Have We Lost Loyalty?

Loyalty. Noun: a strong feeling of alliance or support. When I hear the word loyalty, I instantly think of dogs and their utter and complete devotion. We use the word loyal most commonly in contexts to describe faithfulness within relationships and commitments to brands or products. But what does it really mean to be loyal?

Media often portray the idea that society is becoming increasingly disloyal. With more opportunities, availability and resources than ever before, we have access to more information across an ever-increasing number of platforms. We are less reliant on a single source for anything – whether it be where we get our news; where we get our groceries or even where we find and meet people. Our lifestyles have evolved to such an extent that not only do we have increased diversity between people, but also increased diversity within people. There seems to be fewer and fewer examples of regimented labels that people uphold, and more and more examples of fluid principles/values that people live by; so much of these varying according to circumstance.

For example, vegan/plant based diets are on the increase, with many people showcasing the fact that they try to source their food this way. Ordinarily, you might assume that this means these people ARE vegan, yet this is often far from the truth. What it actually seems to more commonly mean is that whether that person eats a vegan meal or not is circumstantial, dictated by other underlying values. Their norm is to eat plant based, but this isn’t their everything, and they are willing to stray from their norm for many varying reasons. Perhaps they are visiting family and don’t want to inconvenience family meals. Perhaps they have discovered a sustainably sourced, Organic meat they like. Perhaps they are travelling and want to try a local delicacy. Perhaps their long-time favourite food is all too tempting. Really, the list is endless. Diversity within us often dictates that people no longer label themselves so distinctly (e.g. “I am vegan”), but rather they portray their values with explanations (e.g. “I try and eat mostly plant based meals because…) to decide when they uphold their norms.

With fewer ‘labels’, the ability to demonstrate loyalty is also a lot harder. How can manufacturers keep shoppers when their target audience isn’t a distinct set of people? How can we maintain positive relationships with people when we aren’t quite sure of what their fundamental principles are? The evolution of society requires both manufacturers and people to really invest time and resources to really get to know people in order to evoke loyalty. With lots of peoples’ underlying values being so intricately complex, finding what makes people tick is not a quick task.

It seems that long-term, sustained loyalty can only be achieved with time, ironically something we are often declaring we have less of. But, gone are the days that one good meal using a particular brand or ingredient creates lifelong loyalty to that brand. Gone are the days that one good date leads to long-term relationships. Loyalty now has to really be earned and only those willing to invest substantial time will be able to attain and retain loyalty of anything. Except of course if you are talking canine loyalty. Their loyalty hasn’t evolved and their devotion remains unwaivered…thank goodness.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x


Does “Good Try” Really Mean “Good Try” Or Does It Mean “No Success”?

“Good try”.

Ever heard those words and thought “Aww, how cute. They tried hard but didn’t accomplish the objective?”

I remember as a child, stamps in my books from the teacher saying ‘Good try’. These were the ultimate recognition that you really didn’t understand the work. As a teacher myself, often I would start a comment with ‘Good try’ when I was really struggling for something positive to say about the output, but knew that the child had dedicated at least some time in an attempt to complete the work.

Publicly recognizing achievements in assemblies or at awards ceremonies, ‘trying hard’ was often used as a descriptor to acknowledge those children who weren’t academically high achievers, but did work hard each day. Rarely did you hear stories regarding effort from within the classroom if the child was also deemed highly intelligent; academic attainment typically took precedent.

From a young age, we are conditioned to believe that academic success is the ultimate achievement and that exuding effort is secondary. Those children who can effortlessly achieve anything (and realize it) are seldom taught to value effort, as, well, ‘they don’t need to’. I have delivered many parent/teacher conferences and whenever I told the parents that their child lacked effort, (rarely was any parent surprised at this information) but did well in school, most parents laughed it off, because, again…why does their child need to exert effort if they are over-achieving? Isn’t that a waste of energy?

Millennials receive a lot of negative press about being entitled and expecting opportunities to arrive in their laps and, arguably, lots of this is due to societal conditioning where effort is regarded as inferior to attainment. Ironically, beyond the structured world of academia, rarely does society value effort in the same way. Very few people can successfully contribute to society based solely on their success, and those who do, are often stigmatized as being arrogant. Think world class soccer players, for example. Those players who rely solely on their elite talents are rarely in the media for how much ‘team spirit’ they contributed to, or for the fact they are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary.

In both the working and recreational world, as adults, effort takes precedence more frequently. People would rather devote time to someone who tries rather than someone who clearly grasps concepts easily with an air of arrogance. In fact, it is one of the things I love most about fitness. You can buy yourself boobs, pretty nails or a sun tan. But you cannot buy your physique anything like as easily. Sure, you can get liposuction or take drugs, but, for most people, the results are so unpredictable, and, for such an expense, most people simply do not bother.

A toned physique requires continuous effort and maintenance, almost every day. Again, sure, you can have days here and there where you don’t exercise or eat ice-cream for dinner, but unless these episodes form the minority of your habits, you cannot (literally and figuratively) have your cake and eat it. Ironically, people often look towards those with good figures as being self-obsessed and vain (both, arguably, sharing similarities with arrogance), yet, actually, having such a physique is testament to relentless effort. People seek quick fixes, but seldom do these pay off.

A “good try” is often the driving force behind us getting results. A “good try” at work shows loyalty, dedication and passion. A “good try” in a relationship shows commitment, trust and care. A “good try” in fitness shows determination, resilience and pride. A “good try” at anything encompasses all these descriptors and more. We want people to be triers, yet to break this ever-strengthening stereotype that younger people don’t try, I suggest we first frame how we project ‘trying’ to the littlest of people.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Is Help Always Helpful Or Can It Be The Sunny Side Of Control?

Help. A single word where correct choice of punctuation is imperative to communicate the right meaning. An exclamation mark signals terror and panic (and reminds me of many of my childhood reads), whilst a subsequent question mark conjurs up an entirely different scenario. The question mark implies the speaker has some skill or expertise that can be of assistance. It also suggests that the speaker is willing to devote time (at minimum) to spend on someone else.

We all depend on help in a variety of forms to live. Although we might believe some of our successes are achieved independently, in reality, there are many moving pieces that have resulted in us being where we are today. Offering help to someone is generally thought of as kind and caring; sometimes even selfless. But is it always this way? Even if you think about your most selfless offer of help, can you really say it was selfless?

People often remark that my prior teaching career was a ‘selfless profession’ as I helped children day in, day out. I always disagree with this remark; I got huge satisfaction from teaching, and, actually, what sparked my career change was not ill-behaved children or difficult parents, but extensive feelings of redundancy and lack of influence – two factors far from the ‘selfless’ label teaching can have. Moreover, what sparked my interest in becoming a teacher was the desire to be in control of others’ education. Having never enjoyed school myself, I wanted others to have an entirely different experience. (I can honestly say approximately 100% of my friends and family were shocked when I decided to become a teacher!)

Now, I am not saying that all suggestions of help are laced with selfish, controlling motives, but I definitely think more are than we would care to think of; particularly those offerings that come without prompting.

Take a colleague at work continuously offering you help, for example. Why are they doing this? Is it because they think you are incompetent? Or is it the complete opposite and they think you are highly capable and want to be attributed to your success? Is it because they are self-conscious about their own quality of work? Is it because they want to be seen as tla team player and doing “the right thing”?

What about someone who continuously offers you help in the gym? Is it because they are concerned your technique is dangerous? Is it because they see your potential and want to be involved in the satisfaction of watching you bloom? Is it because they want to demonstrate their knowledge or because they want to prove themselves?

There is no question, help in the broadeat sense is a wonderful thing. Regardless of how independent you are, we are all entirely dependent on interdependency. But, i do think that help is not exempt from the list of things we should be cautious of. Not every offer of help is laden with your best interests at heart, and, while, we may accept help knowing that really we are the ones helping, sometimes it is perfectly okay to turn it down. Just because we think of help as kind and thoughtful, remember that an exclamation mark after writing ‘help’ can initiate an entirely different thought process.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Don’t fear failure. Don’t pursue failure. Don’t accept failure. Expect failure.

I am currently reading Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradbury and Jean Greaves. It was given to me at the last conference I attended but, being the slow reader that I am, I am only now delving into it. The first few pages struck me as the authors emphasized that emotional intelligence far outweighs IQ in determining success.

Over the past year, I have become fascinated with meta cognition; why and how certain people succeed, why people are happier than others and what makes people exude confidence. This book is well referenced in many corporate climates in the states – some of the strategies mentioned are common sense, some are common knowledge and some really made me think.

How we deal with stress, or more, how we react to stress, reveals a lot about our emotional intelligence. Those of us who are able to respond calmly and productively are often the envy of the rest of us. People who are able to sedate emotional ‘gut’ reactions are able to act more rationally as their responses are void (or minimally tinged) of emotion. Such people are often referred to as ‘cold’ or stand-offish as we are conditioned to believe that every action of ours is influenced by some level of emotional charge.

Stress rears its head in many forms, and not all stress is bad. Stress can provide motivation, a sense of urgency almost, to accomplish a task or meet a deadline. Equally, putting our bodies under stress in the gym is what stimulates muscle and strength growth.

Despite some positive benefits of stress, your immediate reaction to hearing that word probably conjures up an array of negative connotations. The word ‘stress’ is often used to describe chaos, disarray and excessive workload, communicating a need of some relief.

So what causes stress? Pressure. Expectation. Longing. It can be self-imposed or can be the result of external influences. These three triggers share the same negative consequence – failure. Failure to succeed. Failure to deliver. Failure to please. By fearing failure, you are inducing additional stress to whatever task you are undertaking.

Why are you fearing failure? 

If the likelihood of you failing is infinitely greater than the likelihood of you succeeding, is it a task that needs to be completed? Doing something that scares you is gratifying and liberating, but doing something where you are constantly fearing failure is the opposite.

Equally as energy zapping is pursuing failure. It is a slippery slope, but convincing yourself that you are going to fail does nothing for you, your self-esteem nor for the task that you are trying to achieve. Approaching events with a pessimistic attitude adds additional stress to an already intense situation.

So how about approaching situations expecting failure? How about establishing a plan to proactively move forward with failure? Doing this will provide a safety net, a cushion, with an objective plan for when you fail. Now, this doesn’t mean that you will fail, but it does mean you are prepared for if you do. Having this reassurance can not only help you feel more comfortable and confident with what you are trying to achieve, but it can also make you realise that, actually, this task or pressure, wasn’t so stressful after all.

We are a couple of weeks into the new year and approaching the most depressing day of the year. Chances are New Year’s Resolutions are wavering, and, despite best intentions, the ‘new year, new you’ hasn’t really materialised. You may be feeling stressed. You haven’t been to the gym like you said you would. You haven’t avoided the Christmas chocolates, (despite moving them into a high cupboard!) You haven’t even opened the book you were determined to be midway through by now. If, however, you made these New Year’s Resolutions with the intention to fail, you probably would have contingency plans set in place, ready for said failure. It isn’t too late! (It’s never too late!)

Now you have come to the realisation that you are expecting failure, you can make a plan to proactively bounce back. Don’t accept that you have failed. By doing that you are making no progress, either in terms of achieving your goal or in terms of altering your mind set. Sedate those gut reactions, improve your emotional intelligence, expect to fail…and watch yourself succeed.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

My Fitness Journey: Growing Taller, Growing Muscles and Growing Confidence

I first started being interested in fitness when I saw a picture of myself at a family outing in summer 2009. I hated the shape of my face and decided something had to change. I had never eaten badly; my Mom is a fantastic cook who made plenty of healthy, balanced meals throughout my childhood (and still does now!) But when I moved to university, I replaced her home cooking with convenience meals, partying and eating mayonnaise covered cheesy fries at 3am! Over a summer in Florida, I started attending classes at the health club that my Mom was a member of and lost about 8lb as well as growing, yes, growing, an inch taller! My posture had improved so much from exercising that I became taller than my Mom. Check mark on the bucket list!

In 2011, my boyfriend of the time persuaded me to join this new low-cost gym. I gave him my debit card details and told him to sign me up, as I am guilty of ‘bookmarking’ such things and leaving all my Internet browser tabs open (anyone else?!) and then never following through! We signed up for a Friday evening class, with a very enthusiastic trainer and we loved it! I became a bit of a regular at the classes from then on until a personal trainer took me into the weights room. I can’t pretend I enjoyed my first few experiences of using real weights as opposed to lurid colored dumbbells that look like cat toys. Seeing my body change and becoming noticeably stronger was empowering and eventually I plucked up the courage to follow a training plan that involved me entering the weights room 4 – 5 times a week.

Fast forward a year or so and any doubts about entering the weights room had deserted me. At the same time as I emigrated to Florida, I began preparing for a fitness photoshoot. I followed a very strict, low calorie meal plan and went to the gym twice a day for cardio and weights for six months. I dropped 25lbs in total. After the photoshoot, I felt incredibly lost and was almost in mourning. I lacked a purpose, any sense of direction and was unable to stifle my cravings for extravagant sweet meals. After a couple of months of really struggling, I decided to try something new.

I had done a lot of reading on various social media platforms and longed to be utilizing a flexible dieting approach. I decided to calculate the calories, protein, carbohydrates and fats from the meal plan I was given and experiment. I gave myself two weeks. I told myself that if I put on weight then I would go back to ‘eating clean’. Two weeks went by and my weight was actually dropping.

Flexible dieting is heavily glamorized online and perceptions seem to be that it is all about fitting in as much junk as possible and taking photos of it. Yes, I eat ‘junk’ in small quantities but most of the time, I don’t want to eat it. I enjoy eating the fresh, crunchy textures of fruits and vegetables and there are few things that give me as much pleasure as cooking up delicious meals for the week. I love experimenting with flavors and different ingredients and am always happy (although teased for it!) bringing my Tupperware pots into work. Why would I want to pay multi-billion dollar companies for mediocre (at best) food, when I can do it better, cheaper and healthier myself?

Now, I can’t imagine not tracking macros. It works for me, both mentally and physically. It enables me to pursue two of my passions (cooking and eating….yes, eating is definitely a passion) and it has enabled me to progress. It is as much of a part of my life as getting dressed.

With a much healthier relationship with food and my love of working out, stepping on stage seemed like the natural next step. I competed twice this year and I learnt so much from this experience. Bodybuilding is often thought of as synonymous with vanity and self-obsession, but, in reality, the lean physiques showcase a whole host of motivations. There is so much more to bodybuilding than aesthetics.

Despite enjoying the experience, I found that being on stage in a glittery bikini just wasn’t really ‘me’. Looking forward to 2018, I have my first powerlifting competition. Powerlifting is a sport which embodies everything I aim to personify; strength, determination and passion. Needless to say, I am excited (although a little nervous…the manicure better stay in tact!)

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

2018: The Year of Goals not Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions. You either love them or hate them. Make them or break them. (Or a mixture of all four). I am a big advocate of goal setting; from the short-term to the long-term and to everything in-between. I find it keeps me focused and has enabled me to progress in all areas of my life I value. Looking back at my 2017 resolutions, I have had mixed success (and some of my resolutions, I no longer wish to achieve now; isn’t it funny how much difference one year makes?!) With that being said, I am slightly changing how I set my resolutions for 2018 as I find the word ‘resolution’ suggests emphasis on the change in behaviour and some of my goals for the year don’t require a modification in behaviour, but more persistence or more work. So I am bringing out the rebel in me and getting 2018 goals, not resolutions.


  1. Squat 200lbs. Yes, this was a resolution last year. I am still working on this…
  2. Deadlift 300lbs.
  3. Benchpress 135lbs (I really just want to benchpress with one big plate each side!)
  4. Compete in a powerlifting competition.
  5. Continue to do yoga weekly all through the year.


  1. Give up diet soda for good. I go through periods of time of drinking tonnes of the stuff and then other times when I don’t touch it. I have found it makes me break out and it makes my stomach feel odd, so I am aiming to get rid of it from my diet completely, choosing sparkling water instead.
  2. Continue with reducing chemicals I ingest. You may (or may not) have noticed that I have been using a lot less of the calorie free, chemically high sauces and syrups in my diet. I want to continue with this. It may look like I eat a lot of sweet meals, but actually the nutritional profile has improved significantly from earlier in the year.
  3. Continue baking more and cooking more meals from scratch, including grilling on the BBQ. I don’t make the most of the BBQ, even plain grilled BBQ chicken tastes amazing.
  4. Stock pile on food less. I am all about the mental health at the moment and am trying to ditch as many extreme dieting habits as I can. When I did my first photoshoot, I began hoarding food. I don’t ‘hoard’ food now, but I do tend to buy things for the sake of it, rather than it being on promotion or planning on eating it immediately. My goal is to buy what I need and then if I cannot justify the purchase of anything else (am I going to eat it this week/is it on promotion/is it limited edition?) then it stays on the grocery shelf. It sounds silly, but this would be a huge accomplishment!


  1. Get a promotion. This was also a goal last year (or, resolution), which I achieved, but doesn’t stop it being on my radar for this year either…
  2. Read 6 novels. I am bad at reading books. Almost as bad as I am at watching TV. I think 6 novels is achievable, but will still be a challenge (4 more books than this year!)
  3. Wear lipstick/lip gloss every time I wear make up. Sounds vain, but I rarely wear anything on my lips and it was only when I saw pictures of myself this holiday season next to my sister, that I realized the value of a bit of lippy!
  4. Visit 2 places I have never been before. In terms of travel, 2017 has been great. I have been to Southern California, Denver, New York, New Jersey, Washington DC and Chicago. I got a lot out of these trips, both for work and pleasure, so want to continue doing that!
  5. Ditch consuming social media in the evenings on week days. Instead, use the time to stretch and foam roll. Trying to make my time more productive!

What does 2018 have in store for you?!

-Benchpressingbaubles, x


Holiday ‘Dieting’: Myth Busting ‘Memories Over Macros’

If you hadn’t  gathered by now, I love Christmas. It is absolutely my favourite time of year. The elaborate decorations, the buzz that is everywhere you go and the fact everyone makes an effort to think about others – from dedicating time to choosing gifts…what’s not to love?! I also love the family traditions that differ between families; pulling Christmas crackers, eating scrambled egg and smoked salmon for breakfast and getting all dressed up just to hang about on the sofa all day are some of my personal favourites.

As much as I love Christmas, it can be a period of time that is difficult. If family are absent and money is tight, it can be a very overwhelming and stressful time. Coupled with cold weather in most places (maybe not Florida), it can leave you feeling despondent, lonely and ill. For lots of people, there is also the added strain of nutrition. It is a time where lots of parties are organised, lots of food is consumed and lots of alcohol is drunk. Many people feel like they have to battle more so than normal with what is ‘healthy’ and what they are craving, or what they are expected to consume. More this year than ever before have I seen numerous ‘fitness’ social media accounts advocating ‘memories over macros’, alluding to the idea that you should be indulging and creating memories with friends and family rather than concerning yourself with macros.

I think there has been a great shift with females I ‘follow’ online this year – away from competing in bodybuilding competitions and being really lean and towards more self-love and carrying a little extra fat. I think a lot of this shift is due to age, maturity and life experience. Just like I feel like I have ‘grown out of’ getting drunk at the weekend in night clubs, I think a lot of the people I follow online have ‘grown out of’ living life purely for the aesthetics. I don’t think there is anything wrong with either, you constantly change as situations change. What I do think is wrong is constant reinforcement of this phrase ‘memories over macros’ which has plagued social media this season.

All too often in the world of health and fitness, there is the idea of extremes, either portraying that you are 100% focused on getting shredded or you are fully supportive of intuitive eating and loving yourself. In truth, there are very few people who wholly live either extreme. Everyone carries insecurities and it is how you deal with those insecurities that determine your happiness and your progress; both inside the gym and out. The phrase ‘memories over macros’ suggests the two concepts are mutually exclusive and that you must indulge in order to create memories. This is simply not true. What you need to create memories that you will treasure is self-acceptance and contentment. How can you create positive memories if you are so caught up in portraying that you are ‘balanced’ by eating an entire box of chocolates and secretly plagued with guilt at doing so? Equally, how can you enjoy this festive period if you are eating chicken and broccoli and wistfully dreaming of having a slice of cake?

Whether you over-indulge, count your macros religiously or do something in-between should be a personal choice. A choice that you make where you feel happiest. Because happiness will make you nice to be around, which, in turn, will lead to memories. You don’t need to choose between memories or macros. I find it really sad to see some of these ‘fitspo’ accounts videoing themselves eating chocolates one day and then eating egg whites and drinking diet coke the next. Just because they are saying ‘memories over macros’ doesn’t mean that they believe it or that they are content with it.

Living a ‘balanced life’ is very difficult, don’t make the job any harder by being sucked into trying to live the latest social media catchphrase. For me, I choose memories and macros.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x