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5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste

Plastic is bad for the environment, end of discussion. There's no two ways about it.  Throwing that plastic bottle away or speeding through plastic straws on a night out are only going to end up in landfill that will not decompose properly like natural objects, or worse, end up killing our wildlife on land and in the ocean. As a whole, the world is producing around 300 million tonnes of plastic each year, and where do you think it goes? It doesn't just disappear into thin air. 

We've seen the horrible pictures of turtles getting stuck in the plastic holding cans, and animals being trapped in bits of plastic which will eventually kill them in a way that is horrifically unimaginable, but I bet you weren't thinking of that photo when you chucked that wrapper on the floor? Well things are changing across the world, after Blue Planet 2 and various other campaigns to highlight the damage plastic is doing to the environment, globally we are making a change. It doesn't need to be anything big, just small changes to make a large impact on the world, and here's how to...

1. Soap Bars

Soap seems to be old fashioned these days but it may be wise to swap your plastic bottled hand wash for a standard bar of soap. This means zero waste and usually lasts much longer. Organic health stores and markets often sell soap with paper or zero packaging to help reduce the waste, plus choosing organic, natural products means you know what's going on your skin. 

2. Re-useable Bottles

They're being sold everywhere at the moment so you've got no excuse not to pick up a flask or re-usable bottle to hold hot and cold drinks. Many coffee shops even offer discount on their drinks if you bring a re-usable cup, we're all trying to make the change. If you opt to buy a flask for your hot drinks, you'll be saving a pretty penny making your own hot drinks instead of spending £3 on a coffee every morning. 

3. Buy Un-bagged fruit and veg

Britain are soooo far behind other countries in terms of supermarket packaging. When i've visited Europe and America, standard supermarkets have most fresh products available loose with the option to use a PAPER bag. Sure we can buy loose fruit & veg, but we still have to wrap them in a plastic bag over here. Some organic supermarkets in the UK also offer loose cereals, beans, grains and pulses that you can dispense in your own jars, so simple but makes a big difference. 

4. Get your milk delivered

Milk runs are making a comeback, more and more young people are making an active effort to change their habits to reduce waste and as a result, some careers that were seen to be dying are making a revival, such as this one. Get in contact with your local delivery and check the prices and opt for glass milk bottles instead of plastic. More and more services such as Creamline are extending their services to deliver more local produce, helping the environment and local businesses. 

5. Bring your own bag

We all flew off our handles when the 5p bag came into place, but it really does stop cheap, plastic bags being chucked onto the road and blowing down the street, making our towns look dirty and also harming animals. Every supermarket offers re-usable bags so take advantage, they are usually sturdier and although they may cost a penny more, they'll work out cheaper in the long run. 


5 Factors That Affect Your Gut Flora

What is the Gut Flora

Your gut flora is based in your large intestine and consists of hundreds of different types of bacteria that are alive and doing various jobs in your gut. The gastro-intestinal tract consists of ten times more organisms than the somatic cells in the body, this equates to around 100 trillion, a lot right?

The flora is made up of both good and bad bacteria that do a variety of different jobs such as aiding with digestion, killing harmful bacteria, producing vitamin K and short chain fatty acids. Each different type of bacteria requires different foods and nutrients in order to fuel them to do their job.

However, if dysbiosis occurs (imbalance of good and bad bacteria) this can lead to:
-Insulin resistance
-Weight gain
-Inflammatory bowel disease
-Colorectal cancer

But what defines the type of gut flora we have? Well there are a variety of different lifestyle factors that contribute to it, living a healthy and balanced lifestyle is the best way to keep your flora diverse and happy. However, there are also factors that can make your microbiome worse and lead to dysbiosis.

1. Eating a diverse range of foods

Different types of bacteria require different vitamins and nutrients, therefore you need to be consuming a wealth of foods in order to fuel a variety of different types of bacteria. Changing your diet can change your flora after just a few days, therefore a few days of eating junk and processed food can alter your microbiome quite drastically. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is a great way to help the diversity of your gut flora grow.

2. Prebiotic

Prebiotic is a type of fibre that passes through the body undigested and promotes the growth of good bacteria. You can get prebiotic from a variety of different foods, or prebiotic supplements available from different health stores. Foods that are high in prebiotic include:
Lentils & pulses

Prebiotic supplements promote the production of short chain fatty acids which are the main nutrient for cells in the colon. The absorption of the SCFA into the blood means a healthier gut.

3. Smoking

Smoking is one of the examples of a lifestyle factor that can be harmful for the gut flora. It increases the amount of bacteroides-prevotella which can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, air-borne toxic particles that reach the large bowel can contribute to concomitant increases in inflammatory bowel disease.

4. Stress

Stress has been a big factor in many cases of mental and other health problems recently, and it also contributes to the diversity of your microbiome. It lowers the number of lactobacillus which are extremely beneficial in the flora, it is also a leading cause of IBS and is associated with a changes in the flora via the central nervous system.

There are studies to show that their are links between the gut and brain, therefore changes in the gut can adjust brain activity and lead to changes in mood, autism, and other brain disorders.

5. Exercise

Physical activity is a big contributor to the diversity of the gut, and this doesn't have to mean intense exercise, but simply just moving, going for a walk, doing the gardening etc. Physical activity can increase the levels of butyrate, a short chain fatty acids and athletes have higher levels of Akkermansia, a type of bacteria that helps metabolic health and can help prevent obesity. So as well as the clear benefits of exercise, it can also contribute to a healthier gut.





Staying Motivated in Winter

It's cold, it's dark and even the simplest task of leaving your bed seems like climbing Mount Everest at the moment. So, how are you supposed to stay motivated to keep up your fitness, regime, go to work, eat well and focus on your goals when bed seems like the most viable option? I don't care whether you're a couch potato or Mr Motivator, this time of year is HARD, so I'm going to try and give you some tips on how to keep your spirits high at this time of year...

1. Make a vision board

Nothing gets you feeling pumped like a vision board. Get your favourite magazines, images from online or wherever you can find them and get creative with making something that will keep you inspired. Make sure you place it somewhere in your house where you will see it everyday, that way when you're having a bad day something as small as this will quickly cheer you up when you see what you're aspiring too.

2. Be around friends & family

Especially at this time of year, it's a time to fit in as many social occasions as possible. A lot of us are self-employed these days or are busy trying to build our careers and often forget about other things that arguably much more important. You'll find no greater joy than spending an afternoon with your family, taking your mum out to dinner or meeting friends for a film night, it's occasions like this that we live for. We aren't meant to be alone and isolated and sometimes we get so caught up in our own problems that we forget this, so send someone a text now and enjoy time with loved ones.

3. Set your goals for 2019

It may seem a little early to be thinking about your 2019 goals, but personally I think you can never be too prepared. It really is tough to stick to any goals when it's so close to Christmas, so just give yourself some time to rest and reset so you're ready to kill it in 2019. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, one of life's key quotes.

4. Plan something big

Holidays are the one thing we can all agree on that make us feel good. The thought of remaining horizontal on a beach for 10 days, or exploring beautiful cities are the perfect excuse to work hard in order to celebrate something at the end. You may be stuck for money with it being so close to Christmas, but why not plan your holiday down to the finest detail so you are dedicated to booking it when the time is right. Once you've got this planned, it gives you a date to set your fitness and nutrition goals for.

5. Don't worry about it

Stop stressing about all the things you need to do, it's Christmas after all!


Blacks - This Is My Way

Last week Blacks held an event at their store on Deansgate, Manchester to welcome the launch of their new campaign 'This Is (My) Way', celebrating ordinary women who do the extraordinary and take full advantage of the beautiful British countryside through outdoor activities. 

The event featured games, a pop up photo-booth and a short video and speech from the team and some of the women who took part in the campaign, telling us about why they are so passionate about the outdoors and how it helps them. The first video campaign featured Katie, an Oxford graduate and doctor who has been battling with depression and uses the outdoors as an escape and a place to give herself headspace. Katie has taken part in marathons and triathlons and wants to encourage people to use outdoor exercise to help strengthen the mind as well as the body. 

We had the pleasure of hearing Olivia Wood talk to us about her experience outdoors. She is outdoors in the mountains every weekend, whether that be hiking, camping, cycling or climbing, and she doesn't stop their, taking her 5 year old daughter with her too. Olivia wants to show us that life isn't all about the 9-5 and instead we should be exploring the beauty around us, and encouraging it from a young age. 

My favourite part about this campaign is that it's real women, not athletes or 'insta famous' girls who are paid to exercise and spend time outdoors. No, this is simply about the everyday strong females that take time our of their normal working lives to pursue the outdoors. This makes the campaign so much more accessible to us than most, it's much more inspiring and frankly gave me a kick up the bum to realise that if I want to make the effort to be outdoors more, I can and so can you. The UK has so much amazing outdoor space that so many of us don't take enough advantage of, and maybe 2019 is the year that we begin to do so, I most certainly will be. If you want to know more about the campaign, click here to see all of the campaigns. 



Literally stop what you're doing, stop answering emails as soon as you open your eyes, stop taking up your lunch hour to get some extra revision done, stop scrolling until your eyes start to burn at night. We've become so obsessed with becoming as productive as possible that it's now seen as a taboo to give yourself some time to do something you enjoy and relax. With such an over-productive society, it is more vital than ever that we take time to do nothing with the ever expanding amount of mental and physical health issues we are causing ourselves due to stress and a lack of sleep. But how do we overcome this feeling of guilt? When all we want to do is sit down with a magazine or watch The Simpsons at 6pm? 

Schedule relaxation into your routine 

If you really struggle to squeeze in 5 minutes to yourself then make it part of your routine and schedule it in like anything else. Setting apart a particular spot in the day for relaxation like you would a meeting or work means that you have an allotted time slot for some me time and anything else you need to do can be arranged around it. 

Leave work at the office 

Now that we all have access to our emails from our phones it has become close to impossible to leave work at the office. A lot of job roles these days are digital and therefore work is accessible anywhere and everywhere, but if you're not being paid anymore why should you be doing extra work? No matter what the workload you shouldn't be working outside of your hours as this causes you to overwork which leads to stress and fatigue, so leave work at the office, no buts. 

Is it really that important? 

Do you really neeeeed to do that task? Or can it wait a few hours? Sometimes when we're so tired we become counterproductive and a task that would really take 20 minutes takes 1 hour because you can't concentrate properly. It's times like this when you need to take a step back and think about what is really more efficient, hammering through the work now or taking a rest and continuing later? I know you may be thinking you're in a rush to get the task done, but once your brain is rested and ready to reset, you might just get it done quicker. 

Have a day off 

Just have the day off, no one should be working 7 days a week whether you're employed, self employed or freelance. Give yourself a day where you completely ban yourself from work which will allow your brain to switch off. Maybe even turn your phone off, that way you can't be distracted by emails or social media and instead you spend the day socialising with friends and family. 

It's really not smart or cool to run yourself into the ground, I'm not only telling you guys this but also telling myself. With social media it is really easy to put yourself down and feel as though you're not accomplishing enough, but what you see on social media isn't always true. It's time we all gave ourselves a little time. 


Mackie Mayor: Taking Social Eating to a New Level

If you've ever decided to eat out in Manchester you'll know that the biggest task is choosing where to go. With a huge up and coming dining scene, we have every kind of cuisine to offer, but it makes it a hell of a lot easier to decide when it's all in one place, and that's where Mackie Mayor comes in...

Located on the border of Northern Quarter and Ancoats, Mackie Mayor hosts a variety of different cuisines all under one roof, from Hearty beef meals through to sourdough pizzas and a wine bar. You could spend your whole day from lunch through to dinner wining and dining and trying out a different restaurant each time. Mackie Mayors was conjured up by the creators of Altrincham market, a similar concept based on the outskirts of Manchester in Cheshire. It's child, dog, everyone friendly and has a whole community feel about it when you step inside. The great thing is, it's a place to make you social, set up with rows of benches, you are forced to sit on a table with strangers (a bit like a hipster school hall) and eat, drink and be merry together. 

I've been a few times and opted for a different place each time, most recently I went for La Cucina (Italian) whilst Simon went for Rotisserie, both equally as delicious and serving home-cooked, fresh food that just filled you with content on a cold Sunday afternoon. 

Pork ragu was my choice of dish that day, the best freshly cooked pasta topped with pulled pork in a spicy tomato based sauce and finely grated parmesan to finish it off in true Italian style. Never having tasted a ragu before I didn't know what to expect, I was worried the pork would be too fatty etc, but it was one of the best pork dishes I have ever tasted, whoever thought to put pulled pork with pasta is a genius in my eyes. Simon stuck to a more traditional meal, slow roast pork with roast potatoes (yes, can you see the theme here). I can't comment on how good the meal was, but i'm guessing pretty fantastic if I wasn't allowed much of a taste... Either way the food did not disappoint, and felt us feeling full and ready to brave the Manchester winter weather. 

Next time you're out with friends and can't decide where to eat you now know where to go, with so many different options you can all eat what you like without having to sacrifice for each other. If you want to know more, check out their website here


LA - The City of Dreams

I don't normally write about travel on my blog, but I thought seeing as though it's a subject I enjoy and I hope to do a lot more of it in 2019 that I should probably give it a go. And seeing as though I've still got holiday blues after visiting Los Angeles (a month ago) it's nice to reflect on the good times there instead of looking out at the miserable weather in Manchester.

So what's the big deal...

At first I thought the same thing, my family and other people had bigged LA up to me and when I arrived I couldn't get past the idea that it reminded me of a larger and more built up Spain. And just to get it out of the way now, Hollywood is a rich man's Blackpool. Of course you have to go, you see the stars, visit the Chinese Theatre and rummage in the $5 shops that are everywhere. It's definitely not the best part of the city and it feels a little sleazy, but Hollywood has a certain charm to it and you can't avoid it on your travels.

However, after a day or too things really started to set in for me, I've always had a negative perspective of America, no idea why but it soon started to fade. The thing about LA is that no two places are the same, you visit Venice Beach and it's full of characters roller-staking and dancing about, Beverly Hills is like another world, hosting the shopping central for the rich and famous, and then a drive away you feel like you're in the desert up in the hills. It's definitely a place to go if you like a change of scenery.

The Beach

Santa Monica beach is something like you'd see in an American film, a beach with a long pier filled with rides, food and a whole lot of people. It's got a real buzz about it and of course not forgetting, Bubba Gump Shrimp (if you know you know). So you can either choose to stay here or take a walk along the boardwalk down the rest of the beaches. You'll pass the Santa Monica muscle beach where there's a load of ripped guys climbing ropes and swinging from things, whilst roller skaters and cyclists wizz past you on the path, your eyes honestly won't know where to look.

From here you'll pass by Ocean Beach which probably feels like the most laid back of the beaches with not too much going on apart from plenty of volleyball. If it's a quieter spot your looking for then park yourself here and enjoy the rays. Or if it's a bit of madness you want then you need to keep going until you get to Venice beach. I felt like I was living in a dream, I cannot describe to you in words how whimsical and insane, but totally amazing the place is. There is a large row of shops offering anything from cheap t-shirts to marijuana, just what you need on a day out to the beach! Plus there are plenty of character for you to see, including the guy with the boombox on roller-skates, be sure not to miss him.

The Hikes

With it being surrounded by canyons and hills, there's an endless amount of walks you can find yourself on and never get bored. I took a family walk on the Fern Dell Dr path from Griffiths Observatory down to the drive, a fairly easy walk and suitable for families and beginners (unless you had whining children like we did). You end the walk at a small park which is a way to entice any young people you have with you. 

Next on the list was Runyon canyon, a favourite of most tourists who wish to get a glimpse of the hiking scene over there. If you get it on a good day (which is most days), you'll have to most spectacular view across LA, from the Griffith Observatory, to the Hollywood sign and downtown LA. It's really not to be missed and so worth the sweaty walking you have to do to get there. 

Finally, just before we went home, I had to try and make a trip to the Hollywood sign, unfortunately I didn't quite make it there but got pretty close. We hiked from the Griffith Observatory to the sign, which is pretty damn far, took a few wrong turns along the way but eventually made it just below the sign. I'll have to admit, after 2-3 hours hiking in the blistering sun we decided to take an Uber back down... cheating I know, but SO worth it. 

Everything In-between  

Obviously there is a lot more to LA than just the beaches and hills, they were just my favourite parts, but there is an immense amount of things for anyone and everyone to do, one being shopping...

Los Angeles is the place to be if you want to splash some cash and if you really do have the cash then take it to Beverley Hills and roll down Rodeo Drive. If not, just take a walk down there, it's a beautiful part of the city and there's more than enough to admire. Hollywood is also a great place for shopping, especially the typical tat that we all buy, but my favourite place has to be Melrose Avenue, if you're from Manchester then you'll know what I mean if I say it's the Afflecks of LA. The avenue is filled with quirky shops where you can find almost anything and everything, varying in price range. 

If shopping isn't your thing, then there are more than enough tourist things to do, such as visit the walk of fame, the Dolby Digital Theatre, the Chinese Theatre, Madame Tussaud, Universal Studios (get to Hogwarts) and the Los Angeles zoo. I'd recommend you take one of the hop on bus tours and just see what all the different parts of the city have to offer, because they're plenty to see!