After unknowingly suffering from gluten intolerance for years and experiencing a diagnosis of cervical dysplasia, Eliza Flynn made the decision to alter her diet and began making healthy lifestyle choices. Eager to share her experience with others, Eliza began her self-named blog, where she shares fitness tips and recipe ideas. We spoke to the lifestyle blogger about her method for creating new recipes, her favourite kitchen tools and how we can all make steps towards being healthy...
Firstly, what made you decide to start your blog?
I started it for two reasons - I had such fun doing Total Wipeout that I wanted to share that experience with my friends and family and it seemed like a website was better than something like Facebook. In addition, I was training for the London Marathon and suddenly it was like being immersed into a whole new world and rather than bore my friends and family with that, I poured it all out into a blog. Food was also a big part of my life and went hand in hand with exercise - I used to exercise to burn off the food I ate; interestingly enough, the more exercise classes I went to, the more healthy choices I was making diet-wise.
2013 was a really tough year for me - I was trying to sort out my mum who had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and was also dealing with a diagnosis of cervical dysplasia (which required two operations under general anaesthetic). It made me realise that no matter what, I had to put my health first and that involved changing my diet and getting fitter. During my research and from talking with friends, I realised that there was such a misconception of what being 'healthy' was - especially when it came down to food. I had one who thought eating Fromage Frais was saint-like just because it came under the category 'yoghurt'! I then began a second blog called Healthy Living London.
What’s your favourite aspect of blogging and are there any downsides?
Honestly, my favourite part is being invited to product launches and events. My second favourite aspect is the moments of inspiration when I think of a great blog post to write - I have written so many whilst swimming, in the shower, in bed etc. The only downside is not having enough hours in the day to keep writing! I also find it hard to write about things that I'm not fully passionate about - I normally turn those requests down.
How do you balance blogging with other interests or jobs? Do you ever go offline?
I'm working for myself at the moment and it seems as though there's even less time for blogging than before! However, getting up an hour earlier or going to bed a bit later usually works. I find it really hard to be doing something new and not write a blogpost about it in my head - for example, I recently started a jewellery course and am trying to work out how to fit it on my blog. I am ashamed to admit, I'm rarely offline and if I'm somewhere without wifi or 3G it takes a good day or so for me to chill out and accept I can't check my emails / Instagram / Facebook / Twitter.
Are there any food groups/types that you avoid?
Yes! I've never liked milk and as a kid, I was forced to drink a bottleful every day at school (apparently my Asian heritage means I have an anti-dairy disposition). I also used to complain about having stomach aches after eating Italian but since they weren't consistent (i.e. some pastas were fine, many weren't), I ruled out a self-diagnosed gluten-intolerance until recently when I discovered a lot of my family had known they were gluten-intolerant for years. My family need to communicate better!
How has eating healthily impacted on you personally? Do you ever find it difficult to stick to it?
Eating healthily makes me feel so good - so much so that the thought of greasy, over-sugary foods turns my stomach. That's not to say I don't enjoy a well-made burger and I'd never refuse a nibble bowl of macaroni cheese.
How do you create new recipes? Is it a trial and error process?
I have never shied away from mixing seemingly incompatible substances together. For example, at university, I was quite fond of pasta with hummus - a not altogether intolerable meal. Now, part of the process of creating new recipes IS the trial and error. I rarely use weighing scales, being more partial to cupfuls and handfuls instead, and using new ingredients.
Have you had any cooking disasters?
Any baked desserts that I've made. My boyfriend has been the unwilling victim for many of those monstrosities.
If you kept a food diary, what would a typical day look like?
Mornings are started with a fruit and veg smoothie if I'm in a rush, or porridge with almond milk and a variety of toppings such as seeds, chia or fruit. I'll snack on fruit during the day and lunch will usually be a random mix of whatever's in the fridge - usually some tomatoes, half an avocado, maybe leftovers etc. If I've been organised, I'll have a salad. And dinner is whatever my latest recipe idea is - from mince lettuce boats, to chilli salmon, broccoli and brown rice or ratatouille with a poached egg.
Which ingredients do you use most often?
Not in order of preference: my smoothie staples are spinach, Aduna's Baobab powder, protein powder, chia seeds, lemon, Cherry Active. And meal staples include brown and black rice, almond milk, avocado, raw honey and salmon.
Which three kitchen appliances could you not live without?
My Nutribullet is currently the favourite thing in my kitchen - my smoothies are so much smoother than with a hand blender! I also love my squirrel rice paddle - it makes me smile and who can live without an egg poacher? People who can make poached eggs without ones are magicians.
Where are your favourite places to go when eating out?
I absolutely love Asian food. Chinatown is a big favourite, especially Golden Dragon and Rasa Sayang. Also, Tonkotsu on Dean Street is just moreish - I could eat several bowls of their stuff. For variety, Tibits excels, especially as it offers a buffet with clear dietary requirement labels and works on an unusual pricing method.
What advice would you give to those considering a healthier lifestyle?
I have four pieces of advice:
1. Diet and fitness go hand in hand towards a healthier lifestyle - you have to work on both.
2. Don't make big changes as you'll never incorporate them into a way of life - small changes turn into habits.
3. Make sure you're surrounded by supportive people - for some strange reason, friends and family love nothing more than to mock you for going for healthy options, especially if they're going for the greasy burger and chips.
4. Don't follow fad diets - they're made to fail.
What is your favourite kind of workout?
One that leaves you aching the day after!
What advice would you give to our readers to get the best out of their workouts?
Set yourself a goal such as signing up to an obstacle course or a run - this gives you something to work towards and that extra bit of motivation during your workout.
Who are your favourite bloggers?
Call me biased but my sister Rosie Flynn’s blogposts are one of the few that actually make me laugh out loud. She doesn't write them often, but when she does, they're cracking. I must also mention The Clean Diary for her stunning photos and inspirational recipes and Fat Girl PHD for her funny and unapologetic writing, as well as the important role she plays in highlighting society's perception of the perfect body.
What does the future hold for your blog? Are there any exciting developments in the pipeline?
More blog posts! Development-wise, I'm keen to take on different challenges and report on them as I go, whether that's trying a certain fad diet, getting into a boxing ring or doing a triathlon, they must have the same criteria – to scare the shit out of me and put me out of my comfort zone. Send me your suggestions!
I've also been toying with the idea of holding healthy dinners - I would start with a smoothie taster with delicious raw canapés on offer, and then move onto a zingy courgette salad with a light prawn and mango salad. Pudding will most likely involve chia…
Healthy Living London is also just the start! I'm looking to set up Fitness in the Fields sessions that will also incorporate some kind of knowledge session based around health, fitness or food. We've had so many people ask about the #hellofitty T-shirt too that a shop seems likely.