Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Why a Juicer Might Just be Your Best Ever Staple Beauty Buy..

I will be reviewing Jason Vales 7lbs in 7 days juice plan, and its effectiveness not just in terms of weight loss, but also general health benefits. Juicing has been revered widely for its miracle properties, reportedly curing many terminal illnesses and diseases across the world. I am fascinated by this intriguing prospect and by the seemingly magical nature of its consumption, and have subsequently been seduced into what I truly believe will be a lifelong relationship with my juicer. It's hardly a new idea, juicing has been highly praised in many cultures over thousands of years, yet we are just beginning to take notice in the western world.

My aim here is to explore not just the benefits of juicing, but the lasting effectiveness of maintaining weight loss or health benefits over longer periods of time. My personal experiences can hopefully shed some light on this, as well as attempt to explain how it all works!

What do you need?

  • A juicer - I bought a Phillips juicer for about £40 
  • The Jason Vale book, or you can also buy the JV app on an iphone or get it on googlebooks for about £5. My Phillips juicer actually came with the book.
  • Lots of fruit and veg ingredients, including a lot of green 'stuff'!
  • Straws - you do need to protect your teeth as there is a lot of acidity in the juices.

 The concept - you drink nothing but juice for 7 days.

On a first glance, this seems irresponsible. Be prepared for a lot of blank faces when you try to explain why you are not partaking in the staff lunch/birthday meal celebrations/sunday lunch with your parents, and the inherent urge to try and explain yourself. I originally tried this several years ago, but because I did not read the accompanying book by Vale, I had a sense in the back of my mind that I could not survive without food, and I failed.

The truth is though, you can. Having attempted this again last August, my whole mindset was totally different, because I read the book first. You are still eating food, to the value of at least 1,200 calories, and probably far more nutritional food for that matter than you are likely to find in the average diet.

The book isn't exactly a literary genius, but to give credit to Jason Vale, he does help you to understand the science behind it and the reasons why juicing has such a phenomenal effect your body. Surprisingly, the majority of the juices are very nice, even the veggie based ones.

What Happens During the Week?

1. If you can incorporate light exercise, do it. It might seem mad as it feels like you are not eating, but it actually makes you feel better. I've tried the plan both with not exercising, and with exercising, and the latter is definitely a bit easier and keeps your energy levels up.
2. CLEAN YOUR JUICER straight after using it. It's incredibly hard to clean it once the fruit has hardened. May sound obvious but I learned this the hard way!

Day one - I miss chewing food. I am anxious that I am going to be hungry, but actually, I'm not. Several of the juices include blending avocado etc, and I actually find them to be quite thick and filling. I don't like the taste of the Spirulina (which does give you your all important vit B), but otherwise actually found the juices to be very tasty.

Day two - I struggle to get up in the morning, but know that if I don't, I won't have time to make all the required juices for the day (and I don't want to be cleaning my juicer twice in one day!) Mentally, I find myself battling with it at this point. I am tired. Exercise brings my energy levels up. I have a plentiful supply of juice and didn't feel hungry at all. 2/3lb is banished by the end of the second day.

Day three - I wake up and a strange thing happens. I don't have a 'sleep hangover' (you know, where you want to roll over and give yourself 10 more minutes). I am raring to go. I feel really good - which makes me realise that what I eat generally perhaps weighs me down/makes me tired. I seem to have dropped about 4lb on the scales, too. The Lemon Ginger Zinger is really tasty (I love ginger, though, so it may not be to everyone's tastes). The 'Passion 4 Juice Master' is also a personal favourite, which includes bio yoghurt.

Day four - I still miss and crave food occasionally, but more out of habit than hunger. However I remind myself that it's ONLY seven days and the scales have now dropped an further pound. My energy levels are soaring which makes me struggle a bit with sleeping, but the exercising helps with that. I actually start to find that I no longer even really need to drink all of the juices, as I feel full before I've finished them.

Day five & six - I'm getting so much done at work. I'm looking forward to chewing something again, but otherwise, I'm not too fussed. I have to attend a work meal, and I'm dreading it. I find it really hard to resist/explain myself, as the social eating scenarios are the worst. 'What do you mean you're not eating?' colleagues say in disbelief, trying to get me to break, but I can't launch myself into a lecture on nutrition right now. I explain myself as basically as I can, they leave me to my soda and lime, and let me get on with it. It's not as bad as I thought.

Day seven - Weirdly, I feel by this point, that I could keep going on longer. I feel a sense of achievement that I've nearly made it, but also a desire to keep on eating and juicing so that I continue to feel great after the week is over. I have lost half a stone (7lb) in weight. As an added bonus, the pesky migraines that had been plaguing me for several weeks are now completely gone. My skin is glowing, and my eyes are shining. Everyone keeps asking me what new beauty product I am using on my skin.

Once you reach the seven days, the likelihood is that you will want to keep eating well. You don't actually miss pizza anymore. Spinach is oddly appealing. And if you're like me, and still need a bit of discipline, Jason Vale has a follow on '14 day plan', which is a helpful next step to start introducing the right foods back into your diet.

I continued the follow on plan for 11 days, incorporating a juice in the morning, a power salad for lunch or power sandwich, and one of the many recipes provided in the evening. They were really tasty, my favourites being the 'fish and chips' with sweet potato chips, or the pesto pasta concoction. The basic principles are to cut out bread, refined sugar and white pasta, and go for healthier subsitutes. The only troublesome bit was the recommended exercise twice a day, which I thought was a bit unrealistic, so I didn't do it. I would advise that you order the google books version of this if you decide to use it, as they seem to exclude some of the best recipes in the app. I didn't follow the plan religiously, but the following 11 days were easy in comparison to the first week, and I lost a further 7lb.

What's so important here, is that if you attempt this plan, you should make the juices yourself.  It's so tempting to order ones that are ready made and delivered to your door, especially when you have a busy lifestyle. I tried one of these ready made plans with a company after buying a Groupon, and it was a totally different experience. I was constantly hungry, it tasted like there were added sugars (which defeats the purpose of cutting out the bad stuff). Plus, it's by far cheaper to buy all the fruit and veg off the market, and you'll be able to continue to use the juicer once you're finished the plan.

But does the weight really stay off?!

It was at this point that I then set off on a mini tour of the East Coast for 3 1/2 weeks (see previous 'Hooters Mission' blog post :). If anything would test the tenacity of my weight loss, a visit to the US and lots of drinking and cheese burgers would. I nervously returned to the scales on my return, tail between my legs, with one eye closed. I had indeed regained 5lb, and figured that this was a fair deal. But here's the interesting part, I reverted to eating relatively normally (not quite as well as before) and the 5lb dropped back off within two days.

Here's my theory as to why this happened; the body, when it gets used to a certain weight for a long enough period of time, 're-sets' itself at that level, and tends to work towards keeping you there. Despite my self sabotage, my body reverted me to the level it had grown used to whilst eating well.

They say if you do anything for 21 days it becomes a habit, and true to form, you actually do incorporate certain changes as a natural part of your lifestyle. I still indulge myself and have bad weeks, but generally I make more conscious choices, I make juices fairly often for breakfast, swap white pasta for brown pasta, white potatoes for sweet potatoes, and enjoy the odd salad out of choice. Juicing also arguably helps you to maintain weight loss because it changes the way your body digests food and makes it more efficient, flooding it with 'good' enzymes, which help you to process your food much, much easier.*

Repeating the process

5 months later, the weight had stayed off at 10st 5 (and 5ft 9) , but I still felt I wasn't at my target weight. I decided to take the juice detox again in December during a 'slow' week at work. I lost another half a stone and have continued to maintain that two months on, without any real difficulty, even over the xmas and new year period, which I have to admit I am surprised about! I keep juicing, though not always every day, and it makes such a difference to my energy. It's great for keeping your skin and hair looking good, too.

For me, the juicing has been life changing and has taken a stone and a half of weight off me, and kept it off, even when I have taken breaks and indulged in the odd camembert/pizza/drinking session. I don't feel like I'm dieting in the slightest. The whole experience has also inspired me to start a nutrition diploma, so I can understand more about foods and how they affect the body.

I hope this review has been helpful! If you have experiences of the 7 day juice diet, please do feel free to share them as I'd love to know how others get on, too.

Alice x


Saturday, 4 January 2014

The Hooters Mission - An East Coast Adventure

Happy New Year!

No doubt, you will have been contemplating your own adventures this year. This year, my 'resolution' is to visit somewhere new every month. I thought I'd start as I mean to go on by posting about one of my most recent little adventures.

It all began at a hangover inspired visit to Hooters in Nottingham early last year. Myself and my other half, Trig, pondered that it was strange that there was only one Hooters restaurant in the UK, which is seen by us Brits as relatively seedy, when in the US it is a family friendly, Sunday outing type of a business. Whilst looking on the back of the menu, we noticed a list of Hooters in America, and we resolved there and then, that before the year was out, we would conduct ourselves a little east coast Hooters tour.
Learning to make a a conch salad, The Bahamas
Now, I am a thrifty traveller. I love planning my next adventure, but as I'm on a limited budget, I have to be resourceful in how I plan my journeys. Our master plan eventually took us from the UK to Oslo, New York, Miami, The Bahamas, Orlando, Mexico, an unexpected stop in Germany and then home, for around £1300 each, with accommodation and flights. The following narrative of pictures should give you an idea of how this all unfolded, and whether we achieved our Hooters mission!

First on the itinerary was Olso - where we stayed for one night in a hostel, flying on Ryanair for a bargain £20 each. For us, it made sense to break the journey to New York by stopping here, because it's cheaper to fly to New York from Scandinavia. Plus, we loved the prospect of being able to explore Oslo! It is not a cheap city, a beer might set you back 10 euros, but everything seems almost clinically perfect. We were there on a sleepy Wednesday night, so we decided to chill out and get up early to do a bit more daytime exploring. Our highlight was definitely Vigeland Park, which is full of 'angry baby' statues.

Famous angry baby statue, Vigeland Park Oslo, Norway.

Our first 'Hooters' pit stop was in New York - where we stayed for five nights using Airbnb is great because you save a shedload of money and get to stay with real people, and as long as you do your research, usually with a better standard of living than most 3/4 star hotels.  It cost us £150-200 for both of us for 5 nights, instead of the £600 we were being quoted for Manhattan hotels. We stayed with a lovely man called Richard and his three cats in his quirky vintage apartment on 151st street. Richard used a gay flag as a tee towel and was fabulous in every possible way. He gave us great advice in regards to visiting the East Village in lower Manhattan. The East Village reminded me a bit of a really lovable eccentric lady with an elixir of vintage smells on her dressing table. It was enchanting, with fairylit bars with chalkboards for tables, and eclectic vintage shops. Trig found some 'New Kid on the Block' trading cards and was over the moon for the remainder of the day. We loved the vibe of it and wished we could have spent more than one afternoon there, but there was just far too much to cram into five days.
'Barcade' in Brooklyn - hours of fun on old arcade games whilst drinking vodka!
Messing around with chalkboards
Well that's not very nice :(

I of course, being a huge Beatles fan, had to find Strawberry Fields in Central Park, so dragged Trig round looking for that (is just a park really, but still)

We got a Mets ticket for $10 on Groupon.. which was great till I remembered I hated heights. And couldn't reach our seats (at the top)

The Ghostbusters building!

Jackson's Hole.. where we learnt that pancakes were certainly not the 'healthy option' in New York

Our apartment block

And of course... Hooters NY. The first bar in America to not ID both of us. God bless.


Our flight to Miami was cinched on Jetblue for a bargain £60 each, considering it's a three hour flight. Jetblue has to be the American equivalent of Ryanair except they are nice to you, they give you leg room and peanuts, and a complimentary drink. Trig has to sit on the aisle seat always, because his legs are longer than most of my body, but on Jetblue he had the window seat and still had leg circulation.  We actually stayed in South Beach in a hotel for a few nights, which was good - especially the free happy hour drinks which all the hotels seem to do round there, but we couldn't help but miss Richard a bit and his quirky cats.

 Trig, who got mistaken for Russell Brand at least 20 times in the three and a half weeks we were there.

Trigs birthday night out - we managed to wangle an all you can drink and went to 'The best club in South Beach'. Dunno about that but at the end of this night I was very ill in the cab. Oops. 

Yes, there is a hand growing out of my head.

The digs of someone famous.
Trig decided to do a spot of jet skiing - which I abstained from (due to still recovering from above mentioned drunken cab experience) and we hung out in great bars like 'Teds Hideaway' - which must be the most chilled bar in SB area. Everyone seemed overly cool and we enjoyed pretending we were too, but could probably only keep that up for a maximum of 3 days before blowing our cover, so it was a good job we were off again. We found a Hooters downtown and went and sampled the house white and patted ourselves on the back for still having some money in the bank, Miami is not the cheapest of places. Once again we were met with friendly faces and made to feel right at home.

Try the hot sauce..

Hooters have apparently not extended their chain to the Bahamas, so our next stop was a bit of a detour. We stayed with a local filmmaker on airbnb for around £120 in central Nassau. This was great for Trig because he is a film buff, and they got on like a complete house on fire, whilst I stood awkwardly with my very meager knowledge of 'cult classics' such as 'Mean Girls'. Airbnb again came up trumps against commercial resort alternatives. We sought solace almost immediately in a local pirate pub back on Nassau and met a guy called Dave, who became our unnofficial (slightly merry) tour of the Island. He gave us some sound advice of which parts of the island to avoid, which we were pretty grateful for. I would have probably wandered 'over the hill' none the wiser, which is where tourists apparently get kidnapped. Thanks, Dave! That night, we also wandered over to the fish fry, and I had the best seafood of my life.
Our lovely local tour guide, Dave

The local fish fry, on our hosts advice, and found the most amazing restaurant. We had this perfect view over the sea with a sunset and really fresh grouper!

The Bahamas is made up of around 700 small islands and coves. The ultimate dream would be to get a sailing license, charter a boat, and roam the seas.. but that's one for the future maybe. Turns out, travelling from island to island in the Bahamas isn't all that easy by boat. The cheapest way is to fly, despite it being a collection of islands close together. In the end, due to it being a short stay, we opted just to visit Exuma island, on a 'Powerboat Adventures' tour. We took a 2 hour trip to a private island and back, and were given all the drinks we could muster, breakfast and a BBQ lunch. The day was packed with activities, such as feeding the iguanas and stingrays, and watching the sharks being fed (it is probably better that someone else does it!) In the afternoon we also did some snorkeling with the sharks, too. Apparently this is one of the few places in the world you can do this safely and not be in a cage. I am terrible at swimming, and by this point, I was also quite drunk on cocktails, yet surprisingly I actually managed two rounds of this. However,  I swam so slowly the whole group was miles ahead of me, and it did occur to me during the second journey that in shark infested waters this may not be the best strategy.
'Alright mate'
Feeding the sharks!
Not sure what this island was called, so we'll go with 'Monkey Island'

Feeding the Iguanas

Too many rum cocktails..

The hugely anticipated Orlando was fairly easy to reach from Nassau. I had promised Trig that at least one day of this visit would involve a water park. I initially informed him that Disney would also be on the itinerary, having never experienced the joys of Micky and Minnie up close, however, common sense kicked in and I realised that Universal was the obvious choice. Ok, Moes Tavern and Harry Potter world swayed it for me. We seemed to time it perfectly, because we managed to get round both Universal parks in one day as it was during term time.

Enjoying a nice, cool Duff.
Harry Potter World, Diagon Alley. Try the butter beer!
Seaworld, Orlando. Bit chilly.

In the evenings, we checked out a few Orlando drinking spots and found a blues bar, which was good fun. We also found an ice bar - but I was only dressed in a t-shirt so in retrospect wasn't the smartest of ideas. Still, they gave us furry coats and gloves, so we survived.

Ice King.
In a contrast to the Bahamas, there seemed to be very many 'Hooters' restaurants in Orlando. We stopped for a few stiff drinks and to congratulate ourselves (and our livers) on making it this far. It occurred that Hooters do all look the same, so Trig came up with the genius idea of purchasing merchandise to prove that we'd made it. He insists to this day that he has no idea where the orange hot pants went. This is a great idea, however, having spent several weeks now on American sized portions, it's slightly awkward answering the tiny Hooters lady when she asks.. 'So are you a small... medium, or large?'. Buying a Hooters t-shirt feels a bit like saying to them 'Look, I'm just like you!' then slinking into your chair and demolishing your Hooters cheeseburger and overly large pint. Still, I recovered the evidence, and then we scarpered and had ourselves some full fat ice cream in a Denny's.

Evidential proof.

I was so excited about visiting Mexico at the end of our trip, it made the fact that it was the end not seem so bad. We decided to do half of the stay in an airbnb in 'real Mexico' in Puerto Morelas for two nights for both of us, and spend the other half in the Cancun hotel zone in an all inclusive hotel. I have to admit, by this point, despite being a sworn hater of 'staying in the hotel' and not exploring, I was kind of okay after weeks of traveling with just chilling out indoors and drinking lots of cocktails on the private beach. We met some amazing people from Chicago, who we hung out with in the beach side restaurant, downing tequilas and exchanging anecdotes. We also met an Opera singer called Matt, who had traveled down on his own. Matt, Diane and Bernard genuinely made our holiday and it was lovely spending time with them.

The lovely Diane and Bernard.
Shopping in Downtown Cancun
Private beach
'Little Havana'
Puerto Morelas was real Mexico, about an hour away on the bus from Cancun, and a far cry from the safety and comfort of the 'hotel zone'. It featured mexican huts, $1 tacos and a distinct lack of english speakers anywhere, which forced us to use our broken spanish. I always find this brings out your creative side, by gesturing swimming movements when trying to ask for bottled water, for example.  It also always makes me feel slightly embarrassed that I haven't invested enough time in learning other languages. We stayed in a kind of tree house airbnb, with friendly owners who gave us fresh coconut and had chihuahuas.

Unfortunately, due to getting far too merry on the hotel rum for three days we still felt we had missed out by not checking out the Cancun nightlife. Also, after one night in the tree house, Trig got bitten so many times he turned a bit scarlett. So on night two of our 'real Mexican adventure', I am a little ashamed to admit, we went back downtown, hit our last 'Hooters' target off the Cancun list and decided to spend $20 on a downtown Cancun hotel room and party to the early hours in Coco Bongos.

English menu.

poor thing.
he ate it and then downed a tequila. When in Rome..

Coco Bongos is a 4000 capacity club theatre venue, and we'd heard so much about it, so kind of felt the need to visit. We went on a Tuesday night, and wangled all we could drink for $20 each at the bar across the road, then free entry into the main club whenever we wanted to, which by anyone's standards is a bloody good deal. All bar fees seem to include all inclusive drinks in this part of the Cancun area.  The bar we were all inclusive in was great fun, the owners really came up with ways to entertain and we engaged in at least one tequila ending congo line.

This didn't help the next day, when arriving at the airport with a sore head, discovering our flight was 2 hours delayed, then learning that our airline had gone bust 6 months before and neglected to inform us that our tickets were invalid. Confusing really, because they had been taken over by their Spanish counterpart with the same name and logo, and for all intents and purposes, it looked like the identical same flight and flight carrier. They told us it was £1500 each for a new flight.

 By 11pm, we were exhausted. Luckily, we got off the bus and got immediately led down an alleyway to a hotel called 'Hotel Allan' - (Trigs real name), for $15 a night, which we took as a good omen. After some searching, a useless phone call to the British Embassy, much crying, and numerous frantic calls to our parents, I used my thrifty skills on skyscanner to find us £400 flights to Frankfurt.  Needless to say, we frequented the airport bar and the following 10 hour journey was a drunken state of pure relief.

Can't help but feel a bit hard done by on the difference in measures here.

We did attempt to venture out for the few hours we had between our flight from Frankfurt to London, and had a frankfurter hot dog, which we felt was an imperative consolation prize.

After much research, we surmised that Hooters is indeed a lot of fun. We see absolutely nothing wrong with attractive ladies serving burgers and can now see why it's a family friendly affair in the US. That is our official report. We'd also recommend the platter of mini burgers.

Thank you for reading about our little adventure and please feel free to share information about adventures of your own! We're now planning a trip at the end of January to Lapland, to a remote part of Karesuando, where we are hoping to see the Northern Lights. A slightly different experience perhaps but one that we hope will be filled with husky rides, reindeers and warm drinks! I can't even handle the cold feeling when emerging from a bath into a chilly room, so keep your fingers crossed for us.

Alice x