A few weeks ago French Nutrition company So Shape got in touch with me to see if I would like to sample some of their foods and see if it could help me with my health or weight loss goals and bring a bit of zest to my life with all of those extra vitamins!

As I am pretty content with how I look and feel right now, I decided to give the 5 day challenge a go just to see what it was all about, but also to help me have a bit of a detox from sugar and carb rich foods. I hoped it would help me feel less bloated and wobbly following birthday indulgence and a Summer of eating far too many treats!

And so for the last 5 days I have replaced 2 or my normal daily meals with So Shapes smart and healthy ones and have been really impressed with the flavours and ease of it all. Whilst it was initially hard to get it together and get my head in the So Shape game, the ease of them has been great – especially on busy school mornings for someone who doesn’t really do breakfast!

What is So Shape?

So shape are a French nutrition company that have created a series of “Smart Meals” that are 100% vegetarian, gluten free, and some are even vegan. The are rich in protein, low in fat and easy on the calories, and each one is filled with vitamins that in the longer term can boost your immunity and in the short term help to ensure you have plenty. They help you to detox, are great to regulate metabolism and help keep muscle mass whilst exercising and working out.

So Shape is designed for people always on-the-go, with busy lifestyles, for those who want extra protein intake, or just for people that want to fit into their jeans or have a post weekend detox. They supply all of your daily micro and macro nutrients and each one is tasty and delicious!

I love that they have flavours and foods far from what you would associate with weight loss – making it easier than ever to stay on the weightloss wagon!

So Shape has 3 plans you can choose from that each differ in length depending on what you are hoping to achieve.  All are the same in the respect that you replace 2 of your regular meals with 2 smart meals (and your 3rd meal is healthy), but you obviously take the challenge for longer if you want lose more weight and inches!

The first one (which I did) is the “5 Day: Feel lighter” challenge. It is £39.90 and you can select 10 meals – it also includes the shaker and book!

The Second option is done over 14 Days and is £89.00 for 30 meals (again with shaker and meal plan book). This one is great if you have an event coming up and want to fit into a certain dress or pair of jeans, or you generally want to shift a few lbs to feel more content.

Finally is the 28 Day Challenge – labeled as “change your size”! This one is £159.00 for 60 meals and again includes the shaker and meal plan booklet.

They also have an array of snacks available for when you need something more, that are rich in nutrients, low in calories and convenient and tasty. They are of course nowhere near as sweet as the real thing, but they help you enjoy life’s pleasures (or have a little treat) whilst still staying in shape – they mean you can literally have your cake and eat it and I found them quite nice.

I took the 5 day challenge with the goal that I wanted to feel less wobbly and bloated and that hopefully my clothes wouldn’t be so tight. I lost 3lbs whilst in Italy (living off a lot of veg and walking 5 or 6 miles a day) and I am at a place in life where I am learning to love my body more and with that I do feel mostly good in my clothes and naked. I have however noticed that my bra cuts in a little and as I enjoy far too much rubbish, I was aware that my mum tum was bloated and my skinny jeans just felt too tight! I hoped the 5 day feel lighter challenge could help me be more comfortable in these areas – therefore helping me embrace my body even more than I already do.

I mostly cook and eat really well, but one thing I lack on is that I don’t always have the best eating habits. I think like a lot of busy mums, I skip meals and then fall into the trap of compensating by eating crap and so again I hoped the 5 day So Shape challenge would also give me a kick into a good “3 meals a day” routine!

I found it a little tricky initially as many of the shakes and frappes contain green tea (which I can’t have) but I did manage to enjoy a few that saw me through, and rotated these between the Smart pancakes as options for my breakfast. I then ate salads, tuna or wraps for my lunch and a Smart dinner and plenty of water and the odd smart muffin in between! The pancakes were great with a handful of berries and a drizzel of honey, and were really simple to make too.

What I Loved

The thing I love the most was the ease of it all – it really is convenient. I also loved the flavours of the shakes and found them incredibly easy and convenient to make and drink. My favourites were the Lemon Cheesecake and the stracciatella (chocolate ice cream) both were super tasty and whilst I know it’s not everyone’s idea of breakfast to eat “lemon cheesecake” or even “white chocolate” it was so delicious and a real boost to my morning! I found that both the shakes and the pancakes were filling and mostly satisfying and sweet enough to curb and sugar cravings.

I have never really been a breakfast person, but I do enjoy a smoothie or shake, or something like fruit and pancakes. In this respect So shape worked great for me as I was able to eat nutritionally rich foods first thing, that I enjoyed and, that helped me feel content and energised all morning.

What I Didn’t

I found it really hard that the dinners are such small portions. That probably sounds rather greedy, but I also didn’t find them nearly as tasty as the breakfasts and snacks either. They are okay and I found adding a side salad helped, but this was where I struggled the most – especially because I was still making dinners for the kids.

I think if I was to do it again I would swap and do the smart meals for breakfast and lunch and enjoy a healthy tea with the fam!

We also didn’t particularly enjoy the granola, but this is personal preference as I know lots of people do.

The Results

This challenge helped me get rid of sugar cravings and think more about what I was putting into my body. It helped me with portion control and eating regular meals and helped me get excited about being more healthy again.

After only 2 days I felt more balanced, my stomach felt flatter, and I definitely seemed more energetic. By day 3 my face felt less puffy and my denim shirt that I have not been able to fasten since having Alice, actually fastened up over my tummy and bust – it felt mint to wear it again under jumpers!  

This So shape challenge that I embarked upon on Monday was less about weight loss for me and more about FEELING less chubby and puffy around the edges. After just 5 days of So Shape, my bra feels looser and where my jeans cut in (giving the whole muffin top sitch) I am now more streamlined and can wear my clothes more comfortably which are all evident that I have definitely lost some inches. I guess because I am trying not to focus on numbers and just be me, it never crossed my mind to take measurements, but I can clearly see and feel more definition in my shape – my waist once again goes in as opposed to bulging in a tire formation and my face isn’t as puffy,

I did weigh myself, and found to lose about 1lb on the scales too – I suppose that’s just a bonus?

I would agree that So shape does exactly what it promises to and if I had have wanted to lose more weight, then exercising alongside this or taking on the 14 day challenge would have ensured this.

So Shape is not a fad diet or a complete lifestyle change – It is a set challenge taken short term with long term effects. It is designed to help you feel lighter, fit into that party dress or jeans, or change size if you feel you are bigger than you want to be. It ensures you receive the right nutrients and comes in flavours designed to satisfy your tastebuds. It helps you get into good habits and regular healthy meals and the booklet teaches you about good foods too. Sometimes we don’t feel as content in out bodies as we would like, or overeating leads us to be bloated and sluggish – So shape is great to get back in shape and on track, and if you want to see how others have succeeded with the longer challenges you can check them out here on So Shapes results page.

If you would like to give So Shape a go for yourself, perhaps to feel a little better like I wanted to, or to reach a goal for that Christmas party, then hop on over to their site and enter code HEARTYCUSTOM to get double the amount of flavours in any 14 or 28 day challenge when using the custom option.

*In collaboration with So Shape – all images are my own

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As the festive season approaches, I am frantically trying to put together lists, sort out the house and, generally just thinking about what gifts to get for those we love. From bits for the kids, to something for Nath (not to mention our siblings and families), there is always so much to think about at this time of year – but I love it too.

The number of presents to buy and the cost of them/how much we end up spending on other extra’s over the Christmas period, can soon mount up. And then, Just when you think you’ve got everything covered and are ready to put your feet up with a mince pie, you suddenly remember you’re doing Secret Santa at work this year (and there’s something about trying to source a gift at a set price for Denise in accounts that can send people into a mad panic).

If you’re stumped and don’t know what to get your workmate this year, then here are some thrifty ideas to hopefully get you inspired.

Get Crafty

If you’re arty, why not turn your talent to Christmas gifts? Should the recipient enjoy a brew, you could try making your own coasters or perhaps they’d enjoy some DIY candles? You could revamp a simple plant pot and add a little poinsettia in to give it a festive touch. I recently tried my hand at some pebble art – another lovely, personal, cheap and effective gift! 

Once you start crafting your Secret Santa gift, you’ll possibly find more people in your life who would appreciate your creations too – another way you could always save some extra pennies – make handmade goodies for your loved ones too.

Bake Some Treats

Should you love baking and enjoy nothing more than whiling away your weekends waiting for your yummy creations to prove, why not bake some festive biscuits, Mince pies or some gingerbread?  Christmas is perfect for delicious flavours.

You can purchase glass storage jars very cheaply at most home shops and, once you’ve popped your bakes inside, you can make them really special with a festive ribbon or decoration and handmade gift tag. Like the crafty gift ideas, this one again can be extended to gift ideas for others and could be a great excuse to invite friends over for a Christmas cuppa.

Savvy Stocking Fillers

There are so many lovely stocking fillers out there, many for under £10. From mugs to candles, slipper socks or quirky snow globes, there are trinkets to suit every personality in the office. I recently saw some fab ones in TK Maxx that were reasonable and funky, but if you are thinking of purchasing some stocking fillers with your Secret Santa budget, consider how much you can buy. While a £5 limit may initially appear to be too little, you can find one or two appropriate gifts for that price quite easily if you know where to look.

For the sentimental colleague, a photo frame for their desk could go down well, or if they love stationery, then personalised notebooks such as these from Card Factory are a thoughtful gift too.

Stocking fillers are also ideal if you don’t know the recipient super well and where you can’t think of something you know they’ll like, you can always opt to buy something they’ll use. Pens and keyrings are a handy and cost-effective option for the co-workers we rarely speak to, or again why not bake in bulk for all the office? 

Are you stumped for Secret Santa inspiration this year? Will you be using any of these tips to make sure you have your present sorted?

 

*Collaborative Post 

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Last night Mr Smith and I enjoyed a lovely evening at the cinema to celebrate together for my birthday. I love going to the cinema and I love having date nights out. Obviously now we have 3 kids in the mix, this isn’t such an easy thing for us to be able to do but thankfully last night it happened.

On Thursday I turned 34 (ouch!) and when he asked me what I wanted to do this year it was rather easy – I just wanted to be able to go to the cinema and have some of my favourite treats and then food after, and so that’s what we did and it was great! We went to see “Bohemian Rhapsody” (which I have been keen to see  since seeing trailers for it back in the Summer) and it was so brilliant. It was such an emotional and funny film, which has left me thinking about so many things since. I thoroughly enjoyed our evening together and I love that I have more understanding about some of the classic songs from Queen and about Freddie Mercury and his life generally – It was so intriguing and he is an incredible individual.

This week also saw me going to the theatre with one of my mates to see EVITA, having ice cream sundaes with another and freezing walks on the beach! I have visited a dear friend in hospital and hung out with my mother in law and sisters in law. I have received some lovely gifts for my birthday, seen my sisters and mum, and eaten far too much. As well as being on time for school and being mostly organised, I have really enjoyed my birthday week; done loads with lots of people and have much to be grateful for.

Grateful For

This week I am grateful for all of the lovely messages sent my way online and in messages and cards to wish me a “Happy Birthday”! It made my day and I felt very loved! I am grateful for the cool cake Nathan got for me as well as the gifts and money too. I felt so spoilt and it was lovely!

I am also grateful for the time I have has to spend with friends and to Nathan for lovely birthday treats. I am grateful my train was late last Monday because I was too, and I am grateful for my baby sister for babysitting last night so Nath and I could go the cinema.

Succeeded At

This week I succeeded at finding a retro unit for the TV in the lounge (for only £25 at the YMCA furniture shop – its pretty cool)! We are still in the process of finishing off the lounge and I am pleased with how well it is all coming together. We aren’t doing anything major in our home at the moment, but I am enjoying putting my style into it and it making it more homely for us all.

I also found some dusty pink velvet curtains for £4.99 in the charity shop that will be ideal for making new cushions for said lounge out of, so I am excited to get cracking on those this coming weel, and can hopefully share them with you soon.

Found Beauty In

This week of course hasn’t just been the ordinary of school runs, play dates and my birthday treats, it’s focus has very much been about the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war. Everywhere we have been there seems to be some kind of art or tribute to mark this and each brave soul who sacrificed so much for our freedoms. It has really made me pause and reflect, often feel goosebumps, but mostly feel thankful.

The poppies that adorn walls and dress gardens all over, as well as all the ones at our local train station (crotched by locals), are each a beautiful reminder of all of those who gave their today for our tomorrows! I am thankful each November especially for our freedoms and the opportunity to remember them.

This week I also found beauty in the coast on a grey blustery day and I found beauty in Alice playing with her little pal . I beauty in the talented voices of those in EVITA and I found beauty in being with my friends and family. I found beauty in the kids playing and kicking Autumn leaves about and I found beauty in the gorgeous gifts I received.

This week has been both celebratory and solemn – it has been reflective too, and now tonight as we reach it’s end, I am pretty worn out from it all,  a little unorganised for school tomorrow, but thankful for my lovely home and family and all that we enjoy in peace!

 

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Now that the shops are filling up with festive things, and coffee shops have their festive cups and flavours on the go, I think it’s probably  just about safe to starting mentioning Christmas over here too!

Recently we have been having the discussion of how we want to approach gifts with the kids this year and what our budget will be. We have talked about how we will continue to teach them the spirit of giving to others (especially those in need!) and what we want to do to capture the magic and spirit of the season. I know for many that Christmas can be such an expensive time of year, and that the prospect of “affording it” can be quite daunting. I think with so many things that we and the kids think we want, it can be tempting to get things on credit, or just overspend, all in an attempt to satisfy that desire or to make it bigger than last year.

I know how easy it is to want to spoil the kids and buy them what they want, but if we are not careful, and if we don’t set limits, our kids will not only be unappreciative and potentially overwhelmed too. Not to mention that our bank accounts could be drained and we can be left pretty skint come the new year.

This year I am more determined than ever to set limits with what we get the kids and each other, because the number of gifts and spending money isn’t really what makes Christmas a special time of year – it’s about gathering together with your loved ones and sharing in the joy whilst relaxing from the every day. It’s about helping others and reminding them that there is still love in this world. Christmas to me is an opportunity to do good  as well as some serious cooking or watching a few old classics with some mulled wine or hot chocolates. It’s a time to go for walks in the crisp chilly air (snugly wrapped) and to create magic and tradition. It’s an opportunity to lift the spirits of others and share what we have been blessed with.

Christmas, if we are not careful, can lose all of this and very quickly become a time of year where we overspend or get into debt. Reining in our spending can avoid this, and help us have a lovely season without overspending! Reining it in doesn’t mean that you give everyone a tangerine in a sock or something of cheap quality, rather it simply means that you don’t throw money at the occasion in the hope that it’ll make Christmas more special.

The key to a joyful Christmas (I believe) is that you do things with the people who matter the most to you, and you do things for others. Yes, of course you’ll need to do some spending, especially if like us there’s children on the scene and giving presents is such great fun. But, before you start compiling lists of unfeasibly expensive gifts, just take a look here for some good budgeting advice and then put some of the following ideas in motion – I hope  that they will help you have a lovely and memorable Christmas season without overspending! 

Create a budget and try to come in under it

Having a budget (especially if you don’t have a lot of extra money) is an essential step to having an affordable Christmas. I am sure it would be great to be able to afford to spend the same lavish amounts on everyone you know, but unless your surname is Rockefeller you’re pushing your luck! Reigning in how much you spend on each person through a simple budget is so important and, is something you shouldn’t feel embarrassed or tight about.

In our family there are a lot of us and so we find that doing secret santa works really well. The budget is always £5 for the kids and then £15-£20 for the adults. This way we are only buying one adult gift each from our siblings and one kid per each of our kids (plus our parents). Doing this minimises the gifts we need to buy and it also cuts costs massively whilst keeping it fair. It means that you get one very thoughtful and lovely gift as opposed to a tonne of stuff you probably don’t really need or want! We each look forward to sitting in the hot seat and trying to guess who bought for us.

On a personal level with our children, we have always tried to limit the amount of gifts we get for our kids. I don’t like them having tonnes of stuff and nor do I think they need it just because it’s Christmas. Instead we try to teach them appreciation through the means of something they “Want, Need, Wear, Read” and then we add in a small toy from santa. We then do things throughout December to expose them to those in need and ways they/we can help. As I say we get them each a gift from Santa with a stocking at the end of their beds and then, they get one thing for each category or a want, a need, something to wear and read – from us. We always have a budget set for each one of them, as well as a budget of how much Nathan and I will spend for each other and our parents too. I like knowing ahead of time how much we plan on spending, and then I can look for sales, discounts or second hand bargains on Gumtree/Facebook. There is nothing wrong with buying a used toy or techy item (etc) in good condition or even going down the homemade road in order to come in under budget. I am sure that handing out homemade gingerbread cookies to teaching assistants or homemade soaps to the neighbours, will be very much appreciated and loved, as well as going a long way to saving you money!  

Sign up for Amazon Prime

I think that most of us these days do at least some of our Christmas shopping online, its so much more convenient (and warmer!). If you’ll be expecting lots of parcels in December then free shipping is a huge help. Amazon offers a free month trial of its Prime service (normally £7.99), so if you sign up in early December you can mix the P&P for a lot of your deliveries and save a lot. You’ll of course have to look for items that are eligible for prime, but if it’s saving you at least £2.99 per present then it’s definitely worth it.

Always look for voucher codes

I love the feeling of getting something for less! Spending 30 seconds (or a little more) looking for online voucher codes for the retailer you’re about to visit before you dive in will help cut spending. Even if it’s just for free delivery or 10% off purchases over £30, doing this for every single purchase will mean that you’ll soon tot up some savings that you can either use to buy a few more presents with or just high 5 yourself for saving a few quid off your budget! 

Agree on a no-present policy with some friends and relatives

This of course won’t work with everyone, but if you find out that someone else is also trying to spend less this Christmas, then they might be as relieved as you to be able to give presents a miss and just spend some time together! If you’re planning to meet up, then you could always offer cookies or a brownie in a mug mix as a little favour, or simply do some random acts of kindness together instead. 

Avoid trying to keep up with others 

We can so easily fall into the trap of wanting to have the same as others or doing things the way they do it at Christmas time. The age old saying of “keeping up with the Jones'” is such a dangerous trap and will almost always lead to us not been satisfied and spending more than we have. It isn’t good to feel like we need to give our kids the same as other families do, or to believe that they may be hard done to because they don’t seem to have as much as friends at school! All of this really isn’t important or what Christmas is about and if we start to compare then it is likely that our Christmas will not be what we hoped and it will never feel enough. As a result of this attitude, our spending will quickly soar and we will end up buying unnecessary things.

Really try to focus on what is right and important for your family and it will in turn help you spend less.

I am pretty excited for this Christmas (which is refreshing) and I hope that you can look about at what is really important this season and what you and your kids really need (guaranteed it won’t be half the things they pester you for)! Don’t forget to set your budget and stick to it – If possible find some deals along the way through codes, offers and pre loved items and find small and simple ways to cut costs and rein in the expenditure!

Don’t get so busy buying and looking around at others, that you end up overspending on your own and forget to cherish the magical moments with your dear ones! Christmas is such a lovely time of year that is filled with countless opportunities – try not to let that be tarnished by overspending and too much “stuff”!

*This is a collaborative post 

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