Sunday, 31 January 2016

Learning to Live Lagom

Do you Live Lagom? I didn’t even know what that meant until late last year and I definitely didn't up until this year. Lagom literally means, "the right amount is best", a canny little statement for us all to live our lives by. 
Living sustainably with IKEA Gateshead
It was first introduced to me late last year, when IKEA got in touch with details about a project called Live Lagom - who doesn’t love IKEA? The project is all about getting people to live more sustainably to ultimately help us save money, decrease our waste and help look after our surroundings. An excellent initiative if I do say so myself, ‘cause we all need to do our bit to make sure we’re looking after our gorgeous planet. 

In 2015, IKEA ran this project with employees only, inviting them to select IKEA products that they thought might help them to live more sustainably. The project proved so successful and full of inspiring and fun ways to live more sustainably, that they decided to roll it out to selected IKEA Family members and wellbeing media partners (myself included!) to show how making small and convenient changes to our lifestyles and daily routines could help the planet, reduce waste and our energy bills, and hopefully make home life that bit better too. 

Now, I couldn’t have been more chuffed to be asked to take part in this project to see how I could make improvements and live more sustainably in 2016. IKEA kindly offered me £500 to put towards products of theirs to help me live more sustainably in 2016 and share my thoughts and challenges right here. This could go towards anything from larger items (energy-efficient kitchen appliances) down to things to help with smaller changes like storage, soft furnishings and multi-tasking food containers. 

This is a busy old year for us  - I’ve just started my dream job in athletics which means life is quite hectic and I’m away a lot at weekends at various sporting events; we’re getting married this year too, so in-between the new job, Joe’s job, general life and trying to plan the wedding, we are strapped for time, meaning the time we actually have at home needs to be considered and planned (where we can!)so it was always going to be a challenge for us to live sustainably this year, which is one of the main reasons I really wanted to get involved. Could we live sustainably even though we’re super strapped for time?

One of the first things IKEA asked me to think about was why I wanted to live more sustainably? Well, to put it simply, I just don’t think we do at the moment and it wasn’t something that was very high up on our radar (bad, I know). Yeah we recycle but that’s literally about the only thing we do that could help with a more sustainable way of living, and when it comes down to it, that just doesn’t cut it. We always shove the heating on when it’s a bit chilly in the house rather than put a jumper on, we cook every day/night rather than meal-prep/batch-cook and we aren’t very self-sustaining i.e. growing our own herbs or any veggies/fruit when we actually could.

So what did I want to get out of the project? To live a more sustainable life in a really convenient way. My aims? 
  • Meal plan the hell out of life (crucial)
  • Batch-cook and freeze (also crucial)
  • Get storage savvy (our small flat is riddled with clutter)
  • Save on energy bills (cue loads of soft furnishings!)

Alice Barnes Sustainable Living with IKEA
 Back of our van loaded with IKEA goodies.

I picked up my products earlier this month with the help of Julia, the in-store sustainable living advisor at IKEA Gateshead, so I'm about 3 weeks into living a Lagom way. It’s been so interesting to see how the little changes has given me back time during the week. I’ll keep you posted on how I get on...


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Talking Body Composition and What the Hell are Macros?

AMB talks body composition and losing body fat
We’re a couple of weeks into 2016 now and I’m also a week into trying a new way of eating and tracking my exercise to make sure I can shift this last little pesky bit of body fat that seems to be hanging around. What a drag.

It all started a couple of Saturdays ago when I was weighed for the first time since Christmas. This is a scary enough thing in itself but this particular weigh-in was also a chance for me to see my full body composition broken down in black and white. Fat %, Visceral Fat %, water % - the LOT. Now, post-Christmas cheese-fest, even just getting weighed in the normal sense is frightening, so to see everything broken down was a bit daunting. 

Luckily since the last time I had this done mid-2015, my overall weight was slightly up but this was due to an increase in lean muscle mass (woo!) and my overall body fat % had decreased (excellent). These kind of stats are a great opportunity for you to assess where you’re at now so you can start planning your exercise and meals if you have a particular goal in mind (which I do - HIYA getting married in SIX months) or if you want to just know more about your weight and body in general.

Women’s fat % is always going to be higher which is just a fact of life - mine is probably a little too high at the moment, so I’ve set myself a goal of shedding 3% over the next few months which is totally achievable, there’s just some hard graft involved. Cue those HIIT workouts.

One thing these particular stats already tell you is your BMR (Basel Metabolic Rate).
In very basic terms, BMR is how many calories you’d need a day to maintain your weight if were to do zero exercise.

Now to get totally geeky, BMR is also something super crucial to help work out a macronutrient plan - a tailored nutritional plan comprising of how much protein, fat and carbs you need a day, depending on how active you are, and this kind of nutrition tracking can help you achieve a certain goal.

I am still very much a beginner of learning the way of the macros but if you want to read some more about what they mean and why tracking your macros might be a good way to help you reach a certain weight etc, I've popped some links below to pages that have all the info you need, and which make the whole protein/fat/carbs ratio - which can be frankly, a bit mind-boggling- a total breeze to understand. 

Michael Kory Fitness Guide to Macros (don’t be put off by the word Bodybuilding in the title!)

Is tracking macros something you’ve ever considered or done? If so, what was your experience like - did you find it easy or hard to do depending on your lifestyle?

Thursday, 31 December 2015

2016 Goals

2015 has been a strange year - a year of extreme highs and extreme lows. To say SEE YA to a bit of a weird one, I thought I’d end it on something super positive with my fitness and wellbeing goals for 2016.
Alice Mary Barnes Wellbeing Goals for 2016
It was a challenge in itself to even start writing these. I’d usually make a list of about 10 and then fret towards the end of the year that I haven’t achieved them. So for 2016, I’m making 3 goals and 3 goals only (thanks Zanna for the tip!) These are more overarching themes than anything (I do have a couple of sneaky really, definitely specific goals like run a sub 1 hour 55 minute half marathon, but I’m not really classing those as my bigger goals for this year).

Be consistent
This covers a lot of bases. Be consistent with exercise/training and be consistent with the good stuff I’m fuelling my body with. I beat myself up a lot about having to exercise a certain amount and can at times, stress over the food I’m eating too. On the whole, I look after myself well; I’m getting stronger everyday (I might have even seen an AB recently?) and I eat all of the right things that my body needs. I just need to keep this up and feel happy and confident in what I’m doing. 

No bad vibes
No neggy thoughts or vibes will cloud my thoughts this coming year. It’s a year of positivity and a can-do attitude. Short and sweet.

Much more specific than the top 2, but this year I really want to get into swimming. I’m pretty much the worst swimmer I know, and want to follow my triathlete Mum’s lead by getting some swimming coaching to boost my confidence (major under water fear) and take it from there. I’m not making any grand plans just yet to do a swimming event or anything like that, just to start and see where it takes me.


I'm looking forward to kicking off 2016 with a bang as well as I start my dream job in athletics in January and it'll be SIX MONTHS until J and I tie the knot (that has come around fast!). Bring in 2016!

How many goals have you set for 2016? Have you gone for the less is more approach? 

Monday, 14 December 2015

Chocolate Coated Nut Butter Stuffed Dates

Almond Butter stuffed dates with dark chocolate recipe
Just read that blog post title. WHAT a title. When I saw this recipe pop up in my Twitter feed from Laura over at Wholeheartedly Healthy, I was like YEP - that’s for me. No hesitation. Click. Read. Make. Eat. Done. Amazing.

Loaded with nut butter and covered in 85% dark chocolate, these are a perfect sweet treat for over the festive period (or anytime of year in fact). They are a little less virtuous than the raw chocolate recipe I posted last week, but still, more nutritionally dense than a handful of Celebrations or Milk Tray (although these are great at Christmas too).

Laura uses peanut butter in her recipe, however, as the ol’ peanut and my body don’t mix very well (damn allergy kid tendencies), I used MyProtein smooth almond butter instead.

All I can think to describe these as, are like chewy natural caramels with a smooth chocolate shell. Laura’s trick, and one that I followed, was to freeze the dates stuffed with almond butter first before dipping in chocolate. This makes the chocolate extra crunchy, so you get loads of different textures going on. I’ve been storing mine in the freezer so they’re like toffees but having nearly broken a tooth last night on one, into the fridge it is! 

So, fancy giving these a whirl?

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Festive Raw Chocolate

Alice Mary Barnes' Raw Christmas Chocolates Recipe
As IF it’s December already. I’m feeling pretty damn festive - the tree is up in all its glory and I’ve got an insane amount of Christmas candles on the go. 

I started getting well into Christmas food mode last weekend. Chocolate always features very heavily in anything sweet I make at this time of year, so I got to making a batch of these delicious pure chocolates from Deliciously Ella’s site. Using her basic recipe, I spiked these with orange zest for a true Christmassy flavour and scent.

The best thing about these chocolates are that they aren’t any ordinary chocolate - they're a healthy indulgence and kinda good for you too (excellent). Packed with cacao butter and raw cacao powder (hello antioxidants), they are such a delicious guilt-free treat.

The great thing about this recipe, is that there are so many different things you can do with the basic recipe, so it’s easy to have a play about an add whatever you’re into - cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla - you could even add in some sugar-free flavour drops for a sweeter hit. 

Basic recipe:
  • Melt everything together in a pan over a very low heat (don’t go boiling it though).
  • Pour the mixture into moulds (I used some very un-festive heart-shaped moulds but you can buy festive moulds on the high street. Lakeland and Tiger are my best bets.)
  • Freeze for 30 mins.

These will then keep in the fridge in an air tight container for ages, but I can guarantee they’ll be gone within about 10 minutes. They're that good.

What are your favourite festive flavour combinations? 
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