I am not a Before Photo

This week I’ve been left feeling very unpositive about my body. I’ve been feeling really self conscious, something that I have not felt for a while and I’d like to share with you why. At the beginning of this week I was scrolling through instagram and came across a before and after photo of a woman who has lost a lot of weight. She wrote what she weighed at the time of each photo and described her before photo as disgusting, she described herself as unhealthy and unhappy and how she’s so glad she no longer looks like that. In that before photo I could see myself, she was my body shape and my weight and my heart sunk. Do people see me as disgusting? Should I feel ashamed? Am I unhealthy? These are the thoughts I’ve been battling with this week and so many times I’ve almost given into my binge eating urges because if I’m that disgusting then why not just eat anyway? I eat well the majority of the time and I exercise a good few times a week so why don’t I look like that?

It’s not just people like me who can be mentally and emotionally hurt in the long run by these photos, which are becoming more and more popular to post these days. It’s the people who are in them too. You take a photo and you put it side by side with a photo of yourself which you feel is acceptable, a photo where you feel confident, beautiful and you want to show the world what you have achieved. You post it on social media and the comments start to come in “wow you look incredible” “you’ve lost so much weight” “you look beautiful! Good for you” making you subconsciously believe you didn’t look beautiful before you lost the weight and now you look acceptable to everyone around you. What if you put that weight back on? In the short run you feel great but in the long run that photo could become what you measure yourself against if you want to feel beautiful, incredible or socially acceptable. It doesn’t just have to be weight loss photos. What if you are very slim and you feel self conscious and wish you could put on some weight because you also don’t match these after photos. What if you wish you could be more toned, have bigger muscles, have those abs that everyone is complementing that persons after photo for. 

It’s not just every day people posting their before and after photos. Companies will use before and after photos to sell you diets, detox teas and various other ridiculous items to trick you into believing you have to look like the after photos to look acceptable. Most of these before and after photos posted by these companies have been photoshopped, have professional lighting, the models are sucking in and standing in a position to enhance their look. These photos are showing us an unrealistic shape which most of us could never achieve. These photos are so damaging and it scares me that my children will be exposed to these photos one day. 

I have been on a personal journey with my body since summer last year. I have gained confidence and began to love my body despite of my flaws that these before and after photos tell me I have, but every now and then I will come across something that shatters that confidence, so I would like to end this post by telling myself and everyone else who feels that a before and after photo has upset them or given their confidence a good knock back, that you are not a before photo, you are incredible. Just because these people in their after photos are beautiful doesn’t mean that you are not. If you choose to work out then work out because you love your body, not because you hate it. Embrace and love your body because loving yourself is the greatest revolution. 


Loch Lomond Mighty Hike 2017

At the end of Summer 2016 my dad and I signed up for the Macmillan mighty hike in memory of my amazing grandmother who sadly left us during the summer. The walk was 26.7 miles long and for someone who had only just recently decided to make a positive change in my life and to start to exercise more, it was very daunting but a very good motivation.

I had started spin class and I walk a lot during the week due to having two young children and no car but definitely needed to do more, so my dad and I decided we would go for a walk each weekend while my mum looked after the children. Unfortunately it didn’t work out as well as we had planned. A lot got in the way such as illnesses, holidays and my parents having a lot of work done on their house. To make up for the weekends we were unable to walk I decided the days I didn’t have spin class I would go for a walk once I had dropped my daughter at school with the buggy or baby carrier.

Then suddenly the walk was upon us. I couldn’t believe how quickly it had come around but I felt ready and excited. We stayed in a beautiful cottage just minutes away from the starting point and not far from town where there was lots for my mum to do with the kids.

When we arrived there was a lot of energy going on. They had a stage with speakers and a man in a green suit providing some entertainment. We made our way to the starting point where they started a Zumba warm up and then it was time to start.

It was very congested for the first 5 miles until we came to the first stop where they provided snacks, drinks and a first aid tent. My dad and I had a plate of fruit and flapjack. The best flapjack I have ever tasted I’ll add, but that could of just been because I was so hungry! Then we set off again, this time it wasn’t so busy but the trail became a lot harder than I had anticipated. We encountered hills with rocks and roots we had to climb over and it was even harder when walking down a steep hill being careful where to place your feet so not to fall. Every step of the way was worth it though. The views were breathtaking and walking along the banks of Loch Lomond is something I’ll never forget, they are just as bonnie as the song suggests.

Mile 13 was the half way point and we were provided with a lunch buffet and a very welcomed seat but I struggled to eat. I had no appetite but I knew I needed to eat something for energy, so I forced half a plate of food down and we set off again after we had refilled our bottles. The next few miles were hard. It felt like a constant climb, there were slippery rocks we had to walk over and tree roots we had to climb up and down. At points it felt dangerous, if we had misplaced our footing we could of fallen down next to the loch and seriously injured ourselves. During all of this, between miles 13 and 20, I pulled a muscle in my thigh. I’ve pulled this muscle before so I think it must be a weak spot for me. I carried on and didn’t mention anything to my dad because I knew he would make me stop so I didn’t hurt myself more but I was so determined to finish. My pace slowed but we made it to the 20 mile mark. There was a photography there who took this brilliant picture of my dad.

At the 20 mile mark we had to catch a ferry to the other side of the Loch. We waited in a queue to be given a number to tell us which ferry we were on and then we could take a seat with some refreshments while we waited. At this point my leg really hurt but quickly our number was called and we headed to the ferry. The views were beautiful but at this point I was just in pain and worried about how I was going to finish this to appreciate them.

We carried on and hit 23 and a half miles, then my leg gave in. I tried to walk but it felt like stabbing pains when I put weight on it. My dad had to make me stop walking and convinced me I needed to sit down. Eventually he further convinced me that I needed to stop completely or I’d do more damage. I was so frustrated, upset and at the time disappointed in myself. We were so close and I knew if I hadn’t hurt my leg I would of made it. Luckily we were next to a road and we had been given emergency numbers before the walk started. My dad rang the number and a medical bus picked me up. I said goodbye to my dad once he made sure I was okay and he carried on. Amidst my pain and upset the driver told me he was taking me to the finish line so I could cross it. He helped me out the bus and I hobbled across the finish line. People were cheering, the man in the greensuit was back, there were speakers blaring music, everyone was happy and celebrating. I fell to the ground and sobbed like a baby. A woman came and hugged me while another put a medal round my neck and handed me a glass of champagne. I felt like I didn’t deserve it and I just wanted to get to the shuttle bus which would take us back to the starting point where my mum and the kids would be waiting. There was a big buffet for everyone but I just went and sat on the bus. My dad done amazingly and finished not long after.

Upon reflection I am incredibly proud of what we achieved. This time last year I wouldn’t of made it to the first break stop, never mind 23 and a half miles with a pulled muscle. Yes I’m disappointed I didn’t fully complete it but what an experience it was and I suppose there is always next year… so to anyone considering signing up to this event or any other then I would fully encourage you to do so. It’ll be an experience you’ll never forget 

Moonwalk Scotland 2017

After signing up for the Half Moon Moonwalk in January, the has flown by and I did it this weekend.  I thought it would be a good idea to record my experience of the event and my training running up to the event to help inspire others to sign up to future events! 

Last year I did the full moon marathon moonwalk (26.2 miles).  I didn’t train enough of the longer walks beforehand and struggled on the night after hitting mile 19.  I pulled a muscle in my foot from overuse and I was just so exhausted.  I passed the finish line and I didn’t even care about my medal, I was in too much pain and tired!  As soon as I got home, at 8.30am, I said I would never in my life do it again.  It took months for my foot to fully recover after. 

In January this year, an advertisement popped up for the moonwalk on Facebook and i forgot all about the pain of last years walk and decided to sign up (aaaaaaah!).  I asked my sister if she wanted to join me in the half moon (13.1 miles) because she hasn’t done any proper walking before and the half seems much more doable (and I felt scarred for life after last year).  I managed to convince my friend Helen who did the full moon with me last year to come along too, even although she also swore never to do it again. 

I walk around 2 to 3 miles a day up and down to work 5 days a week along with whatever other exercise I’m into at the time which pretty much covers my regular small walks for the training.  Along with this I started adding in a hike up the Pentlands during the week as the longer evenings came about and once every week or two we did a longer walk with my sister ranging from 5 miles to 10 miles.  

There is an official Moonwalk training plan on their website which is good to follow if you haven’t trained for anything like this before.  The half moonwalks maximum training walk was 10 miles which is great if you can’t commit to the full training plan. 

On the day of the moonwalk I woke up at 8am which wasn’t the best idea, but I just can never sleep when I have something big on, but I pretty much chilled out for the full day to reserve my energy for the evening.  We fuelled up at Pizza Express as it’s only a stones through away from Moonwalk City and pizza just worked well for me last year before the walk.  I know the Moonwalk offer a meal before but they just aren’t to my taste. 

We were to arrive before 10.30 so headed in about 10pm.  You get to sit in a huge tent while you wait to go.  I think this is probably the worst bit because you just feel tired and I’m just want to get going, but it lets the Moonwalk team, volunteers, police and security get ready for the night ahead.  They have entertainment and speakers until your ready to set off so it’s not too boring. 

You are released in stages depending on your estimated time you put in on the website when you registered so I was in the second release with my sister.  My friends Helen, Louise and Linda were released in the first lot so we just agreed to meet them back at the tent after. 

It’s always really congested and busy for the first 4 miles or so while everyone settles into their own walking paces and the crowd even out a little, which doesn’t really bother me too much because it’s not a race and I didn’t have a goal time in mind.  The volunteers and crowds are amazing and so encouraging.   They are posted all around the moonwalk map and keep you going in the right direction, keep you safe from the cars and hand out water and food.  The moonwalk couldn’t take place without you all so thank you so much for your hard work. 

I found the walk really easy this time and really enjoyable.  It’s just so nice to walk around the city in the middle of the night and have people cheer you on.  We completed the walk in about 4 hours and 15 minutes, we took it at a pretty easy pace the whole way round because Kirsty was struggling with the distance. The main point is we completed it. 

We raised £270 in total which is amazing, so thanks to everyone who sponsored us.   Now it’s time to catch up on some well needed sleep. 

I have already registered my interest for the Full Moon again next year and I can’t wait!

I would really recommend this to anyone that wants a challenge or something to work towards.  This is an amazing charity and all the money raised in Scotland stays in Scotland.  If your interested in doing the Moonwalk then you can find more information here.  


My journey to 5k … so far

I want to share my journey to 5k (so far) to help inspire or encourage people to try running because I wish I had had something similar to read before I started as I don’t know any runners well enough to ask advice from. 

I started following someone on Instagram back in January who was training for the London Marathon.  I watched her miles increase on her long runs every week and it just seemed crazy to me at the time, totally unachievable to someone like me who has tried to run 4 times before and felt awful and uninspired each time… all of them done 4 years ago this month according to my Nike Running App.  Back then I was running to try and lose weight, not for any kind of fitness goal. 

After watching the London Marathon on TV in April and seeing everyone crossing the finish line I decided I wanted to try and run again because one day I wanted to achieve something amazing like that.

So a few weeks went by (I still hadn’t done anything to start running…) and I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time and she just happened to mention her sister was going to run the Edinburgh marathon in May as it was one of her goals before she turned 30.  This spurred me on again to think about picking up running…

So 4 weeks ago I started my running journey and signed up for the 5k Race For Life in Edinburgh! I know 5k might seem like nothing to some people reading this but to me it is a big goal to reach having never properly ran before, and it is something that will keep me motivated to keep on training. 

Having come from a fairly active background over the past 5 years with regular hiking, walking  and spinning that it would be fairly easy to pick up running… I was so wrong!  

Week 1

I downloaded the Couch to 5k on my app thinking I would be able to skip a few weeks but after that first training run and walk I was looking and feeling a state and slightly disappointed that I felt so unfit!   I was so embarrassed about stopping to walk I avoided going past other people by going down the mud trails that ran off the path!  The first session was run for 1 minute and walk for 1.5 minutes which meant I only ran for 6 minutes in total with walking breaks in between.   I told Chris how I felt when I got home and how disappointed I was that I wasn’t good at it and I tried not to be put off by my first experience and keep it up.

My next training run was with my friend Shona and I felt a lot better going out with a friend.  When we started our running section she told me I was going far to fast which then made me realise why I felt so exhausted after my 6 minutes last time.  By the end I felt a little better about running.  My calves were killing me by the end of these two first runs and I was convinced I was injured but after some icing, ibuprofen gel and a few days of rest they felt a lot better. 

My final run for the week was on my own again and I felt a lot more comfortable slowing to a walk in front of people because I realise they just don’t care!  There was a total of 8 minutes broken up running in this session and my calves feel perfectly fine now.  I have now realised it’s probably just my body getting used to doing something it’s never done before rather than all the problems google was telling me I had. 

Week 2

We went on holiday this week to a lovely little log cabin in Scotland.  I told Chris I was determined to squeeze a run or two inbetween our hikes and days out.  I managed one run while we were away of 1.76 miles. It was trail running and it was all downhill but I managed to run it all without stopping and I think this brought my confidence back up again. Even although it was all downhill it made me realise I could probably run for more than a minute at a time if I just slowed the pace a little.

The weekend we got back I had a training run planned for the Saturday and Sunday but this time I didn’t use the Couch to 5k app, instead I used the Nike Running app to record my distance and to try to keep my pace consistent instead of sprinting.  Somehow I managed to get to 0.8 of a mile without stopping but bumped into someone I knew and I stopped for a chat.  Finished my session with walk and run intervals on the way back.

Week 3

Continuing my training into the next week I started to cut a walking break out on my next run getting it down to 2 and then finally 1.  The runs are still really tough for me but I can tell I’m improving my lungs and legs. 

Finally I attempted the full mile running at the weekend and I did it! I ran/walked the 2nd mile home. Seriously 3 weeks ago I wouldn’t have even thought I would be able to do that.

Week 4

Shona joined me on my next run and I think because I was doing it with someone else it encouraged me to just keep going and I finally reached the 2 mile mark without a walking break which feels amazing.  Mini goals are the way forward and keep me going. 

Next day Shona came with me up the Pentland hills because I needed to get some hill training added into all the flat running I had been doing.  We picked a gradual hill, not too steep but still around about a mile up to the saddle. We ran and walked up to the saddle, which was tough but not nearly as hard as I was anticipating thanks to all those other runs and hikes I have been doing!  We ran all the way to the bottom clocking in at 29 minutes.  I am going to add a hill training day in once a week now so I get used to it, apparently the first 2k of my race for life is uphill.  The muscles around my knees have been a bit achey after the last few runs, but have been icing and using ibuprofen gel to help ease them a little. 

My last run for week 4 was Saturday and I went the furthest distance on my training so far of 2.5 miles. I had to have three short walking breaks for the second half just to catch my breath and recover as it was so warm (and the half bottle of wine I had the evening before probably didn’t help)!

So far I am loving running, it’s improving my cardio fitness and my confidence in what I can achieve if I put my mind to it.  Changing my mindset and goal to achieving a 5k race compared to purely just trying losing weight is what has made me stick to this.  I am enjoying it and not forcing myself to do it or doing it as a punishment for eating too much. 
My advice to others thinking about taking up running is just to try it out and see if you enjoy it.  I found the couch to 5k app vey handy to begin with and would recommend it if you like to follow set out plans but I have really liked the Nike+Running Club app the past few weeks for recording my runs and using it to keep a steady pace going.  I’m sure there are other great apps out there but these are the two I have been using and enjoying. 

After my race at the end of June I will do another post on the final part of my 5k journey, until then please let me know in the comments below your first experiences in running, what running apps (if any!) you recommend, what was your first running goal and how your first race went.


Welcome to Be Happy Be Free


Welcome to Be Happy and Be Free, a blog by Julie and Nikki about living a healthy and balanced life.

We will be taking you through each of our journeys and covering everything we wished we had more information about at the different points in our lives.

About Nikki: 

I am 26 years old and a single mum. I live just outside of Edinburgh with my two beautiful children and our cat Lily. I will be writing posts about overcoming binge eating, having a balanced lifestyle, finding the time to work-out when you have kids and most importantly learning to love yourself and your body, which is something I personally have struggled with for as long as I can remember.

This all started for me back in summer 2016 when I decided to make a positive change in my life. I am taking part in the Macmillan Mighty Hike which I have been training for and I will share my journey with you along the way.

For me my struggle with body image isn’t over but I am on the right track and determined to get there. One of the most important things I have learnt so far is that being a plus size girl is not a negative thing. In fact I’m quite proud to hold that title and I want to break the stigma surrounding it. You can be plus sized and you can be healthy. It’s just about finding that balance and finding that love for yourself.

About Julie:
I am 27 years old and I live in a small town near Edinburgh with my husband and our cat Poppy.  I work full time in an office in the centre of Edinburgh.  I will be writing posts mainly around my journey with food, dieting and exercising.

My healthy journey started in 2013 when I decided I wanted to lose weight. I successfully lost 3.5 stone strict calorie counting over the space of just around a year.  Eventually I became so obsessed with the amount I was eating that I used to have binge days because I was always hungry from restricting all the time and avoid healthy “high calorie” foods. This caused me to try more and more fad diets to get back to my lowest weight. Last year I stopped dieting, counting and tracking and have successfully maintained my weight since then by intuitive eating and only exercising for fun!

I am currently training for my first 5k and 10k races along with my second Moonwalk which I will be documenting week by week.  I also love cooking and will be sharing some easy healthy recipes I use during my busy schedules along with how I try to eat healthy but balanced at work.


We would love to hear what other posts you would be interested in reading about in the comments below.

Julie and Nikki