Hi everyone! Before I jump into this post I would like to issue an apology for my absence – these last weeks were full of studying and I literally had no time for anything else, but now that my workload has eased I will be back to posting on a regular basis. Thank you all for sticking around and I cannot wait to be involved in the blogging world once again, and I have managed to accumulate a nice list of ideas while I was away so be expecting a lot of content in the run up to Christmas!
Okay, now let’s leap into the main topic of this post: when you’re just starting out a new exercise programme, it can understandably feel like climbing Mount Everest, in particular if you’ve never been athletic before. To some people, sport can feel natural and easy, while to others it connotes hours of difficulty and pain, and this category of people may not understand how others workout for fun rather than just for the physical benefits. Whether you’ve started a fitness journey to build muscle, lose weight or prevent one of the diseases associated with living a sedentary lifestyle, those first few weeks of jumping between exercise machines may be anything other than enjoyable and as a consequence, many people quit because ‘they don’t like exercise’.
I have been going to the gym for around four years at this point, and prior to joining I have been sporty for my entire life. Despite the fact that at certain points my relationship with exercise has been less than optimal, as a whole I love movement. Going to the gym is one of my favourite parts of the day. However, even as a ‘seasoned’ gym goer, I experience dips in motivation. The time I dedicate to my workout goes by much slower than usual and every exercise just fundamentally feels harder and heavier. Sometimes, I do workouts I don’t wholeheartedly adore (e.g. spinning) because I know of the health benefits they deliver and that accomplishment I experience afterwards. In both cases, I have to implement a few tricks to make the workouts feel ‘easier’ without compromising the actual difficulty of the workout. Sounds contradictory, but hopefully you all know what I mean.
How ‘procrastination’ should be defined is something I’ve been thinking about a lot over these last couple of days. According to various online resources, it is the postponement of one task in favour of a less urgent, or a more enjoyable, activity. A blatant example is scrolling through twitter as a means of avoiding an essay which is due in a matter of hours, or watching ‘just one more episode’ of your favourite TV show when there are urgent work-related emails that need to be answered. While you value your long term goals, and a morsel of anxiety may sit at the back of your mind in regards to the consequences of not doing what needs to be done, but this is not enough to force your brain into prioritising long-term rewards over short-term gratification.
Some proponents of ‘hustle until you drop’ deem anything that is not contributing to your long term objectives, whether those are related to financial stability, fitness or moral fulfilment, a waste of time. Have you ever watched Netflix at any point in your life? You’re a lazy procrastinator. I’ve even seen someone give skincare the procrastination label. However, I have to disagree with this because frankly, we are not emotionless machines. Self-care is paramountly important. Entertainment exists for a reason – as humans, we need to enjoy ourselves on a regular basis, and set aside time to reap the benefits of all of our hard work. For sure, we have different staminas, and tolerate different workloads before we start to go crazy, but a lack of balance and overexertion will actually make you less productive and more prone to wasting time (I will return to this point later). Continue reading “Why and How I Avoid Procrastination”
I am not entirely sure whether calling these ‘brownies’ is appropriate due to the noticeable layer of pumpkin, but the name seemed more concise than ‘big dessert thing with a dark chocolate and a pumpkin layer’. Brownies is close enough.
Anyway, after a stressful week full of job interviews (because unfortunately, gap year travels cannot be funded from the magic money tree), finally finding myself a job and undergoing two days of intensive, last-minute training, I couldn’t think of a better way to unwind than with some baking. Every bureaucratic, grown-up responsibility has to be compensated with something that benefits the soul as well as the mind/my bank account. Moreover, our home severely lacks autumnal decorations, and I wanted to bring in a bit of seasonal spirit with the warming smell of pumpkin and cinnamon.
The result, for sure, was not disappointing. If you have a few cans of pumpkin laying around in your cupboards, there is no better way to use them up than through either brownies or baked oatmeal, and I decided to go for the former.
If you live in the south of England, you most likely are familiar with the little gem that is Brighton. I am very lucky to live within a ten minute train journey from an abundance of vegan cafes, a shopping centre and of course, the beach which remains beautiful even on gloomier days. I can’t say I was 100% content with standing bare-legged under the most unpleasant drizzle (I am the sort of person who holds back from wearing tights until it is far too cold to consider otherwise) but nothing brings peace to my heart as much as gazing at an expanse of water. And of course, blog photos are not going to take themselves!
The central purpose of this post, however, is not to dwell on the beauty of my local area. I always find it interesting to learn about the people behind my favourite blogs, and since I’ve been blogging consistently on here for slightly over a month, I believe the time has come to do your generic ’30, hopefully interesting, facts about me’. Since scheduling this I’ve been nominated for the Liebster award (thank you Joy!) which I will undertake in the upcoming weeks – so in short, buckle your seatbelts and uncover what lies beyond my ability to make pretty food in jars 😉.
1. Let’s start with the basics: my name is Maria, I am 18 years old and as established above, I live near Brighton in the south of England.
2. I am almost 100% Russian with a bit of Ukrainian and Greek mixed in (hence I tan easier than most Russian people).
3. Next year, I will hopefully be starting a history degree but for now I am embracing the opportunity that has been given to me to take a gap year, gain work experience and travel like every basic teenage girl ever.
4. I am trying excessively hard not to start each fact with ‘I’ or ‘my’ but this is thirty facts about ME which perfectly justifies a bit of self indulgence!
5. I think chewing gum should be made illegal because the noise is simply. too. much.
6. Growing up, big chain restaurants virtually didn’t exist in Russia, and healthy eating has always been a big part of my life because a non-Westernised Russian diet contains many fruits, vegetables, legumes etc which is very reflective of how I eat now (with the exception of no animal products). Continue reading “30 Hopefully Interesting Facts About Me”
I’m not going to lie, I’ve never been an autumn/winter person. I am easily dismayed by the onset of darker evenings, constant rain and waking up to a room as cold as the arctic circle. While cosy evenings and scented candles help my seasonal blues to an extent, I feel much more at ease in the summer, when the days are long, the weather is decent even in England and I can go outside without having to brace myself. Many people find this surprising as I lived in Russia for the first nine years of my life (hello -40 degree weather) and while I’ve retained many ‘Russian’ characteristics, my ability to withstand the cold has faded alongside the stereotypical accent.
However, the one thing I adore about autumn is the food. I’m talking everything pumpkin, cinnamon and roasted vegetables. You know that scene in Miranda when she lists all the things she loved about Christmas? Yep, that’s me when it comes to autumn. I had a lot of fun constructing these jars because their simplicity does not compromise that hint of seasonal flavour. As usual, the recipes are vegan friendly, healthy and packed with micronutrients. And of course, eating food from a jar does the trick of making your life that much more Pinterest-worthy. Well, in my case, I cannot make any other aspect of my life suitable for Pinterest except for food: I’ve been frantically reading style blogs to try and bring some coordination into my wardrobe, and the only plant I kept in my room withered away from neglect before I managed to miraculously revive it #almostRIP.
Anyway, while I created a ‘base’ for these jars (e.g. the curry and the tofu), feel free to switch up any of the vegetables and/or dressings, eating them either straight away or storing in the fridge overnight. Many of the ‘components’ can be cooked in bulk for meal-prepping purposes. I am a big fan of spices myself (and thoroughly believe Autumn is all about spices, whether that’s in candles or in edible things – unfortunately, those are mutually exclusive) but you can adjust the amounts in accordance with your own preferences. Before I can ramble on for 365 more words, let’s leap straight into the recipes:
Hearty, warm and packed full of spices, this recipe just sings Autumn. Perfect for cold evenings and as a satisfying lunch. Served over a bed of rice and with leafy greens for an extra crunch.
1 cup (228g) butternut squash, chopped into small cubes
1 cup (228g) pumpkin of choice, chopped into small cubes
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 can (200ml) light coconut milk
1/2 can (227ml) canned tomatoes
1.5 cups (355ml) vegetable stock
1/2 cup (50g) green lentils
1 tsp mild curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp tomato paste
two large handfuls of kale
1/2 cup (85g) dry sushi rice, to serve
Raw zuccini and spinach, to serve
Heat either cooking spray or a dash of oil of your choice in a large pot. Add in the pepper, onion, butternut squash and pumpkin, stirring for 3-5 minutes on a medium heat.
Add in the vegetable stock, coconut milk, canned tomatoes, vegetable stock, lentils, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, nutritional yeast and tomato paste. Bring to the boil, before lowering the heat and simmering for 30-35 minutes until the butternut squash and pumpkin are cooked through. Add more water/vegetable stock and salt to taste if necessary. Meanwhile, cook the sushi rice according to instructions in a separate pot.
Add the kale into the curry and stir until wilted.
Assemble the jars: distribute the rice evenly between the jars, before topping with the curry, the raw zuccini and the spinach.
Ever wondered what a vegan keeps in her pantry? Well, look no further than this – just joking, I’m not going down the route of cheesy blog post opening lines.
Anyway, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten ingredients you’ll always find in my cupboard. I eat a vegan diet composed mostly of wholefoods, but this is suitable for anyone who wishes to expose themselves to the joys of eating more plants and having plenty of healthy ingredients within reach.
These items are affordable and many can be cooked in bulk for the week ahead as a means of saving time, money and energy. Moreover, they act as a basis for the majority of vegan recipes out there. When it comes to cooking, I like to plan ahead and will buy ‘fancier’ extras whenever they are required (i.e., those magical superfood powders sourced from the soils of Narnia – I admit I can never hold myself back from diving head first into food trends) but always ensure my kitchen is well stocked with the basics because no one likes getting to their chickpea curry night and discovering they have no chickpeas.
You knew this one was coming. I am in love with my beans and pulses. These contain an abundance of micronutrients such as iron and potassium, and are often the main protein source in vegan diets. As someone who is trying to build muscle, the latter is enough to make me stock my cupboards with an excessive amount of black beans.
I keep both canned and dry in my kitchen. Canned is great for convenience, but I use dry whenever I have a bit of extra time, as they require soaking and cooking, and want a ‘fresher’ taste. My favourites include:
Black beans – these are a great option for buying fresh and soaking overnight
Chickpeas – roast them with some agave nectar and paprika and thank me later!
Red kidney beans
Lentils: red, green and black
Dried soya mince – an incredible meat free alternative for spaghetti bolognese!
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.
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!