Thursday, 26 September 2013

Alexander Technique Nutrition Exercise

This week the Fit4Free team were introduced to Sandra Waller, Director of the East Anglia Centre for Alexander Technique. Sandra explained how "The Alexander Technique safeguards our future by making us take responsibility for our own health and well-being. The technique improves poise, fitness, body structure and co-ordination leading to more enjoyment of life, which is especially important as we age and become more susceptible to niggling problems i.e. joint and muscle pain, poor digestion and fatigue."

The Fit4Free team were given a lesson on how to sit correctly and learnt that we should never sit with crossed legs nor slumped on our tail bone. Sandra explained "feel beneath your bottom on the seat for the two bony points at the base of your pelvis, these are called sitting bones and sitting on these help to prevent you from slumping and keep your head freely balanced on top of your spine. Sandra emphasised the importance of never bending from the waist as there is no joint in the spine for this - always bend at your hip joints, knees and ankles which work together to move you up and down. "

Interestingly we learnt that our head is the heaviest part of our body weighing between 10 and 16 pounds, and our spine finishes at the point where the middle of our ears are - most people think it finishes at the base of our neck. This is why when balancing it's imperative that the tip of the nose should not be higher than the holes of the ears unless you're looking up to the ceiling. Most people tend to tilt their head back which in turn leads to a totally imbalanced spine thus supressing various joints in the back which then results in pain.

For more details with Sandra contact her on 01245 608268 or email Sessions can be booked individually at £35 but with this feature she's offering 6 for the price of 5.

Most of the Fit4Free team were extremely tired this week so Dave Davis, Personal Trainer of D2Fit gave us a lesson on bone density and how weight bearing exercise can help protect our bones.

"Weight bearing exercise, particularly for older adults is extremely important as both weight bearing and resistance training exercises are vital to improving bone density, preventing osteoporosis and strengthening muscles, ligaments and joints. Using your own body weight to provide resistance such as squats, lunges, walking and skipping is the key to fundamentally protecting your joints, whereas swimming and cycling whilst excellent forms of exercise don't provide this resistance. Using free weights can also boost bone strength, try replacing weights with tinned cans to build up gradually or if you're lucky enough to have an outdoor gym park nearby make use of it. Deciding to get fit and starting a new activity can be daunting, but in the words of Mark Twain "The secret of getting ahead is getting started".

As we were short on time Dave also gave us a quick session on Tabata training - this method involves training at a very high intensity for 4 minutes. The session is broken down into 20 seconds of intense training, followed by 10 seconds of rest and then repeated 8 times. Predominately one exercise is chosen such as sprints, squats or press ups but can be mixed up; the intensity also helps burn calories and helps aid recovery time. Please note that due to the high speed repetitions this method may not be suitable for everyone, so check with your GP or fitness professional first.

Natasha Bartell, the Fit4Free Nutrionist gave the following advice to our volunteers this week.

"Molly has no regular eating pattern and meals are regularly missed. The amount of food consumed is not enough to enable the body to recover from the amount of exercise that Molly does and a poor diet has a negative effect on athletic performance. A healthy diet is one of the most important aspects of body composition so I've encouraged Molly to eat 3 regular meals a day.

Debbie's has a stressful job, young children and her main form of hydration comes from caffeine. This makes the body produce the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol which Debbie didn't realise, so drinking coffee only adds to the stress in your life! I advised Debbie to have a large bottle (1.5litre) bottle of water on her desk as this would remind her to drink.

Sugary snacks are Claire's downfall, and whilst it's important to snack at regular intervals, often her choices sugar laden. I encouraged Claire to either have a protein bar (e.g. Naked, Trek or Bounce Balls), a piece of fruit with a small handful of seeds or a few mixed nuts.

Finally our volunteers gave their verdict on the small changes they've made this week.

Claire says "I've strangely enjoyed upping the exercise and whilst taking it gradually have taken Dave's advice by pushing my heart rate up in bursts. I've focused primarily on swimming and have been alternating between 2 fast and 2 slow lengths.

Debbie says "I've continued with my food diary not as a means of counting calories but to keep my brain focused on what I am eating so I can keep an eye on myself. I've also slowly reduced my coffee intake."

Molly says "I've been trying to reiterate the advice of Sandra Waller to help my back and joint problems, so have been making a mental note to sit in the correct position. I've also been making sure I eat one proper meal a day, be it breakfast or tea.

If you have any queries or tips then get twittering @askmollybeauty #Fit4Free or via email

Editor's Note: - Natasha Bartell's recipe for the week.

Need a sweet fix, try this yummy Banana cake by Natasha.

75gr soft butter plus butter for greasing

4 ripe bananas peeled and mashed up

80gr soft brown sugar

1 egg beaten

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

170gr spelt flour

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4

Use a little butter to grease a bread tin measuring approximately 23cm x 13cm x 6cm. Pour the mashed bananas into a mixing bowl and combine the rest of the ingredients leaving the flour and bicarbonate of soda until last. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes. Allow to cool before serving in slices.

Fit 4 Free part 2 Fitness Nutrition

By the time this goes to print the #Fit4Free campaign will be well on its way and hopefully some of you would've have been inspired to make a few small changes to improve your overall wellbeing. Maybe you're walking that extra 10 minutes a day, putting that extra oomph into hoovering or swapping your packet of crisps for some almonds! If you have decided to give your lifestyle an overhaul I would love to hear from you so get emailing

This week our volunteers were put through their paces with Dave Davis, Personal Trainer with a variety of circuit exercises in the park. Great use was made of cones for markers, benches for tricep dips and chest presses, whilst jumping frog style had us laughing but working our quads hard, it was what exercise should be fun - even in the rain. If you're new to exercise Dave suggested the following:-

"Taking the first steps into exercise can be daunting and this can lead to a catch 22 situation of feeling I'm not fit enough to train, therefore we don't train and in turn we never do feel fit enough - everyone has to start somewhere. The person walking at a snail's pace will lap the person sitting on the couch - it's about working within your own abilities and seeing those abilities improve. For example:-

· Try using the stairs instead of the escalator or lift;

· When walking keep the pace up, you should be walking fast enough so that you can just hold a conversation;

· Get off the bus a stop early."

I also had some brilliant tips from mum and avid Essex Go reader Sue Skirrow of Braintree.

· If it's raining stay indoors and put on some music, dance with your kids for half an hour and make it fun by seeing who can do the craziest dance.

· Run whilst your child uses his bike or scooter (you'll run even faster if you see them heading for a hedge)!

· Park your car at the back of the car park and carry your shopping rather than using a trolley.

Of course it's not all about fitness, nutrition plays the widest part in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This week Natasha Bartell, Nutrionist asked the 3 volunteers to keep a food diary and after consulting each one had this advice:-

"Claire's problem: After looking at Claire's food diary it's evident she is not eating regularly enough (a stress on the body).

Solution: We should aim to eat every 3-4 hours to keep our blood sugar balanced, this makes your body think that food is abundant so reduces cortisol, boosts your metabolism and stop cravings for carbohydrates. By eating little and often you trick your body into thinking food is readily available and therefore it will not store as extra fat (which the body does when there are long periods of not eating). Try and become a healthy grazer, eat three meals per day plus a couple of snacks, mid-morning and afternoon ensuring protein is added to each meal and snack."

"Debbie's problem: Concentrating on the calories

Solution: Rather than counting calories focus on portion size and the nutritional content of food. A healthy eating plate is simple - half the plate covered with vegetables, one quarter with protein and the last quarter containing starchy carbohydrates. Aim to stick to healthy eating about 80% of the time, leaving 20% of the time to be a bit naughty."

"Molly's problem: Not allowing enough time to eat due to busy lifestyle.

Solution: If you persistently eat on the run you give your body the message that time is scarce and you're stressed, this then activates our sympathetic nervous system. Millions of years ago we were designed to react quickly to the danger of wild animals and our bodies were on constant alert to fight or run - known as "fight or flight". To cope our body produced adrenalin to keep us alert, this in turn produced the hormone cortisol to increase levels of fat and sugar into the bloodstream. Our body expected us to do something physical like running away from a tiger, if we didn't it re-deposited this extra fat around our middle. Nowadays, our system still works in exactly the same way and the same process is used for stress. This is why when we are rushing around it's vital to take time out when eating in a relaxing manner otherwise those hormones will store fat right where we don't want it - our stomachs."

So whilst this advice is all very well putting into practice is another matter. I asked our volunteers how they fared this week.

Claire says "I've eat protein snacks either side of my main meals to keep my metabolism ticking over and brazil nuts and bananas are now regularly stocked in the cupboard. I've also introduced gradual swimming which I will build up over time as I'm still recovering from an operation."

Debbie says "I've swapped bloomer toast for Natasha's muesli and also made her Split Pea Soup to take into work. I used the 'Fartlek' technique recommended by Dave which was an hour of slow and short bursts of exercise, and as it was after I had finished work in the evening I got my daughter riding her bike alongside me to keep me going."

For me, "I've swapped my Cadbury's fix for a few dark chocolate brazil nuts every evening, and am trying to sit and eat with the children however, it's not relaxing as I spend most of the time shoving a spoon into my son's mouth. My exercise regime has to be very controlled due to joint problems but I have introduced more interval training."

Editor's Note:

Natasha's Split Pea Soup

225grm yellow split peas (pre-soaked for 12hrs or overnight in cold water)

1 wheat free vegetable stock cube (e.g. Kallo)

1 tsp. wheat free vegetable bouillon powder

1 onion, peeled and sliced

1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped

3 carrots, trimmed, peeled and chopped

Spinach leaves

Sprig of mint

Place the pre-soaked peas in a sieve and rinse well in cold water. Transfer to a large saucepan and cover with 1.5 litres of cold water, the stock cube and the bouillon powder. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove any scum that rises to the surface with a spoon. Add all the other vegetables and simmer for a further 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and allow cool, blending in a processor or a hand held blender and finally garnishing with a sprig of mint.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The new must have make up brand!

If you look at my previous blogs I very rarely write about one particular brand on each blog, I usually devote about 10 brands per feature for paper and radio. However, after receiving these goodies through the post I just wanted to share with you my enthusiasm for this new make up range which not only is incredibly cheap for the quality but rivals, in my eyes (especially their lipglosses) the high end products usually sold in Space NK or Selfridges......these goodies believe it or not can be picked up with a pint of milk and some eggs! Yes Sainsbury's have brought out their own range and called it Boutique.

The packaging is simple, chic and sleek - kept to a minimum as money seemingly has been spent on the products themselves.

Lets start with the lipgloss - super shiny colours but my favourite is without a doubt the patent, plastic red - I have simply not tested one so shiny and I've tested hundreds over the years. The other colours you see are all bang on trend for Autumn/Winter 2013.

Next I tested the eyeshadows - the bronze I loved, super easy to blend, shimmering without losing its colour - so highly pigmented. The pearl silver I loved too, again for the same reasons as the bronze. I was slightly disappointed with the more glittery silver as with most glitters it left the residue of shimmer but the colour kind of disappeared - however, this placed on top of the charcoal is great for a night out.

Very impressed with the nail colour - usually I expect a chip a day or so later (I'm typing this up 2 days later), and not one single chip, great for someone like me as I don't like to use Shellac all the time as I pick the gel off (very damaging for nails, but I don't have time to get it removed!)

There you have it, most products available from September in Sainsburys so you should see filtering through now - although they state mainly larger branches - I haven't seen it in my superstore yet! Let me know what you think of it too, I was so impressed which is why I have taken the trouble to rave about it - I work freelance and don't get paid for my views - so I can tell the truth!

Prices start from just £4 eyeshadows, nail polish £5, lipgloss £6 and I didn't test the lipsticks at £7.

Jo Saville is the Boutique Make-up Ambassador and she states "Boutique was created for the everyday woman, but as a result of testing the products we found industry insiders were choosing to include theproducts in their make-up kit because of their fantastic quality."

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Crazy eyes/Halloween/Must have new accessory!

15 years ago I had my very short sighted, high astigmatism eyes lasered and whilst it was the best thing I ever had done, it also meant waving goodbye to months of gas permaeable lenses (soft lenses were not suitable for my prescription)!

However, one huge plus point was I could of course start wearing sunglasses (an obsession has started there), and I could also wear coloured lenses. So when I was asked by if I would like to review something on their website I immediately was drawn to their coloured lenses, but specifically their Phantasee Crazy Lenses. My only problem was choosing as the choice was so vast. Finally I settled on some scary 'Dracula' and 'Dragon Eye's to transform my peepers.

So today I'm sitting in my gym cafe bar whilst the kids play on their Ipads typing and testing these lenses. I have to admit the first time I tried to open the bottle I failed as the silver foil ripped in the wrong place and I ended up using a spoon edge to lift up the hard foil, but the second one I opened slowly and the packaging easily opened. Inserting was easy with only using my camera as a mirror, they slid into my eyes without causing any watering, itchness or redness and within a few moments I didn't even notice I had them in - everyone else of course did!

See for yourself the finished effect, but these amazing lenses are brilliant fun for Halloween, parties and even to spice up your sex life...seriously I had a couple of comments from men who found them 'weirdly attractive in a dangerous way'!!! Prices start from £29 and they last for up to a year. They do come with a full list of instructions and whilst I didn't see an age limit for them, usually its around 16 (I will check this)!

Its a huge thumbs up from me, a huge thumbs up from my 5 year old son but my daughter refused to look at me!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Radio Beauty Chat Featuring Mally/Bare Minerals/Clarins/Eyemagic/Barry M and More!

Fit for Free!

For the month of September I'm very excited to announce to the readers of Essex Go the launch of #Fit4Free with AskMolly. Now before you roll your eyes this isn't your usual weight-loss feature, in fact I've changed my spell checker to change the word from 'diet' to 'health. There will be no advertising of Celebrity DVD's, gyms, supplements, weight loss clubs, gimmicks, tape-measures and scales are most definitely banned. My aim is to bring to you weekly, small changes in to your lifestyle which anyone from kids, parents and grandparents can do to make them feel fitter and stronger from the inside out. Yes there will be exercises and nutritional advice however, even if you take just one small change from the features to improve your health well then it's a good job done! The idea of the campaign is to reinforce what most of us know that our body is ultimately our pension, and many of the changes can be incorporated into our daily regime without even noticing. All the exercises will be done outside, no equipment bar a park bench required and recipes will be nutritious, quick to make and most importantly cheap!

To help with the campaign I've managed to rope in the very best of Personal Trainers to guide you along the way and a top Essex based Nutrionist as well as 3 volunteers (me included) so now let's go meet the crew!

Dave Davis Personal Trainer

Dave is a fully qualified Personal and Advanced Trainer and a member of The Register of Exercise Professionals. Whilst he works primarily in the Brentwood area he trains clients in various environments from local parks and playing fields, clients own houses and at The Brentwood Centre with Target Fit Training. He also trains clients independently at The Fitness Factory, Brentwood and at London Fields Fitness Studio, Hackney.

His fields of sporting practices include rugby, football, triathlon, martial arts, kickboxing and he's also a qualified Boxercise and Kickboxercise coach. Clients range from those wanting to lose weight and tone up, sports specific training and those who need to pass fitness tests for their jobs.

"I believe that fitness and training should be available to all regardless of experience or fitness levels. Along with this I try to make workouts as varied and as enjoyable as possible for people and

I try and tailor workouts to include the specificity of training towards achieving goals".

More of Dave's work can be seen on and Twitter @D2Fit. Dave is passionate about improving accessibility of fitness equipment and is currently campaigning to bring more 'outdoor gym parks' into Essex.

Natasha Bartell CNM Dip, BANT Nutritional Therapist & Naturopath

Natasha has an extensive knowledge of nutrition and whilst she not only helps clients with weight problems whether it's to lose or gain weight, she also has a specific field of interest in cholesterol, high blood pressure, hormone related disorders, joint pain, stress as well as intolerances and allergies. Not only does she provide easy mouth-watering recipes, she is also a fully qualified Naturopath which brings a holistic approach to her work as she believes in treating the person as a whole, in mind, body and spirit. For more information on Natasha check out her website

"The foods you eat have a profound effect upon your health, mood and energy levels, which is why the latest fad diet will make some people thrive and others feel miserable. I am forever in awe of the restorative powers of healthy food and it makes me really happy that I am in a position to be able to pass this knowledge onto others, empowering them to live their lives in the healthiest way possible and in a way that can be sustained for life.

Claire Brew Volunteer 1

Claire describes herself as a "decrepit 44 year old, stay at home mum to an active 3yr old boy & 10yr old girl". However, a little too harsh on herself considering she's had to endure more than what most of us go through in a lifetime. At present she is recovering from delayed reconstructive surgery following from breast cancer and a mastectomy in 2007, so is limited in her physical movements. Prior to surgery she was a regular swimmer as found this the most suitable form of exercise as she also suffers from back problems.

"I know I should eat better, but have never eaten a regular breakfast so tend to get very hungry early evening and I keep picking until the dinners ready, I'd love to get fitter but in a way that fits in with my lifestyle".

Deborah Chaplin Volunteer 2

Deborah has a hectic life, not only is she a single parent with 2 children but also holds down a full time directors job in London leaving her virtually no time for herself, hence she struggles to fit in any form of exercise in to her busy schedule. She suffers from the medical condition Fibromyalgia so has to be specific about exercises she chooses as can sometimes be left in constant pain, although she admits to using this as an excuse not to exercise!

"At 43 I know I really need to sort myself out now before it's too late - you can't continue the trend of just getting bigger - at some point it will catch up with you". "So many excuses to hide behind, where am I meant to find the energy or time"?

Molly Miller Volunteer 3

"20 years of health problems has seen my size fluctuating from a 12 to a 22 and back again. A sufferer of Endometriosis and also Spondylitis around the rib cage and facet joints has given me the excuse of pain equals chocolate. I love to exercise and jog regularly, however, I have to be extremely careful as any twisting movements such as a Boxercise, has in the past resulted in hospital admission.

I live with my 2 young children, cat and goldfish. Life is manic from the moment my alarm clock goes off at 6am and doesn't stop until I hit the pillow at 10pm. I never think about the food I stuff in my mouth, but focus on the quickest and most convenient - which is usually the kids leftovers!

I am also looking for one or two male volunteers of any age or fitness level to participate with #Fit4Free and report in remotely i.e. via email. All that's needed is a weekly email or chat to track your progress, and to follow guidance and advice from the experts. If you're interested contact me on the email address below.

Finally each week I'll be inviting you to send in any questions or indeed tips you may have (some of these will be printed the following week). So I hope you will join myself and the team, and do get twittering #Fit4Free to give some moral support!

Before undertaking any of the exercises shown please consult your GP, whilst our volunteers all have medical issues, where applicable they have been given consultants approval. All queries contact askmollybeauty@gmail.comor via Twitter @askmollybeauty.

Editors Note:

Natasha's Bircher Muesli- this can be made in the evening and kept for 4 days in the fridge. Simply combine the following ingredients for a nutritious start to the day or a snack.

3 handfuls of Oats

250ml Almond Milk

Tablespoon mixed seeds (flaxseeds, pumpkin, linseed, sunflower)

Tablespoon frozen fruits (the darker the fruit the better i.e. blueberries)

Tablespoon walnuts, flaked almonds

Pinch of Cinnamon

1 grated apple

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The best secret retreat in Essex - Agape Cottage

The last few years have been an emotional rollercoaster for me both physically and mentally and I think it's now starting to show. I frequently find myself driving to a destination without any recollection of how've I got there, the milk's been put in the cereal cupboard, the credit card in the fridge but it was only whilst mentioning to my friend Sue that I kept seeing imaginary spiders playing hide and seek from the curtains that she advised me to take some time out. I think she is right, after all which mother in her right mind cries at Peppa Pig, has tears streaming down her face whilst repeatedly listening to her daughters CD, The Wanted - Walk Like Rihanna, and has bought and taken the same top back to New Look 3 times (shopaholic out of control). So it was only a few weeks ago when for the umpteenth time whilst wrestling trying to change my duvet cover, when I had another blubbering outburst and asked God to give me a break! The next morning I had an email from Sharon Agate, owner of Agape Cottage offering me the use of her retreat for the night.

Now I've lived in Brentwood all my life but never did I realise that right in the heart of the Essex countryside lies the most wonderful secret hideout and if I did I would have visited ages ago. Like most parents it's mainly time, finding someone to have the kids and motorway driving (phobia - big lorries another story) which prevents me from taking time out at these well publicised spas in other counties. However, I was delighted to find that only a stone's throw from my house lays a sanctuary so discreet (until I wrote this), that only a few people knew about it.

Nestled amongst trees awaits a little slice of heaven to nurture your soul and as you approach Agape cottage you're greeted by the sound of trickling water from the stunning waterfall, an inviting, bubbling hot tub, twinkling fairy lights woven in and out of the trees, freshly filled jars of flowers placed amongst stepping stones and comfy recliners to lie back and watch the stars. A welcoming and warming log cabin greets you cosily decorated with Laura Ashley furniture, muslin white curtains circulating a gentle breeze, jars filled with nuts and dried fruits, a platter of fresh fruit, a fridge filled with icy cold water and a decent bottle of rose, bathroom shelves filled with Liz Earle, Molton Brown and Neals Yards Remedies and even the Pip Studio crockery is beautiful - it is in short paradise.

On the day of my arrival I was greeted by a lovely smile and warmth radiating from my host Sharon Agates. She told me how she had opened up this woman's only retreat back in January as wanted to offer somewhere which would give restoration and peace to anyone who was stressed, suffering from grief or just simply shattered. Agape meaning God's love would be an environment where women could come to simply be loved, cared for and nurtured. Whilst she offers counselling and aromatherapy massage, her real passion is juicing and we started the evening off with an amazing ginger, celery and red pepper juice. This was followed by a delicious home -made meal of pasta, feta cheese, chicken and fennel, fresh berries which was gratefully washed down with an ice cold rose wine.

After dinner we took to the hot tub chatting like two old friends and I was given words of encouragement, wisdom and positive thoughts to focus on. The evening rounded off with a blissful one and half hour Full Body and Indian Head Massage using relaxing aromatherapy oils. My plan had been to watch one of the DVDs offered, but the bed was too inviting and as I collapsed into the Tempur mattress, cotton wool enveloped me and off I drifted. The next morning I awoke early (habits from having young children) to the sound of the gentle tumbling waterfall, glimmering through the sunlit trees. Sharon brought me a scrummy breakfast of fruit pancakes, a delicious immune-building juice and a shot of ginger and pineapple to kick-start my day. She also presented me with a gorgeous home-made jasmine candle and some hydrating Himilayan salts.

I have a mind where it doesn't switch off and I think it's my way of coping from past traumatic events, if my mind is active then I can't dwell. However, by the time I had left Agape Cottage it was as though I had been re-born, I felt strangely calm and whilst I'm sure when the kids next fight and school mania begins I'll get stressed, it's reassuring to know there's somewhere once in a blue moon to escape to!

For more information and prices email visit to view a variety of packages such as the Time Out Package for the stressed and over-worked, Matters of the Heart for loss and grief and the Health Detox Package to cleanse an abused body of toxins.

Thank you so much Sharon, I believe there our times in our walks of life that certain things happen for a reason and this is especially true of people we meet, and the day I was changing the duvet divine intervention took place!

If you have any queries please contact me via molly@askmollybeauty.comor follow me on Twitter @askmollybeauty.