Thursday, 14 April 2016

Learning to Live Lagom - Update

So I’m about 3 months into the Live Lagom project with IKEA (check out my first post here) and I wanted to give a little update on how I've been getting on with the products I selected and how they’ve been helping me with a very very busy life recently and overall, helping me to reach my sustainable living aims.

To recap, the aims I set way back in January were:
  • Most the most of meal planning
  • Batch-cook and freeze
  • Get storage savvy
  • Save on energy bills

Meal planning - this is something that weirdly has been going really well for the days I’ve actually been at home (working away a lot means having to be super organised on the food front). For the most part, I’ve been meal prepping on a Sunday afternoon and mapping out if I’m home/away, and if I’m home, making sure I’m taking fresh, nutrient dense, and most importantly delicious, food to work. I even meal prepped my food for a recent work trip to London so that I wasn’t picking up convenient (and maybe not so good for me) food on the go. Felt a bit smug on the train, I'm not going to lie. All of the tupperware and food bags I picked up in my LL haul have been fantastic, especially the glass Fortrolig range.

Batch-cook and freeze - so this is something that is going 50% ok at the minute. I’ve been doing batch cooking (hello slow cooker) but the freezing part has fallen by the wayside. I’m hoping to get on this in the next couple of weeks as I’m away pretty much away all of May and three quarters of June, so I want to make sure that when I am actually home during the week, that there’s good healthy food that I can just defrost quickly and eat up.

Meal prepping like a pro.

Get storage savvy - again, this is something that I could’ve put a bit more effort into organising but time has not been on my side (some of the storage containers I picked up as part of this project are still sitting empty...whoopsie!)

Save on energy bills - now this, this is something that is actually happening! Mini fist pump moment. Despite it not feeling very Springlike at all recently, and for the most part just wanting to jam the heating on every time I walk in the front door, all of the textiles I picked up are starting to do their trick. We’ve managed to get our heating bills down significantly which has been a big help on the ol’ bank balance and means that we’re being much more sustainable with our energy consumption. What a win.

All in a all, a positive start to the project. Yes, there are things I could dedicate a little more time to, but we are already seeing big savings on household energy bills, which was a big one for me, so I'm pretty damn pleased with that!


Monday, 7 March 2016


Favourite vitamins alice barnes wellbeing blogger
Today I’m letting you in on what’s on the shelf in my bathroom cabinet, and talking vitamins and supplements; what I take and why I take them.

As well as eating a pretty balanced diet, and trying to get in as many vitamins and essential micronutrients as I can through food, it can sometimes be a struggle to get in the right levels of what my body needs. I’ve been taking some extra supplements for quite a while now, to help with some specific things in my lifestyle i.e. fatigue and tiredness, to see if these have any effect.

So with that in mind, I’m bringing you a very quick run down of the vitamins I’m currently taking - if I think they’re actually doing anything, if I’ll continue taking them or switch things up.

These are like little magical tablets of beauty. I started taking them everyday about a year ago and I’ve noticed such an improvement in everything they claim to help, but particularly my skin. My friend Katie said my skin was looking very healthy and glowy a couple of weeks ago (on what I thought was a bad skin day!) so that was a great boost and nod to the tablets actually doing something. Taking this and eating lots of things like almonds (for that vitamin E fix) have been really helping keeping my hair, skin and nails looking good. A keeper!

A relative newbie to my supplement cabinet, I added a separate vitamin B12 tablet into the mix to mainly help with fatigue. I get tired very easily and I’ve noticed a huge improvement from taking these – ain’t so snoozy all the time anymore! And because of this, my overall productivity has been massively up, which is excellent in my books. Two thumbs up.

I’ve taken a combination cod liver/evening primrose oil capsule for years now. For me, it’s a great way to get those omega 3 fatty acids in for bone strength and overall health. Mega winner. However, I might do a month without to see what impact this has or just start taking a pure cod liver oil tablet rather than a mix. Just, y'know, to mix things up. 

A new addition to the mix are the Holland and Barrett Radiance Multi Vitamins. These little guys pack every vitamin and mineral imaginable, with added iron to help with fatigue etc. I’ve been taking these for around a month now and the improvement in my complexion for one has been pretty damn good – paired with the Perfectil Hair, Skin and Nails tablet, this seems to be a dream combo! I've also felt more sprightly on the whole and had bags of energy. Well done H&B multi vits!

What’s in your vitamin cabinet? Let me know what you take as part of your health and wellbeing plan and anything you would recommend. 

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Post-workout balls

Alice Barnes' post workout protein ball recipe
It’s been hella quiet around these parts for a while now. With a very full-on new job (which I LOVE), wedding planning and trying to complete my nutrition course, that means something just had to give. And unfortunately it was this here blog.

It’s been really quite crap feeling like I haven’t had the time to write my own stuff, but I think once I get fully into the swing my new job, and once some of the big wedding things are out the way, I’ll be able to dedicate more time over here.

One thing I’ve been really keeping on top of since New Year is my eating habits. I have a goal ‘shape’ (not weight!) in mind for my wedding and honeymoon, so I’ve been keeping really focusing on what I’ve been eating and getting in those HIIT and weights session, along with keeping up my running and cycling, so I'll feel like the best version of myself come July.

One of my favourite post-workout snacks has been these Madeleine Shaw energy balls. I can’t say enough good things about her Get The Glow book and her energy/protein/snack balls are some of my absolute favourites – go buy it you won’t regret it.

My version is a slight adaption of hers, and I’ve worked out the macros (if you’re into that kinda thing) so you don’t have to.

Post-Workout Balls

Yields 8
  • 50g Almond Butter
  • 100g desiccated coconut
  • 100g medjool dates
  • 2 tbsp vanilla whey protein
  • 2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 serving - 168 calories / 11.5g Fat / 9.9g Carbs / 5.8g Protein

Whizz everything together in a food processor, and then shape into 8 balls. Pop in the freezer for 30 mins before storing in the fridge. These keep for up to 2 weeks.

These are seriously tasty. I've been packing them in my gym bag so they're easy to grab when I finish my workout - perfect for making sure I'm hitting that refuel window straight after burning calories.

Have you tried Madeleine's energy ball recipes? Let me know in the comments what your favourite recipes are.


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?
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