healthy mind

Inspo from Squat Mango...

For the launch of my new blog  I wanted to speak to girls who have inspired me to dream big, be open, honest and put myself out there. After deciding to do more 'lifestyle' posts about food and exercise (soon as it is a massive part of my life) This one in particular is a massive inspiration for me. I stalk her Instagram like a crazy fan girl and always look forward to her transformation posts and her honest captions about how her journey is going. I have been following Kayla Itsines on Instagram for years, and working her twelve week training programme recently, you end end up following a massive community. Natsbbg (who is now on week 35) is one of the many I started to follow. She is nothing but open in her posts about her fitness journey and she inspires me on those mornings when I want to sleep or snooze for hours on end, to get up and go to the gym, because hard work pays off. Natsbbg begun her own blog Squat Mango and is selling a recipe book off the back of her amazing hard work and transformations.  Nati talks a lot about what she eats and how she trains on her Instagram  so I wanted to ask this gorgeous girl some different questions. How she began believing in herself and what pushed her on her journey... It is so awesome to get to speak to other girls about body image and liking ourselves as it is something I have struggled with since I was an eleven year old kid standing in Tammy girl wishing I could wear a crop top and denim shorts. I wasn't in it alone.

Were you always confident?

I’ve had my times where I’ve been very confident, and I've also gone through some times where I have had 0 confidence. A lot of this confidence has depended on my body image. I was always fairly lean, until the end of high school / beginning of college. I started drinking A LOT and my then boyfriend broke up with me right when I was starting university. I partied way too much and started gaining weight. I started looking for acceptance while partying, thinking the more guys liked me, the more I would like myself. I was dependent on guys to feel good about myself. For example, there’d be nights where I’d go out and lots of guys would ask me to dance with them. This would be a successful night for me. Then there’d be nights where no one would ask me and I’d feel incredibly sad. Its weird to think about how much random men’s opinions would mean to me. There came a time where I decided I shouldn't put my happiness in other people’s hands, let alone random guys who actually meant nothing to me. I decided I was the maker of my own future. My life kind of took a turn, as I decided I didn't need a man or anyone for that matter to help me feel better about myself. I decided to be happy and confident and I learned to love myself despite my flaws. Turns out, a few weeks after I decided all this, I met my current boyfriend (we've been together for 4 years now!). I know this answer might not really answer the question well haha but what I mean to say is, I've had times where my confidence has been on the floor. I've lost and gained weight and this has always been something that affected how I viewed myself. But my confidence has been great ever since I started loving myself for who I am and not for who other people want me to be.

What actions do you take to be kinder to yourself (physically/mentally)

There’s days where I’m so hard on myself! I have to remind myself that in order to truly be happy, I have to be good to myself. I have to treat myself but I also have to maintain a healthy balance. Food is very important to me. I’ve started eating healthy and it has changed me, physically and mentally. But I’ve reached a stage where I can’t be healthy 100% of the time, so I do enjoy some treats now and then. And when I do, I beat myself up. But then I say to myself “HEY! YOU DESERVE IT!” because beating myself up isn’t going to help anyone! I wake up everyday and promise myself i’m going to make a good day out of it! I smile as much as I can and I think positively, even when i’m feeling down. It’s easy to get caught up in the bad things, and it’s important to remember how many good things I have going on in my life and I have to remain thankful.

Have you always dreamed big?

No! I’ve always dreamed small actually. I started this instagram thinking, “hm, maybe i’ll share my picture and inspire a few people”. I NEVER thought I would actually inspire so many people. I was looking for small jobs that didn’t really make me happy (i considered working in a bank.. what!??) and suddenly I decided, "hey.. I could make a recipe book! That’s not hard right?” I realised I could do anything I set my mind to! And now my recipe book is being sold all around the world and I couldn’t be more excited! I’ve actually got a lot more plans for myself and my brand (squatmango) coming up!!

What would you say to your younger self, in hind sight, about loving yourself and body image?

Never let anyone define you. If you’re not happy about yourself today, make the necessary changes in order to be happier! Love yourself each and every day! Eat the right foods, and treat yourself right. Never settle for less than you deserve. You only have one body, so treat it right and love yourself every single day.

Love natsbbg x



Pick your fights...

Ok, so balance. What does that really mean? It used to mean if I ate a bacon sarnie at breakfast, I would probably eat some kale for lunch and skip dinner. Balance to me always sounds too vague. It's a lazy persons way of saying 'Everything in moderation' or 'only eat one slice of pizza, not the whole thing' PAHAHHAHAHA! One slice, who are you kidding. Why would I only have one slice? This is not the school canteen where they limit you to one measley slice. This is life, my life, and I will not only eat one slice of pizza. But that is the toss up. How much do you want to 'feel' good in that bikini you saw on that girl on Insta. You are pretty sure that just buying the bikini means that you will immediately look like said girl in the Insta pic. Despite your boobs being three sizes smaller, and your bum being three inches bigger and your waist... well your waist does not look like that unless you are wearing spanx. But you know for sure, eating one whole pizza is not going to contribute well to how you 'feel' in your bikini. 

So the dilema ensues. You really want that pizza. You really want that lemon drizzle cake that is oozing lemony, sugary, syrup at you and the sponge is so gaaad dam moist that you could imagine a mini version of yourself jumping on the sponge and then sinking, being engulfed in one big lemony, spongey, cakey heaven and you think. 'Faaak it, who wants to 'feel' that good in a bikini anyways. It happens, what? Like once or twice a year? Noone cares., Noone actually cares. And so, you eat the pizza, but then you also eat the dough balls AND the cake. Washed down with half a bottle of wine and when you get home you think, 'Ahh I've been naughty already so... why not eat the left over ice cream in the freezer.' Get it out the way ready for tomorrow, when you are going to be good. When you are going to start that diet. When you are going to only eat the 1200 calories you allow yourself and tomorrow you will forget about the lemony oozy syrup and the cheesey whole pizza and you will move on.

Except, if you suffer from this ongoing, crappy, but real, body image issue, you won't. You won't move on. The guilt will eat you up and the sugar and the flour will  make your belly cramp and your head hurt and you will wish you had just said no to that bit of left over Ben and Jerrys. Or you wish you had just turned down meeting your friends. You should have just gone home, alone, and eaten kale on air bread with a helping of avocado butter with pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top with some egg whites. DAM IT. Why can't I just be one of those healthy people. Why do I need to diet? Why do I not have the body I want and why, if I want it so bad can I not just stick to a nutrition plan of turkey mince and leaves. 

Why? Because that life right there is a sucky one. One where you are always on a diet. One where you are always on a treadmill. One where you are always standing in front of the mirror lifting bits up, sucking bobs in, trying different angles to see which way you look skinnier, fitter, healthier. That life SUCKS BUM HOLE. After fifteen years of this, I did not want it anymore. It hurt my head. My soul. My relationships with others, my relationship with myself. 

So I began a journey of eating healthier (most of the time) Eating a balanced set of foods daily. Don't get me wrong. In the two years that I decided against no more diets, no more binges, no more counting calories or feeling shite about my body... I have infact done all of those things. I have tried the 5:2 diet, macro counting, binged on weekends a few times and cried when I haven't seen results quickly. My journey is a journey. Not one where I suddenly woke up perfect at life, because I will never ever be perfect at life. So I just began to pick my fights.

It was my boyfs advise, one night when we were at an italian restaurant and I was torn between stuffing my face with everything on the menu or having a salad and crying whilst I watched him eat his whole pizza. He told me to pick my fights if it was causing me this much stress. What can I not live without? What can I say no to? Really. Give or take. I could not say not to the Arranchini balls. I could say no to the pizza. I could not say no to the salted caramel cheesecake, but I could say no to the two glasses of wine. 

People want quick fixes. I so did. I wanted to look like those instagram girls in bikinis. I wanted to look toit, and firm and I wanted it in four weeks. Then the four week mark would come, and maybe I would be a bit smaller, I would weigh 8lbs less and I would be happy about it. For a week. Until I started eating everything and anything I could because I was no longer 'being healthy' anymore.

This lifestyle did not work. It took my sanity (OK that's a bit dramatic) but it took a part of me. I was either all or nothing. The saddest bit was that it was literally about weight. I had no intention of being healthy, of living a balanced lifestyle, of feeling nourished or getting my head into a state where none of this mattered so so much.

So I began picking my fights. 

Instead of a chocolate bar everyday, I have a cube of dark chocolate. Instead of having a Mac Donalds every month, I have an Honest Burger. I can live without the bun on most burgers, but I can't live without the fries, any fries, all of the fries. I can live without cake everyday at work, if it means when I actually go out socialising with friends I can have the gooey, cheesey fritters. I don't need pizza at home from Tesco, but avoid a pizza express pizza? Hell no. I pick my fights. I chose what is worth it for me. I decide what I LOVE, what I don't, what I enjoy with friends and what I don't need at home alone. 

For me, this is 'flexible eating' There is a more technical term for flexible eating, which I will do a post on, but to keep it simple. This for me is how I started my journey.

To a healthier body and a healthier mindset. 

Get healthy (inside and out)

Its the month before Christmas... its that time between summer cocktails and work party canapes. Generally November is the month that we all quit drinking and we eat chicken and broccoli ready for the Christmas over indulgence that we know comes our way as soon as the second week of December hits.

The start of this year, as the pounds piled on after last years yorkshire puddings and cheese boards galore, I decided that 2014 was going to be the year that I got my body (inside and out) into the best shape it can be, for me. I have talked about 'feeling fat' in a post before, and the food issues that relate to our body image. I hold my hands up and admit that 'yup... I am in a large handful of people that find being kind to my body difficult.

When I was younger I was quite chunky. I looked a little like the honey monster. (I was cute) I was larger than my class mates. Funnily enough, I didn't really notice. I was young, no one really cared. Least of all me. Thats what I remembered anyway. But as this journey this year continues I have been thinking about the psychology behind my eating habits and my thought process's behind my body image perceptions.

I suddenly remembered going into Tammy Girl, aged ten, and being upset because I wanted to buy denim shorts and crop tops like my class mates. I put them on and felt horrible for a split second. Jump forward four years and I was around the pool in Greece and there was a group of sixteen year old girls. There was this one particular girl who wore a teeny black thong bikini and I remember that same feeling as being in Tammy Girl, and all I could think was 'I want to be teeny like her' These thoughts when I was younger, came every so often. I can recall those times and count them on one hand...

Until I was a little bit older and it became a habit for me to 'not feel comfortable in my own skin.' Thats the only way i can describe it. Since puberty I have never been overweight. I headed to secondary school, without a concern in the world about my weight or how I looked. But the years went by, my friends all wore hipster jeans from Miss Sixty, jeans that wouldn't fit me the same and through out those years my weight became a number I would focus on. In the three months leading to my 16th birthday I decided to loose the chub I felt I had put on since drinking Bacardi Breezers on the common with all our friends (friends that didn't put on any chub). I stopped drinking at weekends and instead of pizza with baked beans on and crisps and chocolate for lunch, I would have a sandwich and be done with it. My dinners would consist of a healthy pasta dish, and I lost weight. (It was as easy as that when we were young) On my 16th birthday I had lost a stone and I felt amazing. I looked like my natural weight.(whatever that meant) Basically, I felt comfortable in my own skin.

From this exact moment on, my life was going to be a constant yo yo. I would alternate a stone at a time. I would spend 6 months loosing a stone, be at my comfortable weight for two months and then the weight would creep back on. I would stay there for a while. Eating crisps for breakfast and Macdonalds twice a week until I felt too sluggish and too horrible to continue and then the cycle would begin again. This went on for the next thirteen years. And it pains me to admit that this would consume so much of my energy. That I would be forever in a battle with myself over such a (ridiculous) notion.

Food for me is joyful. It means happiness and indulgence. It means family time or meet ups with friends. Food signifies togetherness and contentment. So, to get comfortable in my own skin, I felt I had to restrict food, which meant I was missing out on the joy and the togetherness. 'Dieting' as I used to call it, always ended up being such a depressing time for me. So I associated eating healthy with being miserable.

After thirteen years of this mental battle with myself, I came to the conclusion that life was too short. It was too short to battle all of the time. To constantly be feeling guilt for a burger I ate or the exercise I didn't do. It was too short to only eat kale and wallow in my low calorie filled day. Life was too short for all the crappy perceptions that came with eating too much, not eating enough, not fitting into my fav dress or trying to always fit into that one particular dress, or fitting into it for one week only and then spending months feeling horrific because I no longer fitted into it.

I started to really ask myself what it is that I wanted. Was it the tight petite little body that fitted into denim shorts and a crop top? Was it that I wanted to eat as much as Sally, who could eat a bacon sarnie, a Big Mac and a full on roast with all the trimming, have cheesecake twice a day and not put on weight? Did I just want to go a day, one single day without thinking about my body or food intake. I wanted it all.The stark realisation was that, one, I would have to not only exercise my body, but exercise my mind as well, if I wanted to feel comfy in shorts and a crop top and two, that a diet of roasts and bacon sarnies everyday may kill me. But, were all possible. YES. My dad always says:

'There is always a solution to everything, you just might not like that solution'

But the solution IS NOT crash dieting. It is not starving yourself one minute and binging the next. It is not eating no more than 1200 calories, it is not deciding to only wear baggy clothes to hide your body. The solution was consistency. Its the one thing that has changed the thirteen years of bad habits. I consistently started being kind to my body. That meant, telling myself nice things when I looked in the mirror. That meant not stuffing junk down my throat because I would panic the food would run out. That meant getting my metabolic rate faster, my energy up, my routine in tact. It also meant eating Haagen Daz if I desired it. Having a starter if I felt like it. Being consistently kind to my body meant a mixture of things. Exercise being at the forefront. Exercising my thought patterns and my perceptions were the hardest challenge of them all. Squats, Pah... I got those down, but working out my food issues and working on changing those thoughts, that was the hardest and still is the hardest things I have had to do on this journey.

I got out of bed in January 2014 and thought, I am not going to do this yoyoing milarky anymore, I am going to make exercise a part of my life, the same way brushing my teeth is, and I am going to consistently eat well. Because as I approach the dirty thirties, I realise, life is too too short. To be unhealthy. In mind body and soul. So after a lot of trial and error of what works for me, I found a 30 minute exercise regime that fitted into my day, anywhere, any-time, and I started to eat more fresh whole foods, in a bid to cut the processed junk out. I made a promise to not cut out any food groups along the way. To know that anything was and is available for me to eat. And I promised to not starve or binge again.

I am not perfect, far from it. I still have days where I don't want to work out. Or days where I think I just want to eat pizza and Haribo all day. There are days I slip and days I think horrible thoughts about my body. I am human. I am a woman, which means once a month the whole world seems odd. But, each day I continue to try at least to not be so hard on myself about these days above. 

Ten months later... here I am. Still on my journey and still practising the balance. That's what it is. It doesn't just become easy to have a balanced lifestyle if that isn't what you are used to. Its not something that just happened to me one day. It was one day at a time, it still is. I focus on the now. I don't beat myself up for the burger I had yesterday and I don't worry about the cake I might have later. In every moment I make a choice as it comes. But I have created a habit.

So as November rolls on... why not create habits for yourself. Go check out

 where myself and two lovely ladies have put together a November challenge to try and help you get into a routine. Go have a read. I'm finding it really helpful too.

As Kayla Itsines says... (a Personal trainer I admire) "It doesn't get easier, you just get stronger"