Month: July 2016

3 Things to do with that Coconut Water you bought (before you realised that it makes you gag)

3 Things to do with that Coconut Water you bought (before you realised that it makes you gag)

I’m a sucker for health fads. I have a whole cupboard at home that’s dedicated to what my flatmate and I call “pointless health stuff”.

What’s more impressive is that I genuinely do use it all on a regular basis…even if I’m not entirely sure why.

There’s the sprirulina that goes into my salads and the beetroot powder that gets mixed into my overnight oats. Acai powder is always on hand for smoothie bowls and just about anything can be given a sprinkling of linseeds at any given time.

Sure, I could write a whole post about their seemingly magical antioxidising-supermetabolising-energyboosting-skindetoxing-cleansing-acidneutralising-proteinsynthesising vitaminy-minerally qualities that gives them the gold standard that is the ‘superfood’ title.

But to be honest I really just like the smashing pink colour that the beetroot powder gives my overnight oats when mixed with greek yoghurt.

Either way, I lap it all up, regardless of whether they actually make me run faster/lift heavier/concentrate better etc. and on the whole, I genuinely enjoy them.

So I was pretty confident that first time I bought a litre of coconut water, the new trend, the next big thing in the world of pointless health fads, that it would fit right in with my much loved collection.

Then I drank some, and anyone whose experienced that gagging feeling on their first try of sickly sweet, weirdly milky but watery at the same time, coconut liquid will appreciate my confusion, shock and disappointment.

It was a bit like the feeling you get when you accidently swallow sea-water.

So I was left with a dilemma in the form of a still-99%-full carton of milky-watery liquid. Yes, I could have just thrown the rest away, but that would’ve been a waste, and I also felt a stubborn resilience that somehow coconut water would still find its way into my collection.

Coconut Water

6 Cartons, 4 Brands, several failed recipes and 1 completely destroyed saucepan (don’t ask) later, I have a pretty sound and regularly used store of recipes and inventions for which I frequently have to run to the shops to replenish my coconut water supply.

These are my Top 3, but each one can be varied in a million different ways. I’d love to read some comments if anyone has any other suggestions!

1) The Obvious – Use it in Smoothies

This was the first thing I tried, and it worked great right away. My all-time favourite is this Protein Pina Colada because coconut and pineapple are, and will always be a match made in heaven.

Pina Colada

2) Use it in your Overnight Oats

I used to always use soy milk or water in my breakfast oats, but Coconut water is my go-to now, because it adds that lovely nutty flavour but the oats and Greek yoghurt take away the sweetness.

Use equal parts oats and coconut water (slightly less coconut water if you are adding Greek yoghurt too) and stir into a jar or container of your choice, adding any sorts of nuts, nut butter, berries or banana as you desire.

My usual weekday overnight oats is:

½ Cup Oats

½ Cup Coconut Water

A couple of big spoonfuls of Greek yogurt

1 Small or Half a large banana

A small handful of mixed nuts

1 Teaspoon of either Acai or Beetroot Powder

A few raspberries, blueberries or chopped strawberries.

Coconut Water Overnight Oats

3) Use it to make healthy Coconut Rice

I absolutely love coconut rice but it can be really sugary and fattening from takeaways or in restaurants. This healthy alternative is packed full of protein, and if you use brown rice then the nuttiness really complements the coconut water. 

Simply replace the normal water with the coconut water and follow the packet instructions!
I added kale, tomato, avocado, broccoli and feta to mine, along with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of chilli flakes.

IMG_3321

Seeing the real Cuba (/why you should always leave your resort!)

Seeing the real Cuba (/why you should always leave your resort!)

I make no secret of the fact that I don’t like the all-inclusive lifestyle. It’s just not my way of travelling. I would much rather go completely self-catered and have to fend for myself every night. I’d rather risk not having a place to stay at all than join in the scrum of the same all you can eat buffet for every single meal.

This year however, I’m ashamed to say that I caved into the temptation. What with being super busy at work, studying for my PT qualifications and getting ready to move house, I was craving holiday. All I wanted was some sun overhead and some sand beneath my feet.

So when my best friend invited me on her girls holiday with a work colleague, I didn’t hesitate. It was a week by the sea with guaranteed good weather. Why would I?

We stayed at the Hotel Playa Costa Verde on the Eastern Coast, towards the south of Cuba. It was big, spacious with a nice pool- and the staff were very friendly. It was fine. But that’s all. Clean and comfortable, but not a place that you make memories or get that ‘best holiday ever’ feeling.

So of course, after about a day (when we’d figured out that everyone there was either English, American or Canadian and that the food wasn’t that great) we started to get somewhat claustrophobic. It’s so easy to fall into that trap of staying at the resort because everything is ‘free’ (or already paid for at least). When you’re tight on budget it can be hard to convince yourself to step out into the unknown where- lord forbid- you’ll have to pay for your drinks.

If there’s one piece of advice that I have, particularly in a country as incredible as Cuba, it’s don’t fall into that trap!

I am so thankful that we mustered the courage to venture outside of the resort. I’m also very grateful for the fact that my travel buddies were as keen for adventure as I was! The days we spent away from the hotel, and it’s awful buffet were the ones that I’ll never forget.

Seeing the Real Cuba(& why you should always leave your resort!)

The Real Cuba and the Reasons you Should Always Leave Your Resort!

The Beaches

Most resorts that you stay in have their own portion of beach that’s associated with the hotel. This is generally fine for your first day or two as you settle in and relax. Before long, however, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the same people that you sit next to every day at dinner. And there are a lot of them. These beaches are the tourist hot spots, they can be quite built up and every now and then they play host to the organised fun games that are put on by the ‘activities’ staff at the hotel. Fine if that’s your thing – but it’s not mine.

If you prefer an unspoiled and secluded beach, it’s worth it to make the effort to walk further down the sand and away from the strip of hotels. If that’s not possible, then you can usually get a bus to a beach that’s removed from the hotel. It sounds like a lot of effort, but buses are cheap (we paid about 50 pence for a day pass!) and the staff at the reception desk should be more than helpful in pointing you in the right direction.

One simple bus trip can take you to some of Cuba’s true gems- deserted, unspoiled, free of both tourists and litter. The sand has the consistency of icing sugar and the colour of the water is to die for. You can usually spot more wildlife in these beaches too, because there aren’t as many people to scare them away! Make sure you clean up after yourself. No one wants to be the person who spoils paradise.

The Cities

Once we realised how easy and quick the buses were to catch from the hotel, we were eager to explore Holguin, the nearest city. Smaller, and less well known than Havana and Santiago de Cuba, Holguin still has a lot to offer. We were so happy to just to be wandering around a completely new area. If you enjoy a bit of a mindless wander on holiday (and come on, who doesn’t) Cuba’s cities are the perfect place to start. Colourful houses, classic cars and beautiful Spanish colonial architecture make you feel like you’re walking around a film set. There are plenty of stunning churches to take a look at, lots of open space and fabulous archways to shelter from the sun. There are always street musicians playing in the various squares, which really adds to the lively atmosphere.

Seeing the Real Cuba(& why you should always leave your resort!)

The Mojitos

By the time we made our trip into Holguin, I was pretty much not drinking on this holiday. I think all-inclusive resorts trick you with their lure of ‘unlimited free alcohol’. It’s never very good quality and the cocktails all end up tasting the same. Namely, of sugar. That changed the moment we stepped into a local bar in San Jose square in Holguin. We were waiting to get the bus back to the hotel and fancied a sit down. Obviously we couldn’t let this occasion pass without trying a true Cuban Mojito. They cost all of about 3 Cuban Dollars each (around £2) and were truly delicious. It was worth leaving the hotel if just for those Mojitos.

The Views

Even just on the bus journey away from your resort you can get some spectacular photograph-moments. You can see anything from rolling hills and coffee plantations to goat farms and palm trees. On our trip into the city we decided to climb the 458 steps up to ‘The Hill of the Cross” (Loma de la Cruz). Unsurprisingly the 360 degree views of the city and it’s surrounding areas were breathtaking. Not an experience you  can get sat by the pool eating free ice cream all day long.

The People

If you don’t leave your resort for anything else, go for the friendly, open welcome of cuban people as you explore their city. Everyone is happy to chat, show you around, answer any questions- and ask their own as well. It’s one of those truly humbling experiences that makes you realise how ignorant Londoners can be to those around them. God forbid anyone stops them mid-commute to ask for directions. Everyone in Cuba was so happy and carefree – not to mention noticeably proud of their city, eager to show it off to these new visitors. It’s a way of life that’s a pleasure to be a part of, and I’d take that over resort life any day.

Seeing the Real Cuba(& why you should always leave your resort!)

Seeing the Real Cuba(& why you should always leave your resort!)
Why I’m Jumping on the #StrongNotSkinny Bandwagon

Why I’m Jumping on the #StrongNotSkinny Bandwagon

What is it?

#Strongnotskinny: the latest trend of the fitness junkie, trawling its way through social media. Realistically nothing more than a catchphrase, yet like so many hashtags before it, the ‘strong not skinny’ slogan has inspired a surge of international controversy.

 

What does it mean?

Type the #strongnotskinny tagline into the Instagram search box, and you’ll be confronted with a barrage of oiled muscles, defined abs and platefuls of food.

While many agree that this is a positive shift away from the disturbing and distorted pro-anorexia images that can seriously impact vulnerable users of social media, some people have also raised issue with the hashtag, claiming that it’s ‘just another way’ to perpetuate unachievable body standards and “skinny-shames” those who don’t have the same toned biceps and peachy glutes as the women (and occasionally men) featuring in the photos. Instagram admin promptly responded by blocking the most recent photos marked with this hashtag.

 

So why have I jumped on the bandwagon?

I’ve been following the #strongnotskinny hashtag for a while, and I am curious about this ongoing debate.

Coming from a dance background, an industry that is notorious for encouraging high rates of anxiety and eating disorders in young girls, I found it refreshing to be confronted with a trend that focuses (in my perspective at least) on what the body can do, rather than how it looks.

While muscle size may be a go-to visual cue for how “strong” someone is, when it comes down to it strength can refer to a variety of different attributes – such as psychological strength and motivation, as well as the physical ability to lift 10kg more than in your last session.

Strong is something that a variety of people can strive to achieve at different levels, regardless of how they look; whilst skinny remains purely an aesthetic that requires conformity to one body type.

I was a skinny girl. During my adolescence, particularly when taking regular ballet classes, and even during my earlier years at university, ‘skinny’ was something that I strived to be. My hatred for exercise was fuelled by the fact that I simply wasn’t strong or fit enough to do well at it. 

#StrongNotSkinny

Now in my twenties, I work hard to be strong – for my own personal satisfaction and for health reasons. I still look and weigh in at pretty similar to how I did in my teens, but thanks to the #strongnotskinny mentality I no longer describe myself as just ‘thin’ or ‘skinny’. Since starting to lift I take pride in improving my pound for pound, in replenishing my body with the nutrients it craves and in working hard to lift just a few kg heavier every time.

Naturally you see the benefits in the way my body looks, but the changes are not drastic. I am healthy and, crucially, I concentrating on doing rather than looking.

Describing myself as #strongnotskinny I have made myself more than just an aesthetic.

 

As a last note…

In Western culture, women in particular have long been subject to a huge amount of pressure to look a certain way. Be careful of the fads that take the internet by storm and always be wary of the vulnerable, increasingly young, users of social media who are so easily influenced by stereotypes, pressures and ideals.

Hashtags such as #strongnotskinny can have such a positive impact in a very judgemental world-hopefully with more people using them correctly we can help each other be strong, in whatever way, shape or form.

#StrongNotSkinny