To eat, or not to eat? That is the question.

There are few subjects that are so simultaneously prosaic and emotive as food.

We photograph it, comfort eat it and watch programmes about it. We spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals, or spend a fortune in restaurants trying out new and delicious dishes. We read about how to eat ourselves healthier; how to make our skin brighter and our hair shinier through our diets. The internet is full of advice on how to treat certain ailments with a variety of ingredients, or how to improve athletic performance through what we eat. So why then, with all of these positive associations, is food also so inextricably linked with guilt, shame, obsession and illness?

While I know that my guilty pleasures aren’t as decadent as they might be, calories are calories whether they come encased in an avocado skin or a chocolate bar wrapper. I can’t be alone in feeling guilty for mindlessly chomping through a bag of cashews to get me through an afternoon of editing, for curling up with a hot chocolate before bed rather than a herbal tea, or for sneaking a wholly unnecessary round of toast with nut butter as I laze around with the weekend papers, only to regret these decisions just moments later. As my brain flits from gratification to guilt in the blink of an eye, it brings to mind a book I read about the psychology of eating and how we completely confuse ourselves with such mixed messages of ‘pleasure’ and ‘pain’. How can it be that something which one minute we associate with a pleasurable treat then next fills us with the pain of guilt and anxiety?

More to the point, I worry that it it’s abnormal to get so hung up on food in this way – either as an indulgence or as a deleterious presence – and often wish I could just embrace an indifference to eating: a food equals fuel equation, removing all other associations, pleasurable, painful or otherwise. This, I recently discovered, is exactly what Andrew ‘Spud Fit’ Taylor has done. Andrew has taken dieting to the extreme, removing everything from his plate for an entire year with the exception of one thing: potatoes.

I discovered Andrew’s story in a recent interview on the Rich Roll podcast and it really struck a chord with me. Despite being a vegan, Andrew admitted to spending a lot of his life struggling with his weight and suffering from the all too familiar yo-yoing effect of dieting. He came to realise that all of his attempts to lose weight were actually only touching the surface of a much deeper-rooted issue, a food addiction.

It was only a short while before listening to this episode that I had been discussing a similar topic with a friend and former GP. When we spoke she compared food addiction to drug abuse or alcoholism, but with the added difficulty that with food you can’t go completely cold turkey, or wean yourself off it with the eventual aim of giving it up completely. I remember thinking then how hard it must be to curb an addiction when the source of that addiction is also something that you need to survive.

Andrew’s solution was to research and explore nutritional science more deeply to find the perfect single food source of nutrition that could sustain him for an entire year. The answer? Potatoes. By eating potatoes for every meal he was able to take away all thoughts about food; from the practical thoughts – meal planning, food shopping lists, checking if there is something you can eat at a restaurant before attending etc. – to more detrimental or destructive thoughts – cravings, hankerings, obsessive calorie counting and restrictions.

With food out of the equation his hope was that he could retrain his brain ‘to get comfort, pleasure and emotional support from other areas of life’ and to become ‘less reliant on food and therefore have a better relationship with it’.

While this may sound extreme it was interesting to listen to him talk through this process of unshackling himself from the draw of food. From acting as a crutch when he was down to a source of celebration when he was happy, food had played such a central role in his life and now he had to find something else to fill that space. It certainly made me think about all of those times I turn to a snack because I’m bored, or tired, or over-indulge on treats to celebrate some arbitrary event, or else as a source of comfort if I’m feeling down. While my relationship with food certainly isn’t as extreme as Andrew’s was, there are elements of emotional attachment to what I eat that I would certainly like to sever and Andrew’s story is an inspirational way of showing that this is possible.

I would really recommend listening to the interview and exploring Andrew’s blog.

Until next time, eat mindfully, and perhaps take a moment to reflect on where exactly the void is that you are trying to fill next time you turn to the fridge.


Tempted? How gender may impact our ability to resist temptation

This week I’ve been reading about temptation; in particular, how gender impacts on our propensity to be tempted by food and, as a result, how it can influence our weight loss goals.

I started to think about this while reading about the ways in which gender can affect how our bodies process various chemicals – caffeine, alcohol, medications etc. Variants including body mass, height, muscle to adipose tissue ratios and hormones all influence the ways that we process these chemicals, and with some medications this can lead variance in the efficacy and the side effects (for more on this watch this TED talk by Alyson McGregor). While even taking the contraceptive pill can influence how we metabolise caffeine.

But how does gender impact on how we respond to food? Are differentials contingent on metabolic and digestive reactions alone or can differing successes between men and women in the weight-loss steaks be attributed to something else?

While considering this I encountered a rather interesting study from Brookhaven National Laboratory, which looked at the ways in which our brains respond in the presence of food.

In the study, 23 healthy male and female volunteers were instructed to fast for a 17 hour period. During this time, they were interviewed about their favourite foods and asked to rank them on a scale of 1 to 10. The researchers then selected one food for each subject, the only requirement being that it scored 7 or above in desirability. When the 17 hours were up, the volunteers were injected with a nuclear tracer, placed in a brain-imaging PET scanner and presented with a food they craved – being forced to smell, hear about the preparation of and even taste a morsel of the food stuff on a cotton wool ball.

When faced by this multi-sensory stimuli, the brains of the fasted volunteers started responding. Appetite and hunger are processed in a number of regions of the brain — most notably the orbital frontal cortex, which is linked to self-control; the striatum, which is linked to motivation; the hippocampus, which is linked to memory; and the amygdala, which is linked to emotions and decision making.

The subjects were then asked to think about something other than food for the next 40 minutes, though they were required to keep their eyes open and look at the food before them.

The PET scans appeared to show that both sexes were actually able to lower the overall sensation of hunger; in most cases the brain was able to grow partially habituated to an empty stomach over time, and with a degree of willpower and distraction, the volunteers were able to hasten this process of desensitisation.

However, the discrepancy came with what men and women thought about during this time. It appeared that while the men were able to stop thinking about food, successfully suppressing, if only temporarily, the conscious desire to eat, the women continued to experience emotional cravings even if their hunger subsided.

Although it is unclear what is behind this difference, it is suggested that hormones and their action on the amygdala may play a significant role. When the amygdala acts up it is incredibly difficult to bring it back under control – demonstrable in anxiety conditions like phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorders, which are linked back to this part of the brain. The study suggests however, that men had some success in disciplining their amygdala, while women were less able to do this. However, it takes a lot of inhibition to control the amygdala, which is why even the most resolute dieters — both male and female — so often fail.

Although this study only used a small sample it is an interesting insight into how we respond to and think about food. In the next post, I’ll be looking at some ways to tackle temptation, but for now, happy resisting!

GI (the non-military type)

Low GI meals from BBC Good Food - Italian Butterbeans
Low GI recipes from BBC Good Food – Italian Butterbeans

References to high or low ‘GI’ foods are often banded about with little, or no explication. Indeed, I was guilty of this myself in my previous post. But how much do we really know about the term ‘GI’, and what does the GI number of a food actually indicate?

What does ‘GI’ mean?

The glycaemic index (GI) ranks foods based on the rate at which the body is able to brake down the carbohydrates within them into glucose, and by the amount that this glucose then raises the glucose level of the blood.

It was originally developed for people with diabetes, whose bodies either do not produce insulin (type 1) or who have become insulin resistant (type 2), as a means of helping them to help keep their blood sugar levels under control.

Why does this matter?

When glucose levels start to rise, the pancreas releases the hormone insulin, which promotes the uptake of glucose by the cells for use as energy, bringing blood sugar levels back into a more manageable range.

Insulin removes the surplus glucose from the blood and this can then be used as energy within the cells.

Insulin acts on the cells in the liver, muscle and fat tissue in particular and stimulates them to:

  • Absorb glucose, fatty acids and amino acids
  • Stop breaking down glucose, fatty acids and amino acids
  • Start building glycogen from glucose; fats (triglycerides) from glycerol and fatty acids; and proteins from amino acids

Essentially insulin encourages the cells to make fatty acids into fat molecules and to store them, while also stopping the breakdown of extant fat in the cells for energy, instead using the ready supply of glucose for a quick energy fix.

Eating low-GI carbohydrate foods causes a steady rise in the level of glucose in the blood, which in turn leads to a small and gentle rise in insulin. Small increases in insulin keep you feeling full and energised for hours after eating and also encourage the body to burn fat.

Erratic rises and falls in blood glucose levels from low-GI foods however, can leave you feeling hungry and lethargic soon after eating.

While our bodies are well-designed to cope with changes in blood glucose levels, excessive amounts of glucose over an extended period can, in some cases lead to insulin resistance and later, the development of type 2 diabetes.

GI numbers

Low GI  recipes from BBC Good Food - Red lentil, chickpea and chilli soup
Low GI recipes from BBC Good Food – Red lentil, chickpea and chilli soup

The ranking system is based by comparing the rate at which glucose is released from an item of food against glucose. For this reason glucose has a GI number of 100.

Foods with a GI of 70 or more are classified as ‘high GI‘ as they trigger a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. Foods with a GI of 55-69 are ‘medium GI‘ as they trigger a moderate increase. Foods with a GI below 55 are ‘low GI‘ because they have a minor impact on blood sugar.

What makes a food low rather than high GI depends on the proportion of amylose to amylopectin within them. Foods with a greater proportion of amylose such as lentils have lower GIs than those with more amylopectin, like potatoes, which have a high GI.

Why do GI scores vary?

A food’s GI is not fixed however; it will vary depending on a number of things including how the food has been prepared, whether it has been cooked, how hydrated it is and, in the case of fresh produce like fruit, how ripe it is.

An average serving of raw carrot, for example, has a GI of 16 but once peeled, diced and boiled this rises to 49.

Moreover, your glycaemic response to a food also depends on the other foods you eat with it. When a meal includes proteins and fat the impact of the carbohydrate foods is minimised. This is because, by combining foods in a single meal, the overall impact is to slow down the rate at which your body releases sugar from any single ingredient.

Are there any health benefits of eating low GI?

Low GI recipes from BBC Good Food - Whole wheat pasta with broccoli and almonds
Low GI recipes from BBC Good Food – Whole wheat pasta with broccoli and almonds

A positive side effect of choosing low GI foods is that you may lose weight since these sorts of foods tend to keep you feeling fuller for longer. However, it’s worth remembering that low GI doesn’t necessarily mean healthy or low fat.

A low GI eating plan can also be helpful if you’re worried about your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease since a low GI diet improves blood sugar and insulin control and helps manage cholesterol levels.

The effect of stabilising blood sugar levels should also mean you feel improvements in energy, mood and concentration levels.

However, using the glycaemic index to decide whether foods or combinations of foods are healthy can be misleading. Foods with a high GI are not necessarily unhealthy and not all foods with a low GI are healthy. For example, watermelon and parsnips are high GI foods, while chocolate cake has a lower GI value.

High or low?

The below table shows the GI of some common foods, taken from Harvard Medical School Health Publications

Food GI Serving (g)
Muesli, average 66 30
Oatmeal, average 55 250
Pearled barley, average 28 150
Sweet corn on the cob, average 60 150
Couscous, average 65 150
Quinoa 53 150
White rice, average 89 150
Quick cooking white basmati 67 150
Brown rice, average 50 150
Bulgur, average 48 150
Apple, average 39 120
Banana, ripe 62 120
Dates, dried 42 60
Grapefruit 25 120
Grapes, average 59 120
Orange, average 40 120
Peach, average 42 120
Pear, average 38 120
Prunes, pitted 29 60
Raisins 64 60
Watermelon 72 120
Baked beans, average 40 150
Blackeye peas, average 33 150
Black beans 30 150
Chickpeas, average 10 150
Chickpeas, canned in brine 38 150
Navy beans, average 31 150
Kidney beans, average 29 150
Lentils, average 29 150
Soy beans, average 15 150
Cashews, salted 27 50
Peanuts, average 7 50
Spaghetti, white, boiled, average 46 180
Spaghetti, wholemeal, boiled, average 42 180
Green peas, average 51 80
Carrots, average 35 80
Parsnips 52 80
Baked russet potato, average 111 150
Boiled white potato, average 82 150
Instant mashed potato, average 87 150
Sweet potato, average 70 150
Yam, average 54 150
Hummus (chickpea salad dip) 6 30
Honey, average 61 25

Wedding fever!

place settingNothing can disrupt a run of clean eating like a wedding. And in the past fortnight I’ve had two.

That said, I’ve had two pretty perfect weekends, so sacrificing my health streak (or maybe just suspending it temporarily?) was certainly worthwhile.

First, it was the wedding of my pseudo-cousin and life-long, lovely friend, Laura, to her perfect partner Ed.

The wedding was at a beautiful country house in the Shropshire countryside, with a warren of elegant rooms and a beautiful garden, stocked full of vegetable produce. The ceremony was in a chapel in the garden, decorated with gorgeous flowers and with a roaring open fire.

Laura looked so, so beautiful as she approached the chapel with her dad, my uncle John, and I was so happy for her and for Ed that I cried even before she had made it down the isle (much to R’s amusement).

L E and JThe whole day was utter bliss – romance, great company, delicious vegan food and then lots and lots of dancing! All of our family was there and it was so wonderful to be able to share such a perfect day all together.

R’s mum was down for the wedding and she stayed with us at my parents’ house, which was only a short drive from the venue. On the Sunday morning after the wedding we went on a lovely little walk to blow away the cobwebs and she told me about her new fitness tracker and app.

She has a watch-like tracker which not only acts as a pedometer but also tracks general activity levels and sleep patterns. It feeds back the data to your phone where you can set targets and reminders so that you don’t remain inactive for too long at a time.

me and rsUnsurprisingly I wanted one immediately. However, R has become quite adept at moderating my whims, so while I was dissuaded from instantly getting onto Amazon to buy this new fitness gadget, what it did inspire me to do was re-install MyFitnessPal, which I’ve not used for a few months, and get back in control of my eating and exercise balance.

It was a good week to restart my healthy eating as the following Saturday I was due to be bridesmaid for one of my oldest friends, Fin to her high school sweetheart, Tom.

I headed back to my parents’ house again on Thursday evening so that I could help out with the decorating of the village hall on Friday.

s and tThe reception was in a beautiful hall on the Staffordshire Moorlands and we spent the day putting up pom-poms, rearranging furniture, covering chairs, setting out and laying tables, folding napkins and organising flowers. When we had finished the hall was utterly transformed.

The wedding day was heavenly and just flew by! We spent the morning getting ready all together – Fin, our other childhood friend, Lorna, and our fellow bridesmaid, Jayne, along with Fin’s parents.

The wedding itself saw me in tears again (although I just about held it together for my reading!) and then out into the chilly May sunshine for photos.

The evening brought speeches, delicious food and more dancing to the live band!

photo 3I still have a close group of school friends and it was so lovely to all be together and to spend the evening catching up, laughing and dancing until we could dance no more.

After two such perfect (and perfectly decadent) weekends we are back home in London for the Bank Holiday and I’m looking forward to getting back to my Friday night yoga class and Saturday morning Park Run.

Smooth criminal

SmoothieIt was somewhere between cutting up my second kiwi and throwing a handful of ice into the blender that R decided to tell me about the research he’d read on the negative impact that blending has on the nutritional value of fruit; specifically that it increases its GI and, in his words, ‘basically makes it fattier’.

Having committed to my super-green and ginger smoothie by this point I’d be damned if I was going to bin the lot, besides, my cold had been lingering and I wanted the vitamin c boost of the kiwis, but I have to be honest, it didn’t taste quite as virtuous with R’s words still ringing in my ears.

So, as a big smoothie and juice fan I decided to do some research of my own.

It is perhaps unsurprising to hear that the process of blending fruit reduces its satiety levels, while also leading you to consume more fruit than you would normally do in solid form. It is far too easy to drink a couple of kiwis, a banana and a satsuma when blended up, (as I did), and still manage a whole bowl of porridge on top, whereas you would certainly think twice about chomping down the whole lot unblended.

Psychologically, it is much more satisfying to chew and crunch food, rather than to drink it. This act of chewing is the first part of digestion and it is this that starts the release of digestive enzymes, preparing your body for food and telling you that you have begun eating.

Crunch factor aside, smoothies also have a lower satiety level due to the changes in the structure of the fibre in the fruit and the release of sugars that occur when blending. While you may think that if you put an apple into a blender wholesale the fibre content remains much the same before and after blending, in fact the fibre is so finely pureed that its beneficial properties (including the fact that it makes you feel full) are all but lost. What is more, the breakdown of the fruit also results in the sugars being released more quickly, impacting on your blood sugar and insulin levels, giving you the sugar spike and subsequent dip that can make you feel hungry again almost immediately afterward.

In one study comparing calorie intake at a meal following the consumption of an apple, applesauce, apple juice with fibre added and apple juice with no fibre added, the results showed a rather telling story.

In those instances when the subject ate a whole apple before the meal their calorie intake decreased by an average of 15%. For the subjects who consumed the apple sauce pre-meal, their calorie intake decreased by 6%. Those who drank the apple juice with added fibre saw a decrease in calorie intake by 1%, but those who just drank the plain apple juice actually saw an increase total calorie intake by 3%.

So is it all bad news for the smoothie? Not quite.

Firstly if you are having a smoothie, make sure you make your own so that you know exactly what and how much is in it. Focus on water rich fruits and vegetables – carrots, beetroot and cucumber make good additions. To up the satiety levels try adding protein – a nut butter, almond milk, or protein powder – and to prevent the sugar spike and dip add a slow release, low GI carb such as oats.

Smoothies are a great way to get a vitamin hit on the go and, with the right ingredients, a great post-workout refuelling snack, but it is important to regard them as a meal or substantial snack in and of themselves, rather than as an accompaniment to something more.

I’m not ready to give up my smoothie habit yet, but I’ll definitely be thinking more about what goes into them in future!

Silver linings

RunningOk, I’m going to be honest with you: training last week was hard. While I’m normally full of energy and over-enthusiastic about pretty much everything, last week was a struggle and I got into, what Scott Jurek would call, a bit of a ‘funk’.

When I started writing this post I was focusing on all of the negative aspects of last week’s training, however, once I got writing I realised that for every down there was also an up, so this is a bit of a silver linings post for you.

Having been ill the week before last, I decided to delay my week 3 long run from Sunday to Monday, when I clocked up the 11 requisite miles. It wasn’t the fastest I’d ever run, the last couple of miles were tough and my hips were really starting to hurt by the end, however, it was the first time that one of my training runs had taken me into double figures, so I felt proud of the achievement.

On Tuesday I was back in the office and remembering what a 6:20am alarm feels like. I had earmarked this as my rest day and luxuriated in it accordingly.

By Wednesday I was ready to run again and enjoyed just over 6 miles with my running buddies the Twins in Trainers. We went at a leisurely pace and while my time wasn’t great, we did gossip the whole way round and the run felt relatively easy, which was a relief with the memory of the final leg of my long run still playing on my mind. We finished at Bex’s flat, where she took us through a series of yoga stretches for runners, including a really useful variation of downward facing dog, where you push alternate heels to the ground, doing 50 reps overall, which really helps to stretch out your calves – great if like me you are a toe-striker. We also did pigeon pose, which is great for stretching out your hips, (something which I really needed) and cat cow pose, great for gently stretching out your shoulders and back. We followed our yoga session with whole-wheat pasta with a tomato and vegetable sauce, which was hearty and delicious.

On Thursday I ran home from work and was aiming for another 6 miles. I went a slightly convoluted way accordingly, but still only managed to clock 5 miles, which was slightly frustrating. Having realised my shortfall only minutes from my front door I had two options: 1. continue to loop around the streets of Clapham in the freezing cold with my heavy rucksack, which was rubbing my neck raw, or 2. go inside and enjoy a big bowl of delicious New Covent Garden Vegetable and Soupergrain soup. I’m afraid on this occasion it would have taken a stronger person than me to loop around the streets of Clapham for another mile and I chose the latter option.

Friday brought with it a lovely lunchtime run when I went slightly over my 3 mile target with 4.7 miles. My pace was slower than usual, which was a little disheartening, however I was wearing my new bright pink base layer, which R bought for me for Christmas, and which is so bright I can’t help but smile when I wear it! It was also a beautiful day – cold but sunny – and I ran along the river, which is my favourite place to run. Roots and Bulbs

It was R’s birthday on Sunday and I had planned a surprise wine tasting birthday party for him on Saturday night followed by a day of fun activities on Sunday, which would leave no room for training. So I moved my long run to Saturday morning and plotted out a 12 mile route starting at my front door and finishing at Roots and Bulbs, a new juice bar in South Kensington that I wanted to try. Dreading the slog alone, my wonderful running partner Louise joined me from mile 5 in Knightsbridge and we zigzagged through Hyde Park together in the torrential rain and crazy winds. While I had felt ok to start my cold caught up with me in the later stages of the run, making me feel fatigued, snotty and nauseous (sorry to overshare) and by the time we reached mile 10 and Holland Park, I was struggling. However, with a little help from my friend I made it to mile 12 and then enjoyed an all-day breakfast smoothie at Roots and Bulbs as a reward!

Sadly, post-run I was still feeling a bit peaky and really shivery and when I got home I’m afraid all of my smoothie came back to revisit me. Still, once I had been sick for a while I did actually feel remarkably better and managed to pull myself together for an evening of wine tasting (although I admit the wine did hit me rather hard as a result!). So now it’s Monday again and I’m starting another week of training. When I finished my run on Saturday I was afraid that I’d not be ready for the marathon; I was worried that I’m too slow, that I’m not getting fitter, that I’m just not good enough. I felt drained and negative and actually pretty unwell. Then I realised: it doesn’t really matter. Because that’s not why I run. I don’t run to get results, I run because I love it and it makes me a happier, calmer version of myself. I’ll end on a quote from Scott Jurek, which serendipitously I read just after my run on Saturday morning and which could not have been better timed:

Almost every competition runner I know goes through a period when he or she feels like quitting…What is ironic is that the tools that help make an elite athlete – focus, effort, attention to the latest technology – definitely do not provide the answer to getting out of a funk. I find the best way to get your running mojo back is to lose the technology, forget results, and run free…Run for the same reason you ran as a child – for enjoyment. Take your watch off. Run in your jeans. Run with your dog (does he seem worried?)…Run a trail you have never run before. Pick a new goal, race, or a large loop that keeps you motivated to get out on those bad weather days. Do all and any of these things often enough and you’ll remember why you started running in the first place – it’s fun.

Happy running.

Festive indulgences

Christmas pjsEach year I save up my annual leave so I can take the days from Christmas Eve to the 2nd January as holiday and escape the hectic hustle and bustle of London by retreating to my parents’ house.

This is the one time of year when I know my inbox can withstand the break and when I really allow myself to stop, relax and unwind.

As for most people, this period usually involves a number of festive indulgences, from roasted vegetables and stuffing piled high, to glasses of mulled wine at all hours.

However, I’ve come to realise that not all indulgences need to be bad, and this Christmas, particularly as I’m in the midst of marathon training, I’ve been enjoying some healthy treats.

1. Indulging my gym kit habit

running clothes
New Christmas running gear

From running tights to headbands and from warm winter tops to florescent gloves, this Christmas everyone has been helping to feed my sportswear habit.

My favourite new items include my snuggly new Rab running jumper, which has kept me toasty even in the snow, my Sweaty Betty headband, and my new running tights to keep my legs warm on my winter jogs.

2. Satiating my love of cooking

Christmas offers plenty of time and lots of opportunities to try out new, tasty dishes, and since I have been treated to lots of new cookbooks for Christmas I’ve got no excuse not to get into the kitchen!

As part of my New Year’s resolution I’ve decided to try out a new delicious vegan recipe every week or so, the best of which I will share with you here. In the meantime I’m making the most of all of the delicious seasonal fruit and veggies that my mum has bought, including butternut squash roasted with cinnamon, sprouts steamed with dried cranberries and dates stuffed with walnuts, delish!

3. Seasonal snacks

Talking of food, not all Christmas treats have to be bad for you; I’ve been enjoying lots of little satsumas, mixed nuts, dried fruit and chestnuts, all delicious snacks and great for fuelling winter training sessions.

4. Winter pampering

Snowy run
Snowy run with R

With nights drawing in, lots of central heating and chilly winter winds your skin can take quite a battering over the winter months. To counteract the winter ‘grey’ period, my Christmas stocking included an array of new nail varnishes, cotton gloves, face masks, lovely Lush bath bombs and Elemis body washes.

As an extra special treat, my sister and I booked in for a spa day at the beautiful Macdonald Hill Valley Spa Hotel, where we enjoyed two 30 minute treatments each – I had a back massage and a lime and ginger full body scrub – use of the pool, steam room and sauna, and a delicious vegan lunch, all for £55 each – a total bargain!

5. Long, lazy runs

Running with my brother-in-law
Running with my brother-in-law in Hanchurch Woods

Not having to squish my runs into my lunch breaks or my commutes home from work is such a treat. I’ve been staying on target with my marathon training by dragging friends and family members out with me in the snow.

The ice gives a good excuse to take the runs slightly easier and catch up on some gossip on the way round, while at the same time burning off some of those seasonal treats!

6. Pjs and bedtime reading

Snuggling up by the fire in my new Christmas pjs enjoying one of my new books is such a treat and is the perfect way to unwind. My stocking included ultramarathon runner and vegan Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run and Runner’s World journalist Alex Hutchinson’s What Comes First, Cardio or Weights? both of which I will be reporting back on!

7. Movies with my mum

Curling up with my kitty
Curling up with my kitty

Watching movies with my parents is one of my favourite holiday pastimes. Curling up on the sofa together to watch anything from Bridget Jones’ Diary to Casablanca with a hot drink and my kitty on my knee is absolute bliss!

What are your holiday indulgences?