Exercise Addiction: The Dark Side of Fitness

With my hands covered in blisters and talcum powder, achy joints despite being aged fifteen, and thought racing through my head, I sit and cry in the gym changing rooms. The world is ending. Despite exercising for two hours straight, I didn’t work hard enough. Not enough sweat, not enough calories burnt. Now, my mum is offering to pick me up from the gym so we can stop by Pizza Express on the way home, which implies walking 8.75km instead of the minimum daily goal of 10.9, and eating unknown calories. ‘I can’t, I have homework,’ I text back, despite knowing the evening will be spent doing jumping squats in my room, not preparing for an upcoming Physics test.

This was the reality of exercise addiction for me, a disorder which isn’t recognised by the DSM5 but impacts around 3% of those who exercise on a daily basis. Prior to acquiring a positive relationship with fitness, it overwhelmed my life and nearly ended it. I want to speak about this issue because while anorexia is frequently discussed on the internet and in the media, exercise addiction (which often, though not always, accompanies another eating disorder) is seldom mentioned. The obesity epidemic, and the tendency of the majority of the population to neglect exercise rather than overdo it, explains this yet countless anecdotes emphasise the relevance of excessive exercise in our society.

Exercise Addiction recovery
It has taken a lot of effort to find balance, but every ounce was worth it.

Honestly, I struggled with starting this blog post without tearing up. Overcoming the addiction was perhaps the hardest thing I had to do, and back then I believed it would kill me before I’d scrambled back to balance. I will attempt to keep this coherent, ensuring the post raises awareness, outlines my story, and helps anyone whose relationship with exercise is less than optimal, but I cannot promise the absence of garble due to the emotive nature of the topic involved!

So, what is exercise addiction?  Continue reading “Exercise Addiction: The Dark Side of Fitness”

My Morning Routine 2017: Healthy but Realistic

Hi dears!

I understand the appeal of continuously hitting the snooze button and hauling yourself out of bed fifteen minutes before you’re supposed to leave. I understand the appeal of skipping breakfast (but at the same time I don’t, because honestly, the first thing I think about when I wake up is food #noshame). However, given that you’re able to fall asleep at a reasonable time, allowing yourself plenty of space each morning to pursue a routine can help with emotional wellbeing enormously, given how much you can adapt and tailor this to your own personality and preferences.

The routine aspect is important. I’ve been an early riser for many years, and a lover of mornings, but as of recent I’ve managed to create a list of things to fill those extra hours that are much more mindful, more energising than an aimless scroll through Instagram. Okay, the Instagramming is still there, but I try to make it constructive&controlled.

Honesty is important to this blog, so I am not going to sit here and say that I run half a marathon, get in my five a day, exfoliate my entire body and write a best-selling novel all before the clock strikes 7. The routine outlined below is realistic and works well for me, helping establish the foundations for a successful day without burning me out: a balance I worked hard on finding. Mornings do not have to be intense. However, a structure can bring many benefits, such as mental clarity and a productive approach to the day’s endeavours.

As a little disclaimer, I do not follow these steps every day. I adjust them in accordance with how I feel as flexibility is a value I will always abide to. However, an outline helps enormously in saving me from a feeling of disarray, a cluelessness regarding what to do with myself upon awakening, which carries a risk of spilling into the succeeding hours.

So, here is an overview of a typical morning in the life of Maria:

I wake up anywhere between 5 and 6:30, depending on when I must leave. The next five to ten minutes are dedicated to something which grounds me in the external world, ready to meet whatever challenges may arise. I avoid all technology and social media during this time, because stepping into the digital realm as soon as I open my eyes can disconnect me from my surroundings and lead to a sense of ‘drifting’ through the rest of the day, as opposed to engaging with it. If you haven’t tried it yet, I would recommend practicing mindfulness in the early hours: just pay attention to how your body is feeling, what signals its sending you, what emotions you’re experiencing. Sometimes, I do some reading, or sit with my cat and watch the skies lighten. Continue reading “My Morning Routine 2017: Healthy but Realistic”

How to make the perfect Buddha Bowl

Hi dears! Cheers to the second weekend of September: I can definitely sense the colder season creeping in with the recent weather conditions over here, and my nostalgia over summer has grown stronger with each day. Let’s hope Christmas-related excitement replaces it soon.

Anyway, what is a Buddha Bowl? Essentially, it is a combination of nourishing foods thrown together and served with some type of dressing – or, in my experience, they’re just as delicious when eaten ‘plain’. To me, they represent eating in abundance while staying far, far away from portion control and no carb diets which are thrown at us by the mass media on a daily basis. I mean, who wants to live off detox teas when you can reach your health&fitness goals by eating something as delicious as one of these?!

Aside from that, I can think of quite a few reasons for why Buddha Bowls are a big deal in the foodie world:

  • While delivering a multitude of health benefits, they’re super easy to make and require little preparation. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be difficult, and for those who struggle to ‘eat the rainbow’, a well-crafted Buddha Bowl can be a perfect solution because by throwing together all the fruits, veggies and grains you can find, you’re getting in those crucial vitamins and minerals with little thought.
  • They’re super satisfying and energising – perfect for those of us who love big portions. I certainly do, and I am not ashamed.
  • It’s a great way to clean out the fridge and use up leftovers. Whenever I find Tupperware boxes of lentils and failed avocado roses clogging up the fridge, I know it’s time to make a Buddha Bowl.
  • By keeping yours plantbased, it can be your first step towards doing something good for the planet as well as receiving all the health benefits of including more plants in your diet.

I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve complied a step-by-step guide to making your bowl of deliciousness, also including an example recipe below. You can make yours as simple or as complicated as you wish, skipping some of these steps and/or adding new ones along the way. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to making a Buddha Bowl: be sure to experiment, mix ‘n’ match your ingredients, try out weird combinations, because who knows, you might end up surprising yourself! Continue reading “How to make the perfect Buddha Bowl”

Comparing Your Diet to That of Others: a Habit That Needs Breaking

They say comparison is the thief of joy, and this is particularly applicable to food. As someone who’s coming from a background of anorexia, I admit I still struggle with comparing my food intake to other people’s. Difference is, now that I am recovered, I don’t let my perception of their portion sizes influence my own as I would have in the past. However, I know plenty of people who have no experience with eating disorders, but are still wary of what they eat and experience negative emotions whenever they perceive their choice of food to be in some way inferior: they will stick to salads when eating out, refrain from going for seconds at buffets and avoid ordering desert if the people they’re with don’t do the same.

I don’t blame anyone for this, as a pressure to eat in a certain way (ie a 1200 calorie, no carbs, some spinach for breakfast sort of diet which is actually counterproductive and doesn’t deliver the weight loss it promises) is very prevalent in our society. Hence, it’s easy to feel guilty when others seem to be eating ‘healthier’, or less, than you are. YouTube is riddled with that I eat in a day videos. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching and making them as I’m quite curious and always on the lookout for recipe ideas, but certain ones just call for comparison (e.g. The videos conveniently named ‘what I eat in a day as a model/actress/any sort of role which insinuates success’). Some of these do a great job at reassuring me that I’m not the only girl out there with a hefty appetite, but others, even if we logically know the person is starving themselves and their behaviour is unhealthy, can make anyone feel ‘insatiable’.

Vegan buffet
I never hold back at the all-you-can-eat-buffet

Continue reading “Comparing Your Diet to That of Others: a Habit That Needs Breaking”

Why I Stopped Wearing (heavy) Makeup.

Now, a post like this has to be prefaced by an emphasis on the fact that it outlines my experience and intends no disrespect towards make-up/those who wear it/particular brands. I still love reading beauty blogs and have by no means gone makeup free: in the pictures featured on this post I am wearing mascara and lipstick, and have a foundation routine for special occasions. Highlighter is still the perfect trick for whenever my face appears a bit two-dimensional. Yet, my current look is a significant change from the start of 2017. My everyday routine used to take an hour or more (as opposed to 0-15 minutes nowadays), included everything from contouring and Instagram eyebrows to layering three different lipsticks. So, why did I make this change and go from carrying out every YouTube tutorial on my face each morning to something a little bit (a lot) more lowkey?
Continue reading “Why I Stopped Wearing (heavy) Makeup.”

Let’s Talk Mental Health: Sleep Anxiety and Insomnia.

A truly ‘ideal’ lifestyle – the definition of which is subjective – is, I would argue, impossible to achieve. In some instances, mere time constraints may get in the way: you miss workouts because of upcoming exams, choose convenient food while travelling, sleep less than your body needs because of work. Sometimes, it’s mental health. And speaking of sleep, that’s exactly what I want to address today. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with sleep for quite some time, and a desire to de-stigmatise mental health while promoting the ‘physical’ aspects of a healthy lifestyle is one of my objectives on social media. As of recent, my ability to manage sleeping issues has improved considerably hence I decided to take my internalised debates to the blog, muse about insomnia (with sleep anxiety being a central point of discussion) and hopefully help others unlucky enough to experience these issues.

How to deal with insomnia

The fact that insomnia affects up to one in three people in the UK scares me, given the indispensability of sleep in maintaining your physical and mental health. Until around March or April 2017, I took pride in being able to fall asleep within minutes: sure, sometimes I stayed awake out of choice to complete a pressing homework assignment or returned home later than usual after a gym session, but once I was in bed with my eyes closed, I’d be asleep in under fifteen minutes. I woke up no later than seven even on weekends and had a concrete sleeping schedule. But when a month remained until my exams and a mere couple of weeks before study leave, my cortisol (why can I never remember how to spell this word?!) levels skyrocketed and each night, I found it harder and harder to fall asleep. Then, one night it took me five hours to fall asleep. The struggle started with racing thoughts about the upcoming exams, their importance, the revision I could be doing instead of laying in bed, and when I spotted midnight on the clock, I imagined my alarm going off six hours later. I imagined the effects of sleep deprivation: grogginess, inability to focus, inability to comprehend information about quantum mechanics. After that, everything changed. Continue reading “Let’s Talk Mental Health: Sleep Anxiety and Insomnia.”

Ten simple hacks for a healthier lifestyle

Hi. I am back, ready to try and be helpful and informative once again (hopefully with some success). When you’re new to eating and living healthily, your first steps may be to consult Mr. Google. Before you know it, you’re completely overwhelmed by ‘tips’ similar to ‘go to the gym six times a week’, ‘start running five miles a day’, ‘start a 1200 calorie green smoothie diet’. My post ain’t about that (especially not the last example – my breakfast in itself is 1200 calories and I am proud). These are ten things everyone can incorporate into their daily routines to either kickstart a healthy lifestyle or substantiate an already Instagram worthy, vegan, HIIT-on-a-daily-basis existence. Aka, healthy living simplified. And made less intimidating . Without further rambling, I hope you find these little tips useful – and don’t feel like you have to do all of them all the time. I certainly don’t #somuchforpracticingwhatIpreach. Also a quick disclaimer: I am not a dietician, or a personal trainer, these are just things I’ve come across myself and in many instances, implemented, so do take what I say with a pinch of salt!

1. Wake up earlier

I don’t mean set your alarm for six am when your body clock is screaming 9.30, but marginal changes. Fifteen minutes is a start. Then thirty, then forty five, and before you know it, you’re making a YouTube video titled ‘my 3 a.m. morning routine’. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but I feel like people don’t recognise the benefits of earlier mornings until they test it for themselves. The first few tries may be painful, but I promise – adjustment is possible. I don’t know the exact science, but there’s something quite satisfying about waking up with the sun, and of course, extra time is acquired for productivity: going for a run, finally sticking to your ‘get into yoga’ New Year’s resolution, even starting a business. I’m all about ending the stigma surrounding early risers, as I’ve experienced the benefits myself!

2. Follow the right social media accounts

Okay, tapping the follow button on Instagram won’t give you your dream body or turn you into a Triathlon athlete, but it can give you that little extra subconscious push. I spend 10-15 minutes a day browsing recipe accounts on Instagram, reading fitness blogs and watching people with physiques I can only dream about lift 3x their bodyweight, and it certainly makes a difference to my motivation levels. Significantly, when you’re just getting into healthy eating and working out without knowing where to begin, Instagram is the best place to stock up on recipes and workout videos: yuminthetum, bestofvegan and gymgirlvids are some of my faves. And of course, nothing beats whatismaria (okay, that was a total shameless self promo but I love the idea of people being inspired by my account).

Learn how to eat healthy through Instagram
Instagram makes finding recipe ideas a lot easier – let’s utilise the joys of the modern world!

Continue reading “Ten simple hacks for a healthier lifestyle”