By Megan Smiley, Jul 19 2017 02:40PM

Being active and summer tend to go hand in hand in my mind. From childhood memories of the six week summer holidays filled with summer sport clubs, activity holidays, learning to windsurf, failing to master (or even understand) tennis, the list goes on. To the past month or so with the fab weather we’ve had, spending many an hour in various parks across London soaking up the sunshine, and although I’m not the one actually being that active, rather telling people to be active, but I’ll take the ‘being active’ by proxy!

Plus I AM getting more and more active since that pesky foot and two operations put me off track last summer. I have started running, not far, to be precise one minute running, one minute resting, eight times, twice a week but as I always say a little is much better than nothing. I’m able to jump (nothing crazy yet) rather than hop now - I have confused a number of my clients by trying to demonstrate exercises on one leg over the past six months. And my old trusty friend that is swimming which has been there helping me through the enforced time of reduced activity. The hot weather broadening my horizons from the council run local pool to lidos and a canal (I’m not sure I should admit to that one as I don’t think canals are meant for swimming, I blame the Pimms!)

Then there are the summer sporting events to inspire and excite your activity taste buds. From Wimbledon to the Tour de France, the Women’s Euros, the Open and many more.

Even those who aren’t into being active can’t help it on a sunny summer’s day, donning a pair of shorts and throwing around a frisbee in a park. The summer really does get people out and moving about, and I for one love it!

By Megan Smiley, May 12 2017 08:07AM

It seems like every time you hear the news there’s another food that’s become dangerous. The recent one I thought was a little ridiculous was burnt toast and potatoes, you would have to eat a LOT of burnt toast and/or potatoes for it to be harmful and who would do that? It’s not like they are tastier burnt or that you can’t help yourself putting toast down for a second time to achieve that burnt je ne sais quoi. So generally I tend to ignore/take with a big pinch of salt all these stories of the latest food that is bad for you. When you look into it, most of the claims are from pretty small samples or often not on humans (the burnt toast/potatoes was only proven in mice).

I think there are hidden dangers in food though, ones you don’t hear about in the news, and I’m not talking freak occurrences like the Sunny D river or the goats cheese fire that I would never have heard of but for the recent Guardian article.

I’m talking less newsworthy dangers but those that happen to all of us on a regular basis. The crusty bread that lacerates your mouth, the hot soup that burns your tongue, your over zealous chomping that causes you to bite half your cheek off, now these any the real dangers of food! Then there are the dangers not due to the eating but the preparing. The cuts (especially when you have just bought a new kitchen knife and aren’t using the blunt, pathetic knife you’re used to), the burns from your hand-eye coordination letting you down when reaching into the oven, and the list goes on.

Then there are ones that I’ve experienced that might be a little less common: the fine bones of anchovies getting embedded into the roof of my mouth and spiralizing my index finger trying to get that final courgetti strand out of my courgette.

As with most things in life that are rewarding, fun and pleasurable, and I think eating is up there in all three of those areas, then they come at a price and I’ll take the (probably more often than should be with me) food related injuries and potential links to health damaging effects for the enjoyment of eating any day!

By Megan Smiley, Mar 21 2017 04:35PM

With International Day of Happiness just been and in the never-ending quest for happiness, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes people, and me, happy. Yes, some people are just bubbly, happy people and others less so, and then some put on a front portraying happiness when that’s not actually the case behind closed doors. I wonder how many of those blissfully tranquil and happy Instagram posts are actually a vision of what that person strives for rather than what they actually have.

After some thought on how to achieve the happiest version of myself, I’ve decided that basically you should ‘Just Do It’ (to steal Nike’s 80s tag-line). ‘It’ being whatever makes you happy, obviously within reason. I’m not suggesting doing something completely crazy that makes you happy short-term and leaves you stranded and miserable long-term. Think little things that can be incorporated into your existing life without too much impact on your constraints e.g. time, money, health, obligations etc.

For me eating, drinking and spending time with friends makes me happy, but there’s only so much of that you can do, and I already do a fair bit of it! Plus the more I do of it the more I have increasingly guilty feelings about spending too much money and eating and drinking too much. Also, being active, exercising and playing sport make me very happy but I’m pretty much at the limit of what I can realistically do with that at the moment.

But there are other, more guilt free doable things like buying flowers, lighting a scented candle, having a massage, sitting having a coffee in the sunshine. All of these are pretty achievable without breaking the bank or cancelling prior commitments and are healthy for both the mind and body. However, these are things I often forget about or don’t get round to doing. So I’m going to start telling myself to ‘Just Do It’.

The other side of the happiness conundrum I think is solved by stopping doing what you don’t like. Now this one is a little trickier and again I’m talking within reason. There will no doubt always be some parts of life that you don’t enjoy and there are those bits that you don’t look forward to but then when you do them you actually quite enjoy. Both of these I think you should carry on doing.

So which bits am I talking about then? Well it’s again the little things. Those things you dislike that you could change without it having a drastic effect on anything other than your happiness. For example, you hate the post-work trip to the supermarket, do an online shop and freeze bits so the shop can last you all week (it’s amazing what you can freeze). You hate spending two hours at the weekend cleaning the house, get a cleaner. Yes, it will cost you a bit of money but if it’ll make you happier...

Why don’t you write a list of the little things that make you happy and the things that don’t, and try to make some small and gradual changes to make life that little bit happier! I’ve got my list done, and I’m going to ‘Just Do It’!

By Megan Smiley, Dec 12 2016 09:36AM

2016 has to be my weirdest year on record yet. Starting off with being a victim of identify fraud by someone, somehow getting a key to my building and coming in and stealing post over a couple of months leading to them stealing the identity of three of the four flats in the building!

Next having two operations for my foot. First operation to fix the arthritis in my foot, second one to fix the mistake they made in the first operation! Resulting in five months on crutches, nearly six months not working and a slow and ongoing rehabilitation of my foot, leg and life!

Then being shocked/disillusioned by 52% of the British voting population, and let’s not even get onto what happened in America.

Finally a positive one, I got married!

I’m hoping all of these things are one offs for my lifetime at least and that I won’t have to go through any of them again. My wedding day was absolutely brilliant but for obvious reasons I hope not to have another one!

But even with the above bad things (there are more but don’t want to bore you with the less ‘exciting’ events) now that we’re coming to the end of the year I surprisingly feel in a pretty positive place due to a number of reasons:

1) When I’m not going slightly insane about one of things mentioned, I seem to have found a certain clarity, almost a philosophical take on life!

2) I have more appreciation and love for my nearest and dearest. This year has really highlighted those people who are important to me and how great they are.

3) You can’t get many years in life that throw so many mental and physical ‘obstacles’ your way, so most years to come will be a breeze in comparison.

4) It’s nearly over! Which means it’s time to focus on 2017 and beyond (and get planning - I do love to plan!).

I’ve always preferred odd years anyway, so here’s to a fantastic 2017 and good riddance (in most parts) to 2016!

By Megan Smiley, Oct 18 2016 09:13AM

I’m finally at the stage of weaning myself off crutches (down to one now!). It’s been nearly five months and it’s given me quite a different perspective on lots of things but mainly people!

Firstly the practical side of things, not being able to use your hands and walk at the same time really does make things tricky, and slow. From everyday jobs like carrying the washing to the machine, taking a rubbish bag out or really little things like checking the time by glancing at your watch, they all become harder. Then there are things that actually become a challenge like getting on and off an escalator at the busy tube station. Everything requires thinking it through beforehand and working out how to do it without falling, failing or causing amusement to others!

What all of the above leads to though, is people offering to help, and when I say people I mean complete strangers. There sometimes isn’t that much someone can do to help unless they fancy picking me up and carrying me but it’s been absolutely lovely the number of people who offer. I’ve even had three cars stopping to ask if I want a lift somewhere whilst crutching down a street. When do you get that in ‘normal’ life?

Another thing you get besides offers of help are comments and conversations aplenty. Comments ranging from ‘skiing accident was it?!’ (seems to be a popular one) to ‘playing football?’ (which is meant as a joke but ironically my trauma related osteoarthritis was most probably a result of an injury from playing football). My favourite one has to be when I was out with my boyfriend and I got ‘kicking him too hard?’ And although Alex might say he’s taken a bit of a mental battering from me over the past few months, his shins can’t take credit for my injury!

The conversations; I think it’s probably a bit like having a cute dog or baby, as since I’ve been on crutches, everyone and anyone talks to me. Asking me what happened and how I’m getting along. The other day I heard a voice from above and looked up, and there was a man sitting on his balcony and he said ‘your walking has improved so much, I’ve seen you go up and down the street and you’re looking much more comfortable now’. This was lovely and encouraging to hear!

While most people say the ‘right’ thing, kids are another matter. Due to their refreshing honesty and lack of filter, they point, stare in amazement and ask their parents why that woman has a pink/red/purple/grey leg, or why she’s walking funny, or will they ever have to have one.

What I’ve realised is that people are nice and want to help other people but are generally to scared/ worried to offer help to a stranger. Be it because they don’t want to offend someone e.g. not giving your seat to someone on the tube as you’re worried that they’ll think it’s because you think they’re old/pregnant/ill rather than the fact you were just being nice! Or because you’re worried that you’ll put yourself in danger e.g. if someone’s being attacked you could get hurt if you get involved. I listened to a TED talk the other day about altruism and how some people might genetically be more selfless but I think most people are instinctively selfless, it’s just cynicism and modern life that make it less apparent. When you’re on crutches that seems to disappear, maybe people’s perception of me is that I’m not dangerous (well only to myself) and their selfless caring nature prevails.

The problem is many people do need help, but it’s not as easy or obvious help like holding a door open to let the person on crutches hobble in, so what’s the answer? Maybe just try to do a few small helpful things for a stranger more often than you currently do. I guess if more of us did that there would be less worry of offending and more acceptance of help.

I won’t miss my crutches but I will miss the chats and the acts of kindness from all those lovely people out there.

By Megan Smiley, Jun 27 2016 10:05AM

If you haven’t seen me, heard from me or noticed my social media #PinkCast posts this month, you won’t know that on 1st June I had an operation on my foot, an arthrodesis of the first metatarso-phalangeal joint to be specific! This was due to osteoarthritis in my mid-foot/ big toe joint due to (some unknown but most probably sporting injury) trauma.

Now as a fit, healthy, 32 year old personal trainer this wasn’t ideal and as you might imagine I’ve had a few surprised people when telling them I have arthritis in my foot. Even my podiatric surgeon said I’m the youngest person he’s done that operation on!

Now nearly four weeks after the surgery, having had a fair bit of time to reflect on things (although amazingly I haven’t be bored or watched any daytime TV yet!) there are a few things I have realised about having a major operation:

1) However healthy/ fit/ young(ish)/ determined/ stubborn you are, you don’t bounce back straight away and your body needs time to recover and recuperate. That includes plenty of rest and proper nutrition – your body is healing, creating new bone, tissue, skin cells and needs plenty of nutrients, vitamins and minerals to give it the best fuel to fix it.

2) How even the smallest things can be a big challenge, and you can feel a real sense of achievement in doing these things. Think showering on your own, getting a cup of tea from the kitchen to the sofa, making in down the two flights of stairs from your flat to the outside world.

3) How important and amazing your family and friends are. I honestly would have struggled with a lot if it weren’t for their help and support. It’s made me truly appreciative of them and realise how lucky I am to have them.

4) How amazing the body is. After just two weeks I had an x ray and where the bone had been broken and cut away and screws put in to hold it in place, bone had regrown and was fusing together nicely. Also, the foot looked surprisingly normal albeit a bit swollen, yellow from the iodine and with a big slit down the side, but not that bad considering. And luckily they put another cast on quickly so I couldn’t inspect it any further!

So four weeks down and six more on crutches to go, but it’s all going in the right direction and at the end of it I will have a foot that doesn’t cause me pain to walk and in time I should be able to go back to playing sport and being as active as I once loved being. So all in all I feel very happy, lucky and excited about my new and improved foot. I just have to wait a little bit longer...

By Megan Smiley, May 4 2016 04:34PM

Mindfulness – meditation techniques to create awareness of internal (yourself) and external (your surroundings) elements to improve your well-being – has most definitely been one of the buzz words of 2016. It has moved from the world of the juice drinking, yoga practising (complete stereotype I know) people to the mainstream, with companies providing employees with workshops and talks on mindfulness and being prescribed on the NHS for patients.

Although many people have practised meditation for years; yoga is increasingly popular and various well-being activities are more and more readily available, it is now a much more widely accepted and practised concept, just look at the adult colouring books around at the moment!

For those who know me you’ll probably have heard about the Wheel of Life. It’s a life reviewing system I created years ago. I have harped on and shown many a friend on the back of a napkin/ beermat about it over the years! It has five areas: health, wealth, friends and family, love life, and work life. You assess your Actual Wheel and then create an Action Wheel. There need to be enough areas of the wheel fulfilled to move along nicely in life. However, if everything is completely fulfilled it can lead to the wheel moving too quickly and problems can arise. e.g. you always need something to strive towards. I review my Wheel of Life every six months and it gives me focus, peace of mind and sometimes a much needed kick up the bum to get going on an area! This may be a little too hippy-esk or structured for some so this is where the 3Ms come in.

Whilst recently chatting to my mum about mindfulness she mentioned her 3Ss: singing, sport and silence. She explained this was an idea she first thought of back in her 20s, so quite a while before mindfulness had become a thing! And that she thought the combination of the three things helps you achieve the mental well-being that we’re all talking about. I had to point out to my mum that the 3Ss had taken on a new meaning sometime in the past 40 years, and it was probably best to update, hence the 3Ms: music, movement and moments. I actually prefer the 3Ms as it’s a little more inclusive, music over singing and movement over sport, but the same concept.

So if you like the idea of mindfulness but aren’t sure where or how to start, I suggest giving the 3Ms a go. Music, be it listening, playing, watching, is a great way to immerse yourself in a world of creativity, inspiration and beauty where you can let your everyday worries drift away. Movement, be it sport, yoga, dancing, walking, it’s a great way to achieve both physical and mental well-being. Moments, taking a step back from life, the busyness, and the endless to-do list, is so important and I think becoming harder to do these days. With smartphones, whenever you have a minute you don’t take a moment, instead of gazing out of the a window on a bus, out pops the phone and you respond to that email, check social media, pay that bill or any of the other million things you ‘need’ to do.

So over the next few weeks aim to get your intake of Ms in whatever way suits you, and I have no doubt that your overall well-being will benefit!

By Megan Smiley, Mar 21 2016 09:48AM

Last week, in my opinion, was a significant one in the world of health and fitness. From a variety of different directions it was acknowledged that, a) we do have a health and fitness crisis on our hands in the UK (levels of activity too low and levels of obesity too high), b) we know things need to change to address this, and c) there are lots of people who want to make this change.

Firstly, the controversial sugar levy on soft drinks. I appreciate there are holes in the policy e.g. that it doesn't apply to fruit and milk based drinks, unless they dilute the drink which would actually make them healthier- less sugar- and then they would be applicable for the tax. Or the fact that it could increase consumption of diet drinks that have artificial sweeteners in like aspartame that are thought to be very bad for your health. But the overall message that soft drinks with high levels of added sugar are bad, is a point that needs to be amplified, as sugary soft drinks are the biggest contributing factor to child obesity. And, if you increase the cost of a product/ service people buy less, so it's definitely a positive step in my mind.

Plus it's twofold; the money generated from the tax levy will go towards funding more sports in schools. So to all those people who are slating the sugar tax, just think, even if the tax doesn't have that much of an impact on level of consumption at least money it generates will get more kids active and playing sport. Now surely everyone has to agree that's a good thing?!

The second thing that happened last week was Public Health England released an updated Eatwell Guide. This is a user friendly, visual set of guidelines outlining what a healthy diet should include. The previous version was out of date and therefore probably not used that widely due to lack of current relevancy. The new guide (although I don't think bagels should be included in the list of good carbs) is pretty good and I really think it could help many people understand what a balanced diet looks like and where they need to make changes.

Finally, it was Sport Relief over the weekend, which saw the country get sporty to raise lots of money. There were over 1,000 events across the country, with the public walking, running, cycling and swimming thousands of Sport Relief miles. As well as the more extreme challenges by the likes of Eddie Izzard's Marathon Man – an epic 27 marathons in 27 days and Jo Brand's Hell of a Walk – 135 miles in 7 days!

I love the concept of Sport Relief as it gets people active and participating in sport to raise money so more people can live a happy, healthy and active life. The money is split 50/50 to help people in the UK and people in the world’s poorest communities. This year they've so far raised an amazing 56 million!

So all in all, with the doom and gloom that seems to fill our news feeds, last week was a breath of fresh air, and made the future look a little less rotund and a bit more active. Let's hope it wasn't just a one-off week!

By Megan Smiley, Feb 4 2016 09:54AM

Entomophagy, the act of humans consuming insects. Although the norm for many cultures (around 80% of the world's population) across South America, Asia and Africa, most Brits' exposure and knowledge of eating creepy crawlies starts and finishes with having watched celebs eat them as a challenge on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. And for them, the idea of it isn't an appealing one.

However, with the detrimental environmental effects (air and water pollution, deforestation and overfishing) of farming such vast quantities of livestock 'needed' to fulfil the growing demands for meat and fish, then eating insects might be the answer. It is a cost-effective and eco-friendly process and they're packed with protein, minerals, vitamins, fibre and healthy fats.

The availability of insect based products in the developed world is increasing and cricket flour is one of the main ingredients you'll see. Smash Nutrition have Madagascan Vanilla and Peruvian Cocoa flavoured protein powder made from natural protein sources including soy, casein, pumpkin seed powder, spirulina and, of course, cricket flour. Protein bars using cricket flour are also popping up for your 'on the go' insect fuelled protein hit!

We are yet to see much of a take up of using insects as a main component of a meal, though apparently cheesy locust croquettes are pretty tasty! There is now a restaurant dedicated to entomophagy in Pembrokeshire called Grub Kitchen and Wahaca did feature grasshoppers on their menu for a while, but apart from that, insects are a rare sight on most menus.

I personally don't have a problem with the idea of eating insects, I might not hanker for a cricket 'burger' in the same way I do a tuna steak, although I don't know that as I've never had one. But I can see the massive benefits and I care about our planet, and if we don't change our eating habits, with an increasing global population and an ever increasing meat and fish consumption, then the impact on the environment could and will be catastrophic.

I understand not everyone will like the idea of eating insects, but if we don't shift our stubborn and unfounded views and move this very sustainable, eco-friendly and nutritious source of protein away from a taboo food and into an everyday food then we're asking for trouble. Many of us don't think twice about eating seafood which isn't dissimilar to insects in many ways, and who's had those delicious garlicky buttery snails in France?

There are other ways in which you can help as well:

- Go meat-free for at least one day a week. There are plenty of non-meat products that contain protein that aren’t insects, think lentils, beans, soya, nuts and seeds.

- Buy ethically where you can. Fairtrade helps human rights of producers, Organic helps environment sustainability, and Farm Assured helps the quality of food, animal welfare and environmental protection. Also, think about about buying local and seasonal products, reducing the 'food miles' of your groceries.

- Don't waste food! This is one of my top pet hates. If you have leftovers, great, keep them and eat them. Don't let food go off, and if it is a little after it's best you can still use it. I'm not talking gone off meat and fish but over ripe fruit and veg - great for smoothies and soups, stale bread - great for bread crumbs etc. And remember you can pretty much freeze anything, there's really no excuse!

Now, anyone for some mealworm fried rice?

By Megan Smiley, Dec 1 2015 11:43AM

Most of you will have heard of clean eating, a term and lifestyle choice that's grown in popularity over the past few years. Clean eating is pretty much exactly what it says; eating cleanly by avoiding 'dirty' foods such as anything processed, and opting for whole and fresh foods.

With Christmas, comes a month of social events, indulgence and eating and drinking scenarios out of the norm. So can you get through the festive period without becoming a 'dirty eater'?!

I'm an advocate of clean eating and I do pretty much stick to it. I rarely eat processed foods, I cook most of my meals from one ingredient items, as in from scratch: no packets or jars, and I eat whole foods and lots of fruit and veg. Having said that I'm also an advocate of the 80/20 diet, being good 80% of the time and then letting your hair down 20% of the time. It's all about balance, don't you know!

So how am I feeling about the festivities on the horizon, as there will be way more than six days (20% of the month) where there is festive fun to be had.

Well firstly I'm excited – I love Christmas. And secondly a little anxious of the inevitable slip up in my health and fitness levels. This anxiety has been amplified the last couple of years by worrying about squeezing into a made-to-measure bridesmaid dress for a wedding on New Year's Eve last year, and this year heading on a beach holiday on the 27th December. But I do think you can have a clean Christmas.

Eating clean doesn't mean no treats or tasty stuff, it just means thinking and picking a little more wisely when it comes to food. Clean eating isn't about calorie counting, it's about the quality and the balance (in terms of macronutrients e.g. the ratio of carbs, proteins and fats) of food you're putting in your body. So there can still be over indulgence but just the right type of over indulgence! Think salmon rather than salami, dates over doughnuts, roasted chestnuts over chocolates, you get the picture.

There is one thing I haven’t mentioned though, alcohol. Clean eating, unsurprisingly, encourages reducing alcohol consumption… I'll just make sure I drink it in that 20% 'letting my hair down' window and it'll all be fine!