Friday, 28 August 2015

Lifestyle // UK Staycation Memories & WIN a Parkdean holiday

A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I spent a magical weekend in York where he had his first ever afternoon tea experience (seriously, what has he been doing his whole life?!) Obviously he loved it, so it was very good timing when the lovely people at Parkdean got in touch asking one of the most important questions of our time: how do you prefer your scones - topped with cream or jam first?! We'll surely there's only one correct way....

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Afternoon tea is quite the English tradition and 62% of British women surveyed by Parkdean said that an afternoon tea was a "must try" (and I have to say I certainly agree!). Though did you know that certain parts of the country have very different ideas about how you should go about eating your scones? In Cornwall they are all about adding jam first and then topping with cream, whilst a Devonshire cream tea involves covering the scone with cream and then dolloping jam on top. The same Parkdean survey revealed that more than double go for the Cornish route of jam first, cream second. I on the other hand am very firmly on Team Devonshire! prefer cream to jam and by adding the cream first means I get to have more of it than jam (#guzzleguts), and I also find the consistency of cream serves better to be spread on a warm soft scone than jam does, which can make it crumb and fall apart slightly. Yep, you can always rely on cake to bring out strong opinions in me!

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I adore a UK Staycation and so far this year have had trips to Brighton, York, Cambridge, Oxford and of course (Costa del) Croydon :P I think we're really lucky in the UK to have so many amazing places to go for holidays, all of which are relatively accessible, and the stunning Devon and Cornwall beaches come out on top of favourite UK holiday destinations. Some of my most memorable holidays have been in the UK and I thought I'd share some of them with you below:

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♥ My boyfriend told me he'd always wanted to ride a horse so I surprised him with a trip to the New Forest for his birthday the first year we were together. We had a really lovely time and he loved the horse riding trek we went on.

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♥ When I was 6 we went to stay on a farm in Yorkshire for a week. I adored getting to feed the baby goats each day but woke up one night to find that I'd rolled over in the night and got my head stuck in the rail of the bunk bed and literally could not get free! My dad had to try and prise the rails apart while my mum pushed my head back through! I've never lived it down.

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♥ One year we were going to Birmingham and the surrounding area to visit Alton Towers, Cadburys World, The Iron Bridge Museum and spend some time on a country farm. My brother (aged about 14 at the time and an absolute terror) had somehow acquired a pair of proper metal handcuffs. He'd been torturing me with them for weeks (handcuffing me outside to a pipe at our friends house, handcuffing me with my arms wrapped around the tree in our garden - he's obviously never heard of being nice to his little sister). My mum was finally able to confiscate the keys from him so he couldn't torture me any more but he was constantly arguing to get them back.  His (not so bright) idea was to lock one side of the handcuffs to the car door and pretend he'd locked his other hand in the other side, thinking my mum would have to give up his key to let him out. Finally seeing my chance for revenge I pushed down on the open handcuff to lock his hand in place. Turns out my mum had left the key at home, and as we were now halfway up the M1 there was no way dad was turning back! Will had to nearly dislocate this thumb to get free and never locked me to anything ever again! Victory was mine!

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♥ That same trip, one day we drove for over an hour to get to Cadbury World, only to find it was shut for the day. The gift shop was open however so although we didn't  get to discover the magical mysteries of the chocolate factory we certainly had enough Chocolate Fingers to last through till Christmas! We weren't complaining!

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♥ In 2010 we rented 2 cottages for my family and my cousins family to spend Christmas together in the beautiful Kent countryside. The village called Lyminge (which after quite a few Christmas sherries was very funny!) We had a really great Christmas celebrating with our family, though the neighbours thought we were a bit odd when we ended up having to move the kitchen table from one cottage into the other so we could all eat dinner together and the only way to get it out of one and into the other was through the large front windows! 


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♥ My girlfriends and I do a cottage holiday every year and last year had a great time visiting Rye in East Sussex. One day we went to Dungeness which is famous for having music videos recorded there and it was so fun "shooting" our own album covers! #SoCool

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♥ When I was 15 I spent a lovely week in Cornwall taking my Grandad to visit the Eden Project which was amazing and filled my Jurassic Park obsessed heart with joy! All those jungle ferns!!!! The Cornwall countryside was so beautiful and I loved the sense of adventure in the air being surrounded by so many open spaces and the sea. I've always been a huge fan of Enid Blyton's The Famous Five books, many of which are set in Devon and Cornwall, so I was over the moon (and constantly on the lookout for smugglers! Didn't see any though....!) Whilst I haven't been down to that part of the country for some years, my girlfriends and I are hoping to visit next year to celebrate our birthdays.

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Parkdean have holiday parks all over the UK, helping families create their own amazing holiday memories. You can win a Parkdean holiday for you and your family by taking their Devon vs Cornwall quiz. Good luck! 


I'd love to hear some of your UK staycation stories in the comments below!


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*This post is in collaboration with Parkdean



Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Lifestyle // Cocktails and Dinner at The Trading house

You can't beat a night of good food, yummy cocktails and live music, and that is exactly what I got when visiting The Trading House* a couple of weeks ago. Newly opened in the Bank area of London, The Trading House is housed in an old bank with many of the beautiful original features complete with beautifully panelled walls, high ceilings and a gorgeous wrought iron spiral staircase, which make for a stunning setting in which to dine. Add to the fact that they've decorated it with all sorts of treasures and artefacts to recreate a Victorian trading house filled with "particular and peculiar eccentricies, curiosities and antiquities", and you've got quite a sensation for all the senses!

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I don't usually venture into the heart of the city for drinks or food as I often find the bars and restaurants can be a bit souless, large and filled with suits. Well The Trading House is anything but souless and had one of the buzziest, funnest atmospheres I've experienced in a restaurant, particularly considering it was a Tuesday night! The large bar was absolutely heaving and there was a really lovely atmosphere, added to by the pianist in the corner who was putting his own spin on a variety of popular songs. As promised on the website, there were all sorts of treasures and trinkets dotted around, including a giant white stuffed peacock and a hanging woven tapestry. I also fell in love with the beautiful tiled floor and many gorgeous light fixtures, especially the great pineapple-like ones in the main bar. (That being said it was quite dark in the dining area - ooh the ambience! - so my pictures aren't the most spectacular. Don't worry, new camera coming soon!)

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We were led through to the back of the bar where tables were laid out for diners, and to my delight even more curiosities (Tony took quite a shine to the white stuffed paraqueet over looking our table!) We dove straight into the extensive drinks menu and I finally decided on an English Mojito (£7.95), which put a gin twist on the classic Mojito, and included Bombay, cucumber, mint, sugar, lime, apple juice and apple liqueur. My kind of cocktail! It was absolutely delicious, and not too sweet which I worried it might be with the sugar and apple juice but it was actually really refreshing. It came in a classic tall glass cut tumbler as well, which made it feel quite special (and one of my pet peeves is ordering a cocktail which turns up in a cheap plastic cup!) Tony decided to start with a beer and was really impressed with the large range of craft beers from around the world on offer. I loved the beer menu as it was set in its own little leather bound book called "The Ancestry of Ales, An Acclamation of Brewed Miscellany" and each beer detailed where it was from, what flavours to expect and some had cute little illustrations next to them too. It's little touches like this which made me fall in love with The Trading House

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We then turned to the food menu which is quite eclectic but which ultimately I would describe as typical gastropub cuisine. The starters all sounded incredible and perfect for shared nibbles amongst a group. They also do deli boards which allow you to pick four items from a selection and are served with Turkish flatbread which would be perfect for an afterwork graze or lunch time snacking. We decided to go for the Calamari with lemon mayonnaise (£6.25) and Cumberland and pork chipolatas with honey grain mustard (£3.75). The calamari was absolutely delicious with a slightly spicy and really crispy coating. Calamari is a bit of a favourite of my boyfriend and I and we both agreed it was some of the best we've had in a UK restaurant - a big shout indeed! The chipolatas were also really nice and I loved the sticky whole grain mustard dip, they'd definitely be the perfect accompaniment to post work beers!

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The menu is so varied and it took me absolutely aaaagees to decide what I wanted for my main course - it all sounded amazing! In the end I went for the Gammon Cutlet with chips, fresh pineapple and fried egg (£12.50) as obviously I'd not had enough pork in the starter! Tony went for the 9oz Ribeye steak with garlic butter and properly seasoned chips (£15.95). These are both pretty classic orders for each of us and gammon is literally one of my favourite foods - big hype to live up to The Trading House! And again I was so impressed! The gammon was thickly cut and on the bone, and cooked perfectly so it practically melted in my mouth. The egg was also really nice, with the white cooked through and a runny yolk. Tony's steak was also really well cooked and was super tender. It came with a good amount of garlic butter too, as there's nothing worse than running out of garlic butter midway through your meal, is there?! Both our chips really were properly seasoned as the menu said too, with hot black pepper and just the right amount of salt. Perfect! 

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We also ordered a couple more drinks to accompany our mains and I went for the Watermelon Martini (fresh watermelon juice, watermelon syrup, Ketel One vodka, lemon juice and sugar, £7.95) whilst Toto ordered a Brockmans gin and tonic (£9.95). My cocktail was SO GOOD! It also looked oh-so-Instagram-worthy - vivid pink and served in a classic martini glass with a slice of watermelon. What more could a girl want?! If you're a gin fan you have to try Brockmans! It's made with blueberries and is so delicious! It's not often you see it in bars and restaurants so I definitely recommend ordering one next time you do. It came as a double measure served in a tall cut glass with plenty of ice and a sprinkling of blueberries on top.

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Despite feeling pretty full from two delicious courses we decided it would be rude not to order a dessert each as well (what bikini diet?!) especially as the menu included treats such as sticky toffee pudding, warm chocolate fudge cake and - Tony's ultimate fave - traditional trifle sundae! We decided to share the warm chocolate fudge cake with ice cream (£4.95) and the intriguing sounding banana and coconut kebab with toffee sauce and ice cream (£4.95). The fudge cake was very rich and chocolatey and moist (*shudder*, hate that word!) and was also a huge slice! YUM! The banana and coconut kebab was such a surprise when it came out - we were expecting slices of banana and coconut on a skewer, but oh no! It was a whole peeled banana coated in coconut and served on a hanging kebab stand! Beneath the banana sat a bowl with the ice cream and at the top of the stand sat a little dish filled with toffee sauce which our waitress poured down a small hole at the top of the hanger, so that it dribbled deliciously down the banana, with any excess pooling in the ice cream at the bottom! Amazing! (Though quite hard to photograph!) It was really fun to have such a different dessert, though was slightly tricky to eat as the banana was whole. We ended up taking it all off the skewer and slicing into the ice cream bowl to eat and the flavours were so lovely all together. The textures of the soft banana and crisp coconut went really well together and the cold ice cream and warm toffee sauce complimented each other so well.

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Of course we decided to order one last round of drinks to enjoy with our desserts and take us through the post food chatting! Whilst Tony decided on another beer from "The Anthology of Ales"I chose a Classic Mojito (£7.95) as I enjoyed my earlier English one so much. It came served over crushed ice with lovely big mint leaves which was perfectly refreshing at the end of a big meal. 

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We absolutely loved our meal at The Trading House and will definitely be returning soon. The food was amazing and such good value, particularly for its city centre location. The drinks were also delicious, and again very well priced. The decor was a perfect mix of grand and exciting with the various peculiarities and eccentricities on display (though if you're particularly offended by stuffed animals perhaps it's not the place for you!) The atmosphere was also great - upbeat, buzzy and very fun and I love that they have live music playing every night. What more do you want from an evening out?! 


The Trading House lovelies have also really kindly offered you guys 20% off of food if you book using this link: www.thetradinghouse.uk.com/emsypickleso what are you waiting for?!


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*Thanks so much to The Trading House for inviting us down to sample their food and drinks menu, and for providing emsypickle readers with an offer for 20% off food. All thoughts are honest and my own. For more information please see my Disclaimer Page.


Friday, 14 August 2015

Beauty // The Body Shop Italian Summer Fig Eau de Toilette

Earlier this year year I blogged about rediscovering my love for The Body Shop. Well that love just keeps on growing - their 2015 releases are absolutely killing it! Their latest release is a beautiful new range of fragrances each inspired by different parts of the world and the one I'm looking at today is Italian Summer Fig*, which is an absolutely stunning scent and just perfect for summer.

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First of all, look how gorgeous the packaging is! I'm a sucker for the monochrome trend and love that the Italian Summer Fig packaging comes with flashes of bright green too, which really mirrors the fresh, summery scent within. The glass bottle inside is also stunning and reminds me a bit of a globe, which The Body Shop says is "the source of our beauty" and reinforces their renown values of only using fresh, natural  ingredients. It also looks stunning on display and would be a great addition to anyone's dressing table.

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The scent itself is really warming and immediately makes me feel like I've been transported to the terrace of a beautiful Italian villa. At the risk of making it sound like a glass of red wine, the scent is also really full bodied, with lots of rich layers to it. It's very fruity (which you'd expect from the inclusion of sun-soaked figs) but is not too sweet and is also nice and floral, without being over powering. As the box describes, it is a "unique mix of fresh, bitter green notes with fruity and milky sweet facets".

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Italian Summer Fig will definitely be coming away on holiday with me this year. It's so gorgeous and it's multi layered scent makes it perfect for day and night. Italian Summer Fig retails for £18 for 50ml which I think is a great price for a bottle and fragrance which can easily rival similar popular high end perfumes. The best thing about The Body Shop is they really utilise their fragrances, so as well as an Eau de Toilette, you can also pick up body lotions, body butters and shower gels with the same beautiful Italian Summer Fig scent. YUM! I need them all!


Are you a fan of fig fragrances?



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*Thanks so much to The Body Shop for inviting me to try out this lovely Summer Italian Fig fragrance. All thoughts are honest and my own. For more information please see my Disclaimer Page.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Midweek Manicure // Barry M Speedy Quick Dry - Need For Speed

A little while ago I tried out one of the Barry M Speedy Quick Dry Nail Paints in Pole Position (which you can read about here). While I was a bit disappointed with the slightly thin formula I loved the mint green colour, wide brush and quick drying properties of the polish. I decided to give another couple of colours from the range a go to see if their formula was slightly better than Pole Position, so picked up pretty purple Need For Speed. And I'm so glad I did!

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Need For Speed gives a much more even finish and opaque look with less coats than Pole Position. Hurrah! Whilst the formula is definitely still a bit thinner than the standard Barry M polishes it notices far less.

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I used two coats for the photos shown here and really like the colour it gives. It's a bit like a dark lilac - quite pink toned and unlike any of my other purple polishes. It's quite bright and perfect for summer and I think would be lovely layered over a white base to make it stand out even more. 

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I'm really pleased I tried out more of the Barry M Speedy Quick Dry range. Need For Speed is a gorgeous colour and the two coats dried nice and quickly as they did with Pole Position, but this time I felt like I really got the benefit of a speedy manicure as I didn't need to add extra layers. I also picked up bright yellow On Your Marks so keep your eyes peeled for that review coming soon too!


Have you tried any of the Barry M Speedy Quick Dry range? 

What other colours do I need to try?

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Lifestyle // The Cake and Bake Show - 2 for £20 ticket offer

You may have seen I have just finished running a competition to win two tickets to the Cake and Bake Show of your choice - either London (2-4 October), Manchester (16-18 October) or Edinburgh (30 October - 1 November). Well fear not if you did miss it, or if you didn't win, because today I have an offer for you to buy two tickets to any show for just £20 hurrah!




The Cake & Bake Show is the place for foodie fans who love to indulge in sweet treats. At each event you can expect to see live demonstrations in the Super Cake & Bake Theatre, attend classes held by experts, shop at the hundreds of market stands and enter and watch baking competitions too.

The Harrogate Show has already been and scone (ho ho ho!) but you can check out a video of its highlights on The Cake & Bake Show YouTube channel. There are three Shows left for this year:

London (2 - 4 October, ExCel) 
 Manchester (16 - 18 October, Eventcity) 
 Edinburgh (30 October - 1 November, RHC) 

With my exclusive code - CAKE38 - you can get two tickets for any show for just £20! Bargain!


You can buy your tickets HERE.


Let me know if you buy tickets and for which Show! I will hopefully be at the London one and can not wait :D


You can also check out the other official Cake & Bake Bloggers over on the website


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*Offer valid on Adult full price advance tickets only. Offer ends 30/11/15. Ticket terms and conditions apply. Information correct at time of print.
Thanks so much to The Cake & Bake Show for offering such a great deal to emsypickle readers. All thoughts are honest and my own. For more information please see my Disclaimer Page.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Lifestyle // The 5:2 Diet - LighterLife Fast

You may have noticed that I'm not one to shy away from trying out different diets and food plans (read about my previous experiences with SlimFast and a 3 day juice cleanse). So when I was contacted by LighterLife Fast*, who have created a selection of products to help people successfully and easily manage a 5:2 lifestyle, I was really interested to see how I got on.

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I have heard so many positive stories about the 5:2 diet (my mum for one loves it, not to mention (other) A-Listers Jennifer Lopez and Miranda Kerr!) The idea is that you eat normally for 5 days a week and then fast, having just 600 calories on the other two days of the week. It is thought that intermittent fasting can provide additional health benefits, including weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. You can choose your fast days how ever you like, as long as they are not consecutive, and can change it up week to week. You can also eat your 600 calories whenever you like throughout the day, perhaps in one meal at dinner time or spaced out throughout the day, whatever suits your lifestyle (and hunger pangs!) best. The LighterLife Fast products however serve more for people who want to eke their calorie allowance out across the day, with a range of nutritional snack bars, shakes and powdered meals all clearly labelled with their calorific value. People following the LighterLife Fast plan should eat any four products in one day to stay within the 600 calorie 5:2 limit. LighterLife Fast also offers meal replacement products for you to eat on your non-fasting days too, to help ensure you're eating a healthy balance of nutrients and calories on these days too.

I was really looking forward to trying out the LighterLife Fast diet as it seemed quite flexible. You can choose when to have your fast days which would allow me to keep and make plans to go out for dinner etc on my non-fast days. Whilst on SlimFast I could still go out for dinner, but only went to Pizza Express (which I'm not usually a fan of) as they have a specific 500 calorie menu and I could be sure that it would fit in with the plan. There are also a wide range of LighterLife Fast products to choose from, including savoury options (hurrah! I got a bit sick of eating too many sweet things during SlimFast) and eat-on-the-go shakes and bars so you can tailor the plan to your tastes and requirements. 

I was kindly sent the following products to help me on my way:

 4 x Nutritious Curry flavour meals (155 kcal)
 4 x Nutritious Spaghetti Bolognaise flavour meals (150 kcal)
 4 x Nutritious Chocolate flavour powder shakes (152 kcal)
 4 x Nutritious Crispy Peanut flavour bars (176 kcal)
 4 x Nutritious Nut Fudge flavour bars (175 kcal)
 Chocolate Peanut Meal Replacement Bar (214 kcal)
 Chocolate Raisin Meal Replacement Bar (226 kcal)
 Chocolate Decadence flavour pre made shake (205 kcal)


How did the LighterLife Fast products taste?


Overall the products themselves are quite nice, but certainly not the nicest "diet foods" I've ever tried. The Nut Fudge bars and Crispy Peanut bars give you a sweet treat without being too saccharine and the Crispy Peanut bars remind me of Tracker bars which I LOVE!

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The Chocolate and Peanut and Chocolate and Raisin Meal Replacement Bars are also really tasty, especially the peanut ones. Again they're not too sweet either which is good, as I actually had the shakes after eating one of the SlimFast chocolate peanut meal bars, as it was so sweet! 

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The pre made bottled Chocolate Decadence shake was yummy too and nice and rich. They are far nicer than the Chocolate Flavour powder shakes as these are to be made up with water not milk to stay within the calorie restraints and taste very thin and powdery. I actually found the powder shakes quite hard to drink and only managed a couple of them!

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Whilst it was nice to see some savoury options included in the LighterLife Fast range, I have to say I was a little wary when first trying out the Curry and Spaghetti Bolognaise flavour sachets! Sadly the Curry flavoured powder didn't really do it for me - it produced a very thin broth with some rice and other textured bits in, which tasted like it had be made from a powder and I didn't find particularly filling (when made up it filled half a regular mug). The Spaghetti Bolognaise however was much nicer and far more satisfying. Whilst still only filling half a mug, it had a much thicker consistency and much more resembled the spaghetti Bolognaise it was supposed to! It tastes nice and reminds me of chicken flavoured Super Noodles (though is obviously far more nutritious!) 

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So how have I been getting on with the LighterLife Fast?


I have to admit I have struggled (and mostly failed) with the fast days. My body needs fooooodddd!!! I like to eat and usually have three smallish, healthy meals a day and a couple of low fat snacks to keep me going in between. I really struggled to restrict myself to just 600 calories. Despite telling myself "It's ok you can eat normally tomorrow!" I still struggled, and more times than not had to eat more than is allowed on the plan. The LighterLife Fast products were good though as it meant I could have four (very small) meals / snacks throughout the day and by having them pre packaged I knew that they had the nutrients my body needed for the day. It also meant I didn't have to think about what to eat too much, or prepare anything and calculate calories myself which was really good. It did make it very simple to follow.

I live with my boyfriend so one thing which is always key for me and the way I eat / diet is that it fits with both of our schedules. One thing I liked on the SlimFast diet was that we could sit and eat the same evening meal together (which also meant it was more economical as shopping for one is a lot harder and expensive than shopping for two) I missed this on the  LighterLife Fast as I was eating my LLF products while he ate a regular meal. Oh the food envy was very real!

I also find that exercise is key for me in losing weight and I have been really enjoying swimming and walking / jogging recently. However, I've not liked to exercise on my fast days as I have felt so lethargic, and I've definitely missed working out on these days, and worry this isn't massively helpful to my weight loss quest.

I liked that each box comes with a meal plan included too which gives ideas of what to eat on your non-fasting days, including recipe cards. This shows that LighterLife Fast is definitely part of a lifestyle update rather than a diet as they aim to help you along all days of your journey, not just the ones where you use their products. This guidance will help people be more successful on the plan so they're feeding their body well on the 5 days as well as their low calorie 2 days. 


Unfortunately however I don't think LighterLife Fast is the plan for me, which is a shame as I know so many people who the 5:2 lifestyle really has done wonders for. My body just seems to prefer a regular, steady low calorie diet rather than an intervalled very restricted one.


If you are thinking of trying 5:2 then I would definitely check out the LighterLife Fast products, particularly if you're trying it for the first time, as it takes out all the thinking and does the hard work calorie calculations for you (though I'd probably avoid the Curry flavoured powder and Chocolate flavoured shake powder!) The LLF range is clearly labelled with nutritional value so you can be sure that even whilst you drastically restrict your food intake you're still getting the nourishment that you need. 


Have you tried the 5:2 diet? How did you get on?


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*Thanks so much to LighterLife Fast for inviting me to try out their products. All thoughts are honest and my own. For more information please see my Disclaimer Page.


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