passing away earlier this year.

Learning more and more everyday through my degree, it is so clear that Nutrition is so much more than just a means of “losing weight”, “getting lean” or anything else aesthetic-related.  It’s about health, protecting the body from disease & illness, eating for performance and just generally getting the most out of your life by making yourself feel amazing with the food you eat.  It’s also about having a balanced approach and enjoying what you eat, and realising that life is all about experience and happiness, which food can add to.

When you look up the word “lean” in a thesaurus, the other words it is associated with are things like “gaunt”, “wasted”, “emaciated”, “sparse”, “unfruitful” – these are not words that I want myself or this blog to be associated with, and are not words which represent me, my lifestyle or my outlook on health and fitness.

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So, what is Loutritious all about?  

I want it to be an outlet where I can help you to understand how to fuel your body with the best foods it needs to work & feel optimal, both physically and mentally.

I want you to learn how to use fitness & sport as a way to not only achieve a healthy body but also to push yourselves and achieve performance goals that you thought you never could.

I want to help you find the best balance in your lifestyle; from juggling all the different aspects of your life and managing your time, to helping you feel empowered and confident in your own skin.

But most importantly, I want to inspire you to live life at your happiest with a good relationship with food, fitness, your body and your mind.  I want to make you see that there is no one size fits all when it comes to health and nutrition, but that you can find what works for you – and I’d like to help you do that!

So without further ado; welcome to Loutritious!

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How to stay healthy at Uni

Hey everyone!

As most of you will know, I started uni 2 years ago (at Surrey studying Nutrition) and am now on my placement year.  I often get asked how I managed to keep up with my healthy habits and lifestyle when starting uni and I know that this is such a worry to some people, as it was for me in my first year!  I shared a few tips in my blog post about how to find a lifestyle balance in a previous blog post, but I thought I would share some more advice on how to stay healthy when you first go to uni, especially on a student budget!

1. Frozen over Fresh

When it comes to food, it’s so easy for people to use the price of food as an excuse not to eat well, but my number one way to solve this problem is to buy frozen fruit and veg over fresh.  You can pretty much buy anything frozen now, from broccoli and blueberries, to asparagus and avocados!  It’s so much more cost-effective, lasts longer and actually takes a lot less time to cook than fresh!  There are only things a few things that I do buy fresh including courgettes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas and apples, but even most of these you can get frozen now!  So get chilly and get in that freezer section!

2. Bin the big brands

If there’s one thing that can save you literally hundreds of pounds on it’s choosing supermarket’s own branded things instead of the big brands.  Things like tinned tomatoes, beans, oats, pasta, rice and so much more are all the same whether it’s got a Tesco’s everyday value label or is in fancy big-name packaging.  There’s no need to splurge on expensive brands – it pretty much all tastes exactly the same, with very similar nutritional value and is probably all made in the same factory! So save yourself some beans for more important things!

3. Make sensible food choices

This may seem really obvious, but if you’re moving away from home for the first time where your parents have always done the food shop, you are now in the situation where the supermarket is your oyster and you are pretty much free to buy whatever you want!  This can be completely overwhelming, and you may feel the urge to go crazy and buy foods that your parents never would.  But try and choose the best foods that are going to fuel you well and make you feel good.  Don’t go crazy and buy the entire shop; prioritise the essentials first and then keep the more optional foods for times when you have a little more money to spend!  I’m not saying you can never buy your favourite foods, but don’t necessarily make them a daily addition to your trolley!

4. Meal Prep

Now a lot of people will probably be used to this concept, and it is such a good way be prepared with food for the week, saving time as well as money.  Personally, I found it quite difficult to prep full meals last year due to the limited fridge/freezer space that comes with sharing a kitchen with 12 people!  You will also probably find that you will have this problem.  So, I did however, prep things like my breakfast for the next morning, or chicken breasts and mince meat or batches of chilli which I could cook in bulk and then either keep for the next few days or pop in the freezer to later defrost.  Cooking my frozen veg to go with it literally takes 5 minutes, so you can have a healthy lunch/dinner with ease, freeing up more time in the day!

4. Exercise Regularly

It can be easy to neglect exercise when you first go to uni as there is so much going on with moving in, making new friends, starting a new course and just generally getting used to your new lifestyle.  Don’t stress out about taking time out from the gym to settle in, but once you feel ready, find your nearest/most accessible/cheapest gym, get a membership and get sweating!  I got myself a membership the day after I moved in, and found time to get to the gym during Freshers week, but it’s totally fine if it takes you a little bit longer to find your feet.  I used exercise as just as much as a mental break as a physical workout – time to myself and time to reflect on my new surroundings and all the stresses and changes that were going on in the first few weeks: I’m sure you could benefit from treating exercise in the same way!

5. Join a sport or club

If you’re not much into the gym (or even if you are), one of my main tips is to get involved with a sport or club.  Uni is the perfect opportunity to try things that are much less accessible back at home.  For me, this was rowing: I joined my Boat club during Freshers Week and had the most amazing time during my first year because of it.  Take a look at what your uni has to offer and sign up to new things.  This is your opportunity to find sports and hobbies that you possibly didn’t even know existed!  Not only will it keep you fit but it is the perfect way to meet even more people and make friends that will make keeping active and healthy more fun and less of a chore or struggle at uni!

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6. Walk/cycle everywhere

One of my biggest tips is to keep active outside of the gym/sports by walking and cycling wherever possible.  Walking is so underrated as a form of staying healthy because you don’t even notice you’re doing it!  Ditch that bus pass and walk or cycle to uni, the gym, the supermarket, the shops.  Not only will that mean you’ll be getting fresh air and keeping your activity levels high, but it will also save you money on public transport!

7. Don’t be afraid of alcohol

One of the scariest things about going to uni for someone who is trying to stay healthy is the whole binge drinking culture around uni.  But honestly, do not fear.  During fresher’s week I drunk pretty much every night: it didn’t set me back, it didn’t hinder my progress and I had some of the most fun nights out that I can remember.  I promise, this will be the same for you!  After Freshers I certainly didn’t drink as much because I am not a big drinker at all, but I still enjoy it in moderation.  Obviously be sensible with alcohol and your limits, but don’t refuse to drink just for the fear of being “healthy”.  On another note, don’t be afraid to say no to alcohol.  People will always respect your choice to not drink: go out when you want but suggest doing other things that don’t involve alcohol from time to time, like staying in and having a film night or baking a cake!

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Don’t avoid alcohol or nights out just for sake of being healthy – everything in moderation is fine! I met some of my best friends during Freshers’ week!

 

8. Be yourself

My main point is to just be true to yourself.  I was lucky enough last year that I was surrounded by lots of people in my flat, on my course and at the gym that were interested in the same things as me, and those who didn’t were simply intrigued and asked questions!  We are all from different backgrounds with different hobbies and interests and that is part of what makes uni (and life!) so exciting.  There will always be people who criticise you, your lifestyle and your choices so you have to do what makes you happy.  Don’t do things outside of your lifestyle because it’s not the “norm” and you think you’ll be judged for it.  People will like you for doing you, and if they don’t they don’t matter!  Uni is a place to find people that you truly connect with and by always being yourself you will attract those friendships and relationships that will only lift you higher and allow you to live a happier life, and that’s what truly matters.

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9. And lastly; DON’T WORRY.

It will take a little while for you to get into routine.  It will seem scary at first. You will drink alcohol and you will eat unhealthily at times.  But, most importantly: you will have the best time of your life.  Your time at uni is one big adventure: it’s the time where you meet new people, find out more about yourself and the world, have new experiences and grow as a person.  Don’t lose sight of all that just to be extremely “healthy”.  Don’t forget, a healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body and you will find your balance if you just relax and embrace every opportunity.

I really hope you find this helpful and if you have any more queries, questions or comments feel free to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you!

Lou x

Finding a lifestyle balance.

As a lot of you may know, my life during term-time at uni is pretty busy! With lectures, labs, studying, assignments, cooking, laundry, rowing, training, socialising and relaxing, it can often feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day!

Student life can often be very overwhelming and stressful, but it is also some of the best years of your life, so here are some of my tips on how best to manage your time and find that healthy balance in your life!

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1. Write Lists

Being organised is key for helping you maintain a balance in your life so one of my top tips is to write lists!  Whether it’s by hand, on little sticky notes or simply on your phone, this will help you so much and remind you what needs to be done.  I am such a fan of a list, I make them for everything: my uni work, shopping, little jobs to do, places I need to go, etc!  They keep you productive as you always know where you’re at and what you need to do.  It’s somewhat extremely satisfying ticking stuff off your lists and keeps you motivated to keep pushing through those busy days and weeks!

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2. Get up earlier

This may sound daunting to a lot of you as I know how much people love their beds but one of my main tips is to get up a little earlier! Whether that be an hour or two or just half an hour, trust me, it could make a massive difference to your day!  Some of your most productive time is probably early morning when you first wake up.  Personally, I like to get up at 5am, be in the gym by 6am and get my workout/training done for the day nice and early before lectures, so that’s one less thing to worry about and starts my day off productively!

3. Get enough sleep

The other side to waking up earlier is making sure that you get enough sleep.  Don’t get up so early that you compromise your Z’s.  Being well-rested is essential for being productive not only for the next day, but the whole week in general.  One night of little sleep could affect the next few days, so you may have to sacrifice some late nights in order to get some shut-eye!

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4. Make your workouts efficient.

For me, fitting in my workouts/training is one of my daily priorities.  I usually find that first thing in the morning is the best and most efficient time for me to get to the gym, although sometimes I will go in the evening if that works for me.  Make sure your workouts are short but effective.  You don’t need to spend hours upon hours slaving away in the gym – in fact, the most productive ones for me usually only last about 45 minutes!  If you like lifting weights but are short on time, add in lots of supersets/dropsets and keep your rest periods short to really keep your heart-rate high and ensure you are really feeling it in your muscles.  If you prefer cardio, ensure you do HIIT – just 15-30 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training will be much more time-efficient than slogging away for hours on the treadmill, not to mention much more enjoyable!  Get in and out of the gym quickly having had an enjoyable and effective workout and crack on with the rest of your day/evening!

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5. Food Plan & Prep

Probably one of the best ways to stay organised is to plan and prep your food/meals in advance.  It’s surprising how much time cooking can take out of your week as a student as you have to do everything yourself; the preparation, the cooking AND the washing up.  Therefore, cooking meals in bulk all at once can help shave off so much time from the rest of your week, so that you don’t waste time everyday cooking from fresh.  I like to cook big pots of mince meat in a sauce with lots of veg which will provide around 4-5 servings that I can then either pop in the fridge or freezer for later in the week.  I also cook a few chicken breasts and keep them in my fridge for the week.  When it comes to veg, I usually buy a tonne of frozen veg which only takes 5 minutes to boil – quick and easy peasy!  As lots of you will know from following my instagram, I like to prepare my post-workout zoats in the evening ready to grab straight after my morning workout before lectures!

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If you’re a fellow macro-tracker like myself, I would advise taking a few minutes every evening to plan the following day or next few day’s eats.  For me, I will usually plan my protein source for each meal (meat, eggs, fish, whey), then add in my carb sources (usually around my training).  If there’s anything I’m particularly fancying like a certain nut butter/sweet treat I’ll usually add that in too.  Everything else I’ll add in as I go along the following day.  This will just shave off a little bit of time and stress for the next day and will mean that you know roughly what you’ll eat: this means you’ll continue to make good choices with regards to food and won’t end up snacking on rubbish because of your busy schedule.

6. Multitask

By this, I mean use your time wisely and try not to procrastinate!  I know this is much easier said than done: my middle name used to be procrastination!  But the busier you are, the more you find that you can motivate yourself to get stuff done because you have no choice but to manage your time.  I’m not saying you have to do anything too taxing like writing a 3000 word essay whilst doing sit ups and the washing up all at once (although that would be very impressive!), but simple things like doing some uni work whilst waiting for your laundry to finish or your food to cook can save so much time throughout the day and ensures that you’re always being a little productive!

Also, a little tip that I’ve found that really helps me with regards to uni work is to take your laptop to lectures/tutorials and type up notes as you go along.  It’s far quicker and all your work and notes will be in one place on your laptop, making it much easier when it comes to doing assignments or revision later on.

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7. Take time to relax 

This is such a vital point.  Even though it’s important to make your time productive, don’t forget that taking time out of your schedule to chill is just as essential, otherwise you’ll go insane!  Make sure you take time everyday to switch off from everything and spend some time completely relaxing and de-stressing.  Whether it be hanging with friends, listening to music, going for a stroll or whatever; your mind will thank you for the break from a busy day!

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8. Love what you do

This may sound difficult but is a pretty simple concept.  If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, what is the point?  If you hate your workouts or training, change them up/choose a different sport.  If you feel uncomfortable in certain friendships/relationships, choose to surround yourself only with the people that support you and make you feel wonderful.  If you hate the subject you study or the job you do, seriously consider changing your path.

Some may say that it isn’t as simple as that, but it really is.  This life is all about being happy and if something is causing you to feel the opposite then a change must be made.  I completely agree that we must all go through things and do things that aren’t always desirable; this makes us appreciate the good things even more.  But if you truly love the majority of what you do it’ll be much easier to happily juggle the different aspects of your life.

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I hope you find these tips helpful: they are some of the things that I live by day to day to help me through my busy schedule.  Whether you’re a student or not, hopefully they will also help you on your way to a more balanced and happier lifestyle!

Lou x

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A reflection of 2015 & my Goals for 2016

Wow, another year has gone by: I can hardly believe it.  That also means that it has been a whole year since I started this blog, Lou’s Lean Lifestyle!

Looking back on to 2015, I can honestly say it has been the best year yet and I currently feel the happiest I ever have done in my life.  So much has happened, particularly in the last 3 months!

As many of you who follow me on social media will know, last year I went back to college to study for an A level in Biology (to accompany the other 4 A levels I got back in 2013).  Studying for an entire A level in a year part-time whilst working at the same time was no mean feat and I am so so proud of myself for working hard to achieve an A.  This landed me my dream position as a student at the University of Surrey to study Nutrition!

Starting Uni in September this year was an extremely scary prospect for me as I dropped out of uni in October of 2013 due to me hating my course (I went to Warwick to study Maths!), and I obviously didn’t want the same thing to happen again.  This time though, I just knew that I had made the right decision even before I got to uni and I was right: my course and everything about uni life is just how I wanted it to be and so much more.

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Firstly, I have met the most amazing people: I am so lucky that the 11 other flatmates I have been placed with have all turned out to be some of my best friends, many of whom are massive foodies/fitness fanatics, like myself!  I am constantly meeting new people from all walks of life and finding myself surrounded by people who are on exactly the same wavelength as me, which is just great.

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The first night of freshers with the best flatmates I could wish for.

Secondly, my course is so so fascinating.  Having only become interested in nutrition about a year and a half ago, I can hardly believe that I am now studying for a degree in this fascinating subject.  To be studying at such an amazing University as Surrey makes me feel so lucky everyday.  I am being taught by some of the most informed lecturers in their field, live in one of the nicest towns in England – in which I feel truly at home – and have access to the most incredible facilities, including Surrey Sports Park which is just out of this world!  The gym is outstanding and there is also a 50m pool, climbing wall, loads of pitches/courts and there’s even a Starbucks so I can get my coffee fix, what more could a girl ask for?!

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Last, but by certainly no means least, I joined the Uni of Surrey Boat club and started rowing; arguably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!  The training is so intense: usually 6-7 days a week with a mixture of weights, a lot more cardio than I’m used to, and rowing on the Thames every weekend.  I almost need to pinch myself with how lucky I feel to be involved in such an incredible sport (even though my legs hurt constantly!).  All my teammates are amazing and have become my closest friends.  It is also through this sport that I met my wonderful best friend, who is now my boyfriend; someone that I now could never imagine my life without.

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Fitness & diet-wise, my weight massively fluctuated at the beginning of the year.  With the stress of college exams and lack of time to train, I over-ate and undertrained and found it difficult to find a balance.  The summer was a massive turning point for me as I had so much more time to get in the gym and was introduced to flexible dieting/IIFYM, which has helped me so much in finding a healthier balance with food, being a lot less restrictive and allowing me to understand the importance of precision of macronutrients in the diet for reaching your goals (a blog post for another day!).  Since going to uni my strength and cardiovascular fitness has increased dramatically and body fat percentage decreased significantly, mainly due to all the extra training I now do for rowing (which is great because it means I get to eat loads more!).

 

In April of 2015 I also became a blogger for Cardiff Sports Nutrition, a health and food supplement store which I feel so privileged to be associated with.  I get to try their amazing products and give some of the best brands an honest review for you guys, which I mainly do on my instagram.  I even have a 10% discount code LOULEAN10 which you can use online www.cardiffsportsnutrition.co.uk.

Aside from uni and fitness related things, 2015 has also held some of the worst days of my life.  In terms of personal life, one of my family members became seriously ill in August, and for a long while it looked like there was no hope, which was absolutely crushing.  However, with the amazing help and support of family, friends and an incredible surgeon, this family member is now fully on the road to recovery and I could not be happier.  Although incredibly scary, this has made my family and I closer than ever, and it is times like this that make you truly appreciative of life and the many opportunities it holds.

So, as you can see, I am so content with my life at the moment and am entering 2016 with so much positivity. I have lots to look forward to: my 21st birthday, the start of race season with rowing, the second semester of my degree, summer and so much more.  The main thing I can ask for out of this next year is that it will continue in the way in which 2015 has ended.

 

I have written myself a few goals/resolutions for this year, which are in the back of my diary and also pinned on my noticeboard.  They include some of the following:

  • read more – this year I really want to broaden my mind and read as much non-fiction as possible, especially things that may be related to my degree (which shouldn’t be a problem because foooood!)
  • spend less time on the internet/phone – I think we’re all a little guilty of this one.  I really want to spend as little time as possible wasting away hours looking at pointless things on my laptop/mobile and use my time more productively!
  • get more sleep – as a lot of you may know, I am a sucker for an early morning (especially to workout) but don’t tend to get to bed early enough and end up running off coffee all day – a few more early nights are needed in 2016!
  • don’t worry so much about my body – like a lot of us, I can be extremely body-conscious, which I hate.  Unfortunately, it is one of those things that in today’s society is difficult not to be.  However, I know that I just need to relax and not care so much: having character and personality are what really counts in this life anyway.
  • eat a little less chocolate – this is definitely going to be a difficult one as I am a massive chocoholic!  And chocolate is good for the soul. And has some amazing health benefits. And tastes out of this world. Ok maybe this resolution wasn’t such a good idea..
  • blog more – admittedly, I didn’t write nearly as many blog posts as I planned on in 2015: life and uni got in the way but I will definitely be posting a lot more in 2016: let me know what you guys want to see, whether it be recipes/fitness/health-related!
  • sign up & do some charity runs/races – now that my cardiovascular fitness has increased I am so up for doing some 10ks, obstacle course, etc, especially if it is for a good cause! Any suggestions?
  • go on holiday/travel abroad – a big one for me as I didn’t manage to go abroad anywhere in 2015 and have most definitely got the bug to go on some adventures in the coming year!

The final and most important goal for me is to BE HAPPY – something which is often forgotten beneath striving for success and perfection in life.  Don’t forget, success isn’t a straight path and it is so important to love every step of the journey because otherwise, what’s the point right?

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And finally, just to say a massive thank you to all of you who are following my blog/social media.  I love sharing my progress with you all and hearing your feedback – never hesitate to get in touch!

What are some of your goals/resolutions?  Whatever they are, I hope you all have a happy and healthy 2016; let’s smash it.

Lou x