Boozy Barbecued Nectarines

I love a barbecue. I’m a card-carrying carnivore so I love anything that gives me an excuse to eat multiple meat dishes and my vegetarian husband has been on a mission to cook the perfect grilled cheese sandwich on the barbie ever since he saw this video by Alton Brown. Dessert, however, is typically a bit of an anticlimax – we just dig though the freezer for a half eaten tub of ice cream. When my in-laws invited us over for one of their epic barbecues this summer, I decided to try adapting one of my favourite dessert recipes for the grill and it was A-MA-ZING!

I used the following ingredients:

Four nectarines
One large orange
2 dessert spoons agave syrup
One large slug (around 2 dessert spoons) of Contrieau orange liqueur

I grated the zest from the orange and then juiced it. I combined the orange zest and juice in a bowl with the Contrieau and agave, mixed well and then left in the fridge for 90 minutes until we were ready for dessert.

When it was time for dessert the coals were not super hot (the last steak was cooked about 40 minutes before that). I halved and de-stoned the nectarines, then grilled for 3-4 minutes on each side. Then I transferred the nectarines to a sheet of baking foil and drizzled half the orange syrup mixture into the centre of each nectarine half and grilled for a further 3 minutes.

I served with Greek yoghurt and the other half of the orange syrup to be used as a dressing. Delicious!

Review Good Vibes Fitzrovia Cycle Beginner Improvers Class The Workout LifeI have been meaning to go to a spin class for months. Back in the good old days when I was a member of a gym five minutes away from my office I’d often be found sweating away in the spin studio during my lunch break. Sadly the closure of the gym and the fact that I no longer really have a lunch break have put the halcyon days of thrice weekly spin classes behind me. I used to love those classes, the sweat, the music, the fact that it all took place in a darkened room so no one could really see me huffing and puffing during the climbs. As it’s been a while I decided it would do me no harm to brush up on the basics and finally learn the proper way to set up the bike at the monthly Beginner Cycle Class held at Good Vibes Fitzrovia.

I talked Mr WorkoutLife into coming along with me and this is what we discovered.

The Basics

A 35 minute class designed for beginners or improvers looking to brush up on their indoor cycling skills. This class runs on the first Wednesday of every month at the Fitzrovia studio.

The Workout

The description on the Good Vibes website states that this class is for beginners or anyone wanting to sharpen their technique. The website also says, in bold, that “everyone is in control of their own ride … nobody but you will control your resistance dial or your pace”. This was very reassuring for a lapsed indoor cyclist like me!

Our cycle coach Nadine was brilliant. She came round to every person, introduced herself, asked about our cycling background and helped set up our bikes correctly while explaining what she was doing and why she was doing it. She was super patient during this stage, I was one of the last to get their bike checked and I kept thinking “oh no, I’m too late, she’s going to have to start the class before she gets to me” but she did come to me and helped me get the right set up that was both safe and comfortable. I’ve never had proper personalised guidance on how to do this during a spin class and to be honest, as this was one of the main reasons why I took this class I didn’t think that I would have much to learn (ha!) once this had been done.

She also explained about the cadence (RPM counter) on our bikes, how to adjust the resistance, keeping good posture during the class, how to safely come out of the saddle for a climb and what the different stages of the ride should feel like. This isn’t a full indoor cycling class, but it is a great primer for moving on to those classes (there is one straight afterwards, if you fancy it). Nadine gave me lots of pointers on my posture while cycling and which felt a lot more efficient and targeted my glutes much more effectively when compared to my previous collapsed across the handlebars posture.

What I really, really like about this class is that it focuses on cycling. It sounds obvious but there are so many cycling classes out there that promise to deliver a full body workout by shoehorning in upper body workout sections that it is becoming quite unusual to find an indoor cycling class that doesn’t do some half-arsed moves with 1kg dumbbells or “push ups on the bike”, let alone a studio that actively promotes their purist attitude to indoor cycling. Good Vibes gets a huge tick for this!

Instructor

Nadine was the perfect instructor for a beginner’s class – she delivered everything I hoped for and some things that I didn’t know I wanted before class! I would go as far as to say that Nadine is the best instructor I’ve had in an indoor cycling class.

The Fit Crowd

Including us, the class had 10 people (7 women and 3 men), which made it a “very popular beginners class” according to Nadine. Everyone was friendly and chatty, there was a distinct “we’re all in together” vibe in the room and if people were a bit nervous we helped each other through it.

Sweat Factor

Pretty sweaty. This isn’t bright-red-and-dripping-sweat-on-the-bike class but it’s definitely more than a quick-babywipe-and-go-back-to-work class.

Repeat Performance?

This class is excellent for beginners (or might-as-well-be beginners like me) and I think that more advanced cyclists would get something out of the class. I’m thinking of going back in September for a skills tune up and every few months thereafter to make sure I haven’t slipped into bad habits.

I’m really keen to try Nadine’s other classes and some of the other classes on offer at Good Vibes as I had a really positive experience of the studio. However, this  would be more of an occasional treat rather than a regular addition to my workout schedule. Fitzrovia isn’t the most convenient location for me and I’d have to make a concerted effort to get there more than once every couple of weeks which wouldn’t make any of the money-saving membership options viable for me.

Know Before You Go

The bikes have cages not clip-in cycle shoes so bring trainers.

You’ll be given a small towel free of charge if you are doing an cycling class and you can hire large towels from reception for £1.

You’ll need a £1 coin for the lockers and I found the locker rather small. I managed to fit my backpack in one locker but if I had a winter coat or anything bulky, I would have needed two lockers.

Bottled water and healthy snacks (I spotted Bounce Balls and Pip&Nut sachets) are available to buy from Reception. I discovered you can also use account credit to pay which was great because I didn’t bring any cash and actually had £6 credit on my account so I could buy something to scoff on the journey home.

Good Vibes operates a 6 hour cancellation policy. I think that this is really generous, if I realise I’m going to be swamped with work and there is no way I’m finishing on time, I’ve got until lunchtime to cancel the class. Much more forgiving than 24 hour or 12 hour cancellation policies at other studios.

This class was £16 and there are various memberships and block class packs available. If you are new to Good Vibes, you can take advantage of their Intro Offer which applies to both the Fitzrovia and Covent Garden studios both studios and all activities (Glow Yoga, Pilates and Power Plate classes in addition to Indoor Cycling). At the time of writing, the Intro Offer was £45 for 30 days.

Last tip, save a tiny bit of energy to stagger up the stairs afterwards (and try to avoid the temptation to stagger straight into the fish and chip shop over the road!)

Readjusting My World View

I am trying to lose weight at the moment. And I’m trying to be healthy. And in the past those two things have never sat together easily for me.

I’m trying to lose weight because over the past couple of years I was increasingly exhausted, suffering horrendously painful periods that kept me off work for days and gradually gaining weight. I went back to my GP again and again, and then eventually (after insisting that actually there was something wrong I wasn’t just tired from work and no, actually very woman doesn’t feel like this bad every month) was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and endometriosis. I’m working with my new GP (needless to say I left the old one) and specialists to get both of these conditions under control, but that hasn’t made the weight magically disappear – apparently I have to sort that bit out “the old fashioned way”. The difficult bit comes when I’m asked to set my goal weight, I think about the lightest I’ve ever been and reluctantly add enough kilos so that weight will acceptable. And that when I think about diets, about healthy eating plans, about clean eating, I start getting stressed and panicky. And when I think about “the old fashioned way” I go back to the darkest point in my life.

I have had problems with eating disorders since I was thirteen ears old and that by far the worst time for me was the period between age seventeen and twenty five. There were a couple of years while I was university that were the very worst time in my life, when I clung to my disordered relationship with food and my completely dysfunctional relationship my own body in an attempt to cope with everything else that was happening to me.

Even though I know that my mindset was not healthy at all and that my size and weight at this time were not healthy or unsustainable by healthy means, there is a dark corner of my mind that has always believed that being so thin was the biggest achievement of my life. There is also a  part of my mind that tells me that I never really had an eating disorder. Never mind the years I wasted by starving myself, forcing myself to be sick every time I caved in and ate something and obsessing over the fact that I wasn’t good enough (which invariably equated to not thin enough). Never mind the entries that were entered on my medical record – anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and depression – during a time when things were so bad that I nearly dropped out of university. Never mind that at the time that I was so thin, I always thought that I was too fat and had so much self-loathing that every day was a struggle. This voice argues that I was never really thin enough to have an eating disorder. I was never so thin that I was hospitalised, never so thin that I was force fed, so therefore, that voice tells me, I was never really ill. In fact, it whispers sometimes, maybe what you need to do is stop pretending you were ill and find the self discipline to go back to that weight and those behaviours.

But something happened recently that has challenged this voice. A couple of weeks ago, I was sorting through some boxes and the old computer at my parents house because I wanted to make sure that I kept my old modelling portfolio and all the photos from when I was at university before they made good on their threat to throw out all the stuff I abandoned when I moved out.

I was looking through my portfolio and kind of lost down memory lane remembering the hilarious hairstylist on this shoot or the terrible freezing cold studio on that one. My portfolio is full of the very best photos from these shoots, taken after a whole team of professionals paid to make me look my very best before the camera, and a whole team of professionals armed with Photoshop to make the resulting photos look even better. My portfolio got the same old wistful “I was so slim” feeling. But it wasn’t my portfolio that got the biggest reaction from me.

It was the outtakes – the hundreds, even thousands of photos that didn’t make it into my portfolio – and the goofy pictures when we were testing the lighting, the selfies I took in front of the sets and the pictures from nights out afterwards. Some of the things I saw in those pictures really disturbed me, and the reaction they got was disbelief and sadness. The outtakes from my favourite photo shoot (that supposed pinnacle of achievement of thinness) are nothing like the picture my agent chose to be printed out and put in my book. In the majority of the pictures from that day I look gaunt, tired, unhealthy and too thin, far too thin. I’ve never deep down believed that I was ever too thin, so for me to admit this even to myself was like a seismic shift.

Even worse are the pictures a few days later when I’m hanging out with my friends, no makeup, no professional lighting, no Photoshop. I’m shocked at how unhealthy I look compared to the other people in the photos. For the first time in my life I’m not thinking “I wish I looked like that now”, instead I’m thinking “I look terrible, why didn’t anyone say anything to me”. The very worst thing about this cache of photos is that I clearly remember that on the day these pictures were taken, I thought that I needed to lose weight. Today I look at these pictures and think the girl in them was clearly ill and in need of help, not that she has something I wish I had now.

I know that I don’t want to go back to feeling like that or looking like that, but I also feel a bit like the rug has been pulled out from under me. My view has changed and that magical, in-my-wildest-dreams-I-might-get-to-that-again weight has suddenly become undesirable. That destination, that perfect weight that would make me happy, doesn’t exist.

I still want to lose weight, but its because I want to improve my health not damage it in a different way in pursuit of that “perfect” weight. That feels liberating, but it feels a bit scary too – before I knew what the destination would be and now I don’t know where I’m headed because I’m going to have to learn what healthy is along the way – and I feel angry, that I’ve been berating myself for my entire adult life for not maintaining something that was so bad for me.