31/05/2018

LIFESTYLE | Four Steps to a Healthy Life

I'm not exactly a fitness guru, but being healthy is definitely easier than you think.

In January 2017, I decided to be healthier. This decision came after the realisation that I was making the wrong choices when it came to my lifestyle: before then, I had stopped working out, didn't do any exercise at all since I went to work by car, I ate whatever I wanted without being sensible, I went to bed really late and was dead tired by 3pm the next day - not to mention the number of hours I wasted on the weekends by waking up at 11am. One could say I was losing control, and that reflected a lot on my general health and the way I saw myself.

Came the New Year, I decided to make improvements, step by step, and thanks to motivation and the positive effects I started seeing, I have turned these improvements into habits and I can happily say more than one year later that I feel healthier than ever and would never go back. 
There are so many positive outcomes in embracing a healthier lifestyle in an easy, achievable way - I'm not advising you to lift weights every day and live on coconut water and avocado, far from it! I just thought I would share with you the tips and tricks that work for me and make me feel the difference. 

GET YOUR BODY MOVING AND EXERCISE
On this one, I will be very blunt: when I say exercise, I don't mean take the stairs instead of the lift or go for a twenty-minute walk every day. I mean put some music on, find some fitness exercises that are achievable at your own level and put the effort in. If you want to feel the change, you have to sweat it out. I used to hate sports and avoided PE at school at all costs, but I find that fitness has really made my mindset improve and I have become much stronger physically as well as mentally. It's one of those things that shows that making effort and pushing yourself really does make a difference and changes you for the better. 
I would advise to work out three times a week - cardio, yoga, weights, pilates, kickboxing, dance classes... do what you feel the most comfortable with. However stick to a routine, add your workouts to your to-do list, and you'll quickly form a habit that you'll look forward to every time. Fitness is also such a stress-reliever, and you can see the progress on your body as well - I have never felt stronger, and I feel it doing simple things like lifting heavy bags or walking up a hill. Every physical effort has become much easier, and all thanks to working out. I couldn't recommend it more.

BE MINDFUL OF WHAT YOU EAT
I do really believe that we are what we eat. The better our diet, the better our health gets. Make easy changes like limiting fried and processed food, but also snacks that have no nutritional value (as much as I love crisps, they really don't fuel the body!) as well as fizzy/sugary drinks and alcohol. Easy changes, and again once you create a habit, you will never look back. 
My favourite tip would be to think about macros when you cook or plan meals. In short, macros are how much carbs, protein and fats there are in what you eat. Also have a look at the amount of sugar you are consuming. You don't need to measure these macros, nor do you need to count the calories or look at the scale; just think about whether a dish balances out all these elements to figure if it's healthy or not. Of course always go for lots of fruit and vegetables, but make sure you get enough protein too - especially if you work out. 

Some of my favourite foods to have as part of my diet are: peanut butter (don't be afraid of healthy fats), broccoli, grapes, nuts, wholemeal bread, eggs, tomatoes, rice, chicken and turkey... Whole, natural products are the best but you can also find some helpful alternatives like frozen veggies or ready-made vegetarian burgers and so on. Mindful eating does not equal restriction - I eat peanut butter every single day and will never feel guilty for it! It has just become a healthier, more natural swap for plain, dairy butter. Also, always look at the ingredients list when you buy something. You never know what crap industrials can put in what seems like the most inoffensive foods!


LOOK FOR INSPIRATION BUT REMEMBER TO KEEP IT REAL
There are hundreds of fitness/healthy lifestyle inspiration accounts on all platforms: YouTube, blogs, Instagram and so on. I find that finding inspiration in other people's journeys and mindsets is important, because it shows you that you are not alone and other people are doing the same thing, going through the same thought process and they will maybe give you ideas for recipes, workouts and tips. I mainly go on Instagram to find women who promote healthy lifestyles, my favourite is Louise from My Better Self - she posts in English (and French!) to motivate you to make changes and embrace the lifestyle that will make you feel healthier and happier. However, and this ties in with my next point: she keeps it real and speaks up about issues that you might encounter in the world of healthy living: body image, the pressure of social media, being too hard on yourself, and so on. She also gives yummy meal ideas and shows that healthy living doesn't mean eating salad all day every day.
Keeping it real is very important: the pictures you see online are made to fool you. Even the healthiest person on earth can have cellulite, looks bloated after a meal, has dark circles and eats fast food once in a while. I feel like there is an "all or nothing" mindset online that always pushes you to be perfect in all you do. Truth is, nobody is perfect and no matter how perfect people look on their pictures, their stomach's aren't flat all the time, and they probably have a few stretch marks. Their thighs do the annoying spread thing just like all of us random people, and when they're in a hurry mid-week their plates look like they've just thrown a bunch of veggies and chicken together. Because real life is not what you see on Instagram. But finding like-minded people can definitely help and motivate you.

ENJOY EACH STEP OF THE JOURNEY
Making these changes shouldn't be a chore. If you dread the thought of working out at the end of the day, then this workout is not for you - try out something else and see what works. If you hate carrots, don't force yourself to eat carrots. Have something else instead. If you're not ready to wake up earlier on the weekends because having a lie-in is your favourite thing to do, then it's okay to stay in bed until 10am. Find your rhythm, turn my advice into your own thing so maybe you can share about your experience too. And bear in mind that changes in health can take time - every little step you make now will be rewarding as you go, and you will probably notice it only when you look back. 
Is there a trend at the moment about being healthy and working out? Yes. But does healthy living have benefits? Also yes. Sometimes, trends can actually be meaningful if you take them to your advantage and use them to grow as a person. A healthy mind and a healthy body can never be out of style, right?

Are there any healthy tips or advice that you apply to your everyday life?
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19/05/2018

TRAVEL | A Travel Guide to Naples and Pompeii, Italy


This is a long one, but if you ever visit Naples, you need to be prepared. Trust me.

If you've been following me for a while, you'll know I love Italy and I go there whenever I have a chance. Some weeks ago I shared with you my daytrip to Positano. Today, let me share about my experience in Naples, which was our base during the trip. I went to there with two of my very good friends - we've travelled around together before, and went to Sicily a couple years ago which we loved.

This year, we settled for Naples, a historic city south of Rome, with plans of visiting the infamous Pompeii and its volcano, the Vesuvius. This post will be a long one since there's a lot to say and I've gathered so much advice to share.
Before I start with my tips and tricks, I need to write a little disclaimer: Naples is a messy city. It's chaotic, raw, loud, there is smoke in the air and motorcycles will probably almost knock you over if you're not careful. Naples is not a destination for everyone - in fact, I think it's actually a destination that only very few people would thoroughly enjoy. Personally, I felt very unsafe on the first day we arrived, but after having a couple days to adapt, I felt much better and more comfortable walking around the city. At any rate though, if you plan a visit to Naples, make sure you don't take valuable belongings with you and try to avoid the 'tourist look' - in some parts of town, Neapolitans will single you out straight away and you will get looks and stares.


The main thing I was excited for about going to Naples was visiting Pompeii, which I already went to seven years ago (time flies!) and absolutely loved. 

POMPEII, THE MUST-SEE
Do I even need to introduce Pompeii? The vast, impressive Roman settlement was frozen in time following the eruption of the Vesuvius in 79 AD, and left to us are the remains of beautiful, complex buildings, mosaics, paintings, statues - and of course corpses - that give us a glimpse into the lives that the people of Pompeii, rich and poor, led. I strongly advise that if you are in the area, you visit Pompeii - if you're not familiar with its history, you should 100% get an audio guide or a guide who will talk you through the most important points to know about the city. The site is incredibly large, so make sure to arrive early and you will probably spend the day there. You can take food with you, but there is a restaurant on site and a lot of public fountains with drinking water available. 
When you get there, your map in hand, the ancient town is yours to explore... Always with the terrible Vesuvius in sight.



Since Pompeii is such a big space - and is composed of a lot of bricks and semi-destroyed walls, I've put together a little list of the most interesting sights there, for those of you who want to go straight to the point and avoid random walking around:
- the Cave Canem ("beware of the dog") mosaic,
- examples of termopolia, which are basically antique fast food shops. Spot them by the counters in which round crates are built in - that's where the takeaway food was preserved for people to come in a buy. See, we haven't invented anything - name something, the Romans made it!
- the House of the Faun, with its beautiful impluvium and gardens,
- the Villa of the Mysteries, famous for its beautiful and intriguing painting which depicts a mysterious ritual,
- the House of the Vettii, for its wonderful, bright paintings,
- the House of the Small Fountain (Casa della Fontana Piccola), which as the name says houses a beautiful fountain covered in well-preserved, colourful mosaics.
I could go on forever about what to see in Pompeii, but my biggest advice would be to go there for yourself and spend time exploring the ruins, which seem surprisingly familiar and let History speak for itself.


How to get there: take the Circumvesuviana train line from the Garibaldi station, to the stop Pompeii - Villa dei Misteri. 
Tickets: 15€, half price if you are a EU national under 25 years old. Make sure to buy the tickets on site, don't get them through other ticket offices around the station.


NAPLES: MUSEUMS, PIAZZAS AND THE PORT
Naples feels very overwhelming, and its historic centre is full of narrow streets, churches which you're not too sure you can visit or not, but it also has its fair share of museums and interesting sights. Do not miss the Archaeological museum, which contains one of the most beautiful antique collections I've ever seen, from breathtaking statues to all the beautiful mosaics found in Pompeii, and preserved from rain and decay at the museum. There's also flying penises, if that's what you're into. Crazy how the Romans liked penises. (Never thought I'd ever write that sentence on my blog, but there you go!) I won't include any pictures of that though, and just leave that to your imagination...


The Palazzo Reale is also a beautiful palace to explore. It faces the stunning Piazza del Plebiscito, which is really worth exploring. The Palazzo contains the most beautiful hall and staircase I've ever seen. Even just for that, you should definitely go there.


If you fancy doing some shopping, walk along the Via Toledo, where you'll find Victoria's Secret, H&M, Zara, Lush and all the mainstream shops. While you're there, stop at Casa Infante and get gelato with their signature hazelnut and white chocolate or salted caramel sauce... Best ice cream I've ever had, and ridiculously cheap at 2,50€ for a medium cup. Also look out for the street of love, with its cute messages that will instantly make you smile.


Finally, for those beautiful views of the bay of Naples and the Vesuvius, head to Lungomare, on the west side of the city. It is a beautiful walk near the port, where you'll find lots of restaurants specialised in sea food, and amazing panoramic views on the bay. I would suggest you avoid the bars on the seafront - we had a really bad experience at Rosso Pommodoro, where we got served ridiculous (and disgusting) cocktails after waiting for thirty minutes even though the place wasn't crowded. Restaurants aren't the best feature of Naples I have to say - it is hard to find anything apart from pizza, so do venture into the little streets to find the right place.


From this trip to Naples, I come back with contradictory feelings: I have enjoyed the place, how authentic and raw it is, the glimpse into the real life of the inhabitants. But I would say that if you would like a laid back, safe and stress-free holiday, chaotic Naples is not for you. Let not the bad things prevent you from visiting though - there are some amazing sights and places to discover, and although I might not be going back any time soon, I do not regret stepping into this crazy whirlwind of a city.

Would you visit Naples? Do you want to see Pompeii one day?
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07/05/2018

LIFESTYLE | Real Talk: Tips For A Productive Weekend


The art of getting stuff done even on your days off.

Some lucky people get to spend their weekends relaxing, maybe on a day out or having a crazy night at the club. Others, like me (teacher anyone?) have almost more work to get through during the weekend than they do during the week. But sometimes, making the most of the weekend is difficult, and come Monday, you realise that you haven't done half of what you had planned...
Over the last months, I've become a pro of organisation, and I am successfully managing to complete lots of work at the weekend. In this post, you will find all my tips (practical, straight-forward, simple) to make the most of your weekend if like me, you are drowning in piles of work most of the time because, well, that's how your life is. #busybee

WRITE IT DOWN
Not only are to-do lists satisfying, but they also show the progress you've done throughout the day. Every night, I write up a to-do list for the next day, during the week as well as for the weekend. There are many ways to do this: on a daily planner, on sticky notes, on your phone - once you've found the way that works for you, it'll become a habit that will encourage you to be more productive. 
There are lots of apps you can download to create lists, however I am a fan of paper planners. I got this one in WH Smith, but there are plenty of beautiful designs in Paperchase, Typo, and other stationary shops.
The better you plan your tasks on Friday night (or Saturday morning), the clearer you will feel about what you have to get done over these two days. On Sunday night, you can review your progress, and see what remains to be done on Monday. No more excuses!

SET UP A ROUTINE
Routines and habits are what make you consistent in anything you do. Want to have a healthier lifestyle? Start by setting an exercise and meals routine. Want to start a blog? Start by planning post schedules, photography, publishing. 
Want to have a productive weekend? Set yourself a routine that you will stick to, but allow it to be somehow flexible so you don't feel stuck in it. Always wake up at the same time every weekend, and decide what the first thing you want to do is - I start with a nice hearty breakfast, coffee and a scroll through Instagram. Set up what your first task of the day is going to be. I find that mornings are my most productive moments of the day, so I plan lessons for school in the morning. If you are more productive in the evening, keep your most important tasks for that time of day, and take care of smaller chores in the morning - could be cleaning, laundry, food shopping and so on.
If your weekends are all over the place and you're not sure what time it is anymore, it is likely to mean that you won't get as much done as if you establish a routine aimed at making the most of your time.

MAKE IT FUN
In your weekend daily routine, make sure to include enjoyable breaks, that will give you time to refuel and break down your work. Between two tasks, get a thirty-minute coffee break, allow yourself to scroll down social media (you know you've been dying to for hours.) It is all about control: know when you have to go back to work, and don't fall in the spiral of procrastination. I always find that starting off the day in a good mood makes me ten times more productive, so make sure your morning routine sets you up for the day and that once you get on to your first task, you think 'yes, I can do this.' Have (healthy) snacks at hand, put on some motivating music (I use different Spotify playlists depending on my mood) and find something enjoyable in anything you do. Everything feels much easier when you're having fun!

FIND INSPIRATION
Because weekends are also made to recharge your batteries and relax, remember to create for yourself an environment in which you'll feel inspired, positive, relaxed. Weeks are stressful enough, so make weekends your little bubble of escape. Yes, work's gotta be done, but do it in a more relaxed atmosphere. Fit it a workout session, go for a walk, put up a couple inspirational posters in your room/office area. For me, motivation also comes with being inspired by other people (bloggers, friends), by places (sitting in a cool coffee shop can do wonders for productivity) and just by acquiring that mindset that will motivate you to achieve things. We all have different ways of finding inspiration, so look into what inspires you to find that energy and drive that will help you destroy that to-do list.

How do you manage to be productive at the weekend?
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