Kindle Sale begins today. From Friday 8th-Friday 15th 2017, you can get Faces in the Water for just $0.99 or 99p. Click on the country link to buy it now: UK   US

When I was a little girl, I wrote stories all the time. My favourite one was about a pair of magical tap shoes that transported the child who wore them into a strange and mysterious land with weird, stinky monsters, who were actually much nicer than they looked! I think I even won a prize at the local book store for writing a story, although I can’t remember what that was about. I wrote and wrote and told stories and imagined and dreamed, right up until I started GCSEs, and then I think school got busy, and there was homework and sports and dancing to do in my spare time. I still wrote at school, but I stopped writing stories when I was at home. It wasn’t until I started university that it occurred to me I had lost a part of me when I stopped writing. I wanted to take an optional creative writing module as part of my English and Theatre Studies degree, but they wouldn’t let me apply without a portfolio of work.

Well, I didn’t have a portfolio of work!

All my life, I had considered myself a writer; writing and storytelling was what I did. But all of a sudden, I felt like a fraud. How could I be a real writer if, at the grand old age of 19, I didn’t have a portfolio of creative writing?!

So that was that – I wasn’t a writer anymore. And as my first year at university went on, I decided I wasn’t a dancer or a performer anymore either, and that I was terrible at netball and sports in general. I stopped doing the things that made me feel alive: I stopped socialising and performing and writing and playing sports. I studied (but not very well), I went to the gym, and I locked myself away in my room a lot. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best time of my life.

I remember very vividly the time I started writing again because in that moment, a little spark of ‘Sarah the writer’ was rekindled and I began to remember who I was again. I was on holiday with my family in France, and I was sitting on my own at the top of a grassy meadow that looked out over the fields below. I had drawn my knees into my chest and bowed my head to rest on them. Bright, golden sun shone through the curtain of hair that had fallen across my face, making it glitter and sparkle. I felt safe and peaceful, as though I had been transported into a magical space all of my own, and a story came to me about a young girl who lived in a little wooden hut on the edge of a forest. This girl could talk to the sunlight; she could cup it in her hands and mold it like clay.

That was the start of Faces in the WaterTen years later, after several rewrites, I finally finished my first novel. Most of the story had changed from that initial moment, but the essence of it had stayed the same. At the heart of it, there was still a shy but determined young girl trying to keep hold of her identity.

Two years ago, I finally published Faces in the Water. It is a book that is very precious to me: it got me through those tough early twenties when I was still trying to work out who I really was; and it carried me right the way through to my early thirties, when I finally found the confidence to say to people, ‘I am a writer.’

Unfortunately, I missed Faces’ 1st birthday (I was too wrapped up in enjoying maternity leave and writing cute Christmas stories for my little girls!) but this year, to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of Faces in the Water finally being published, we are having a Kindle sale. I am launching a countdown sale from today (8th December 17) and for the next seven days (until 15th December) you can pick up the Kindle edition of Faces in the Water for just $0.99c or 99p. So, what are you waiting for? Click on one of these links now and go and buy it: UK download; US download. And then tell all your friends about it too!

Oh, and if you enjoy it, don’t forget to pop back to Amazon to leave a review or send me an email:

Happy reading!



Author and Editor



Last week on my Instagram feed (@mahfoudhsarah), I wrote about how much I love this time of year:

The changing weather, autumn colours and the approach of Christmas (yep, I said it!), seem to send me into creative overdrive!

And it’s true. At this time of year, I always start trying to draw again (trying, being the operative word!), and I want to do lots of crafts and write new stories, and bake. And I absolutely love making books. In fact, I’ve just come across a little book I made for a friend’s wedding a few autumns ago.

It is just a cute little love story I laid up into a hand-bound book. It is by no means a super-polished masterpiece, but it was written from the heart and I thought it would be nice to share it with the world. So here it is. You can also download the PDF version here.

I hope you enjoy it. xx




© 2017 Sarah Mahfoudh.  All rights reserved.  

QuoteThe light flickered into existence on the horizon, and Emerald felt the familiar burn of desire ignite in her chest. It was exhilarating, and frightening and utterly unquenchable.

Quietly, so as not to wake her housemates, she eased the window up, scrambled onto the extension roof outside, and jumped down to the damp grass a few metres below. She set off at a run the moment her feet hit the ground, the glimmer of the distant firelight filling her eyes and her mind, and the allure of its promise racing through her blood like a drug. In the cold, starlit night, she crossed fields and streams, scrambled over hedgerows, and veered around trees.

The autumn wind whipped her hair back from her face so that it could whistle soft words in her ear: ‘Not far, my love. Not far to happy-ever-after.’

She smiled and pushed on.

But a cloud, watching from above chuckled. ‘Nothing lasts forever,’ it rumbled. ‘Everything changes.’

Fat, heavy raindrops tumbled from the sky. ‘T-u-r-n-b-a-c-k,’ they warned as they drummed against her bare arms and face. ‘T-u-r-n-b-a-c-k.’

‘You see,’ said the diminishing cloud. ‘Soon I will be a stream, not a cloud. Nothing is constant. No love will last forever.’

‘Shhh,’ hissed the wind.

spreadEmerald merely smiled and kept on running. She took no notice of the water that streamed down her back and plastered her hair to her face. Her heart was light and her soul sang for joy as she came ever closer to her one true love.

After a long while, she reached the bottom of a mountain, and there, way above, burned the fire that had called to her. She started to climb, but the mountain was steep and high, and her legs soon became weary. She climbed and climbed, and climbed some more, as the night grew thicker and a sharp frost crept across the rocky ground. But as hard as she climbed, the fire never seemed any closer. The longing in her heart started to weigh on her mind, and her elation turned to hopeless despair. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she sank to her knees, breathless and exhausted.


The night grew still: the wind had stopped its wishful whispering, and the grumbling cloud had poured itself onto the fields far below.

Up above, the sky sparkled with billions of crystal stars that chimed down at her, telling her she was nearly there. But they were too far away for her to hear. Emerald closed her eyes and wept.

The earth shuddered beneath her. ‘Everything worth having must be worked for,’ it reminded her. ‘Climb.’

And after a moment’s pause, she did. She climbed and climbed, and climbed some more, but she no longer dared to hope that she would find what she was looking for at the top.

At long last, she hauled herself over the peak of the mountain and there, just a few paces away, burning so brightly the whole mountain-top was stained orange in its glow, was the fire that had called to her from miles away. And all around couples danced to a secret melody that only they could hear.

The people were exquisite: the women’s gowns dripped with jewels, whilst their long hair fell to their waists in glorious curls and their animated faces were flushed with the spirit of the party. The men, adorned in silk, were equally divine with their chiselled features and piercing eyes that flashed in the dancing light. Emerald’s heart gave a bird-like flutter. She would meet her one true love tonight amongst these lustrous, enchanting dancing folk. How could she have ever doubted it? She could sense him, just beyond her sight, perhaps at the other side of the fire or in the feathery shadows that wavered at the edge of the light.

She took a step forwards into the flurry of dancers. None of them looked at her, but they twisted outwards gracefully, leaving an open space that led into the centre of the circle. She kept on walking, feeling the pull of her life-long dream; and then suddenly, unexpectedly, she was gathered up into an embrace, and before she knew what was happening, she was spinning around and around in time to an invisible orchestra. The music swelled as the mountain-top and the fire vanished to be replaced by the majestic marble arches and polished floor of a Fairy ballroom.

And now the radiant, laughing couples looked at her and beamed as she danced past, but she looked beyond them to the great hall and what she saw made her gasp, for the walls were covered from floor to ceiling in diamonds that shivered and twinkled in the hypnotic candlelight.

It was all so delicious – so awe-inspiring – and it was some time before it occurred to Emerald that she had not yet looked at her dancing partner. But he, of course, was the reason she was here: it was the beating of his heart and the fire of his passion that had drawn her to this place. Her pulse quickened and her legs trembled. Slowly, she turned her head to look at her one true love and her breath caught in her throat. He was the most divine being she had ever seen: his high cheekbones, his glistening eyes, his wonderfully bowed lips – everything about him was perfect, and yet … And yet, he was not the one. She did not love him.

Instantly, the room went dark, the music stopped, and Emerald stumbled forwards as the weight of her dancing partner’s body was ripped away. She fell to the ground, lost in an impenetrable darkness. There was not a sound; not a gust of wind or a trickle of water. She turned her face upwards, but there were no stars. Beneath her, she could feel the jagged rock of the mountain.

How had it all gone so wrong? How could she have lost everything in just that one glance?

Perhaps there really was no such thing as true love, she thought miserably as she curled into a ball and closed her eyes against the empty blackness. Perhaps she had spent her life wishing for a fairy tale that would never come true. Well, at least she knew now and she would never again waste time wishing and hoping.

She did not know how much time passed in that desolate nowhere, but when the soft thud of footsteps brought her back to her senses, she opened her eyes to find that the world had reappeared in a roseate haze. She was at the edge of a wood that looked out over a lush, green valley. She knew this place well. On the other side of the trees was the dreary little village where she woke up every day and got dressed for work, where she cooked dinner and passed her evenings in front of the telly. It was as far from fairyland and happy-ever-after as anywhere, and yet, as she watched the burning sky on the horizon turn from pink to red to fiery orange, her heart skipped (just once) at the possibility of a new day.

But no: she didn’t want to hope anymore, so she turned away just as the sun peeped its head up over the edge of the world and sunlight burst across the valley. She refused to let herself be comforted by the warmth of the sunrise on her back. She stepped towards the shade of the trees, keen to be swallowed up in the woody gloom, but as she did so another figure stepped out into the light.

‘Seb,’ she breathed.

Normal, ordinary, good-hearted Seb, who she had known ever since school, grinned at her and her heart leapt.

‘Emerald, what are you doing here?’


At the sound of his voice, Emerald found herself smiling. She raised her hand to her mouth, needing to feel the curl of her lips to believe that it was true. And of course, it was! Where the glorious valley and dazzling sunrise had failed to bring her hope, one utterance from Seb had brought the wonder of life flooding back to her. She gazed at him, struck dumb by this revelation, and as she looked into his eyes, her soul stretched its wings and floated up from the depths. Blissful warmth flooded through her and she felt the colour rise in her cheeks. Seb looked back at her with a bemused smile, waiting for her to reply, but she couldn’t speak or move; she simply stood and stared and wondered why she had never before noticed how dazzling his smile was or how his eyes glittered with a disarming mischief or how indescribably, irrationally happy he made her feel.

She walked towards him and held out her hands, and he took them without hesitation, looking straight into her eyes. Emerald beamed inside and out.


A light breeze flittered past her ear. ‘Well done, my love,’ it sighed. ‘I think you’ve found your happy-ever-after.’





























Cloves & Ginger began life as a healthy-living blog around five years ago. It was a platform for me to share a few recipes and workout ideas, and write about healthy food choices. Over time, my idea of what healthy-living means has broadened. Healthy-living is not just about eating well and doing the odd exercise session – it is about finding the right balance in every area of your life. Put very simply, being healthy means having a healthy body, a healthy mind, healthy relationships, and a healthy environment, which means that in order to be healthy we need to do the things that nourish our bodies and minds.

I have always needed to exercise on a regular basis to stay sane; but over the past few years, I have come to realise that finding time to write every day is just as essential to my well-being. If I miss a few writing days, I begin to feel down and grouchy, and then I notice that my other healthy habits (like eating well, exercising, dancing, walking outside, and having fun with my family) all begin to go out the window too!

There is a wonderful saying doing the rounds on the internet at the moment:


Make a list of things that make you happy.

Make a list of things you do every day.

Compare the lists.

Adjust accordingly.


I love this little nugget of wisdom. For me, this is what health is: finding the things that make you feel alive and energised, and then trying to do those things as often as possible.

Up until now, I have mostly kept my creative writing work separate from my healthy-living writing, but if being creative is part of my healthy lifestyle, it seems only fair to let it become part of the Cloves & Ginger blog too. This is all a rather long-winded way of warning you that you might begin to notice the occasional post about my latest novel or an extract from a story popping up on here.

I hope you continue to visit Cloves & Ginger and enjoy the range of subjects I share.

My YA fantasy novel is available to buy on Kindle (US link; UK link) or in print, here. To find out more about my writing and publications, please visit and feel free to get in touch at any time by emailing me:

skyLast night I lay in bed, listening to the wind as it pummeled our house and rattled the windows, and my fairy-tale loving mind went into overdrive, weaving stories of magic and adventure. The weather has always been a source of awe and inspiration for me. Feeling the wind tussle my hair, listening to rain pattering on the roof, stretching my toes into a hazy shaft of autumn sun – these things make my soul sing; these things connect me to the world and remind me what really matters in life.

But, of course, as recent events demonstrate, weather is just as capable of destroying and taking away life as it is of giving life. Weather is nature’s way of restoring balance. It is not good or evil – it just is what it is. And the more we humans disrupt the delicate equilibrium of this planet, the harder the planet has to work to try to restore harmony. I avoid saying ‘fight back’ because the planet is not fighting us; just as we should not be fighting it. Earth doesn’t care whether our species survives or thrives. The planet is not trying to hurt us. Nature is just doing what it does and we, the creatures who inhabit this planet, can either continue to ‘battle’ against it (and lose) or we can realise that our current way of life is not suitable for this world. We need to adapt and learn from our mistakes: we cannot tame nature, but we could allow nature to tame us, and then perhaps we might be in with a chance of surviving the changes that are coming our way.

I live in England, on high ground, away from the sea, so for me the threat of climate change seems a little more distant at the moment, but that doesn’t mean I can ignore it. I have not had my house destroyed by floods; my home has not been razed to the ground by a hurricane; I still have electricity and gas and clean water and heating. I am lucky – I got up this morning, had a coffee, did the school run and then sat down at my computer to write this. No drama! But climate change is happening and our world is changing and I am certain that over the next few years we will be seeing more and more scenes of devastation caused by extreme weather … and that’s before we start talking about the water wars and weather refugees.

I am genuinely concerned about what sort of world we are leaving for our children, but like many people, I feel overwhelmed and powerless. And I feel outraged that those people who do have the privilege of power are actively making this problem worse rather than trying to rectify it. What can one little person like me do if the people in power refuse to take the necessary action? I try to buy ethical, sustainable products; I cut down on my driving; I turn off lights and try to cut down on my energy consumption; I sign petition after petition … blah blah blah! These are such small things and there are days when my small efforts feel so utterly pointless and my mind is so tired of worrying about it all that I just want to say ‘fuck it’ and pretend it doesn’t matter. Even writing this little rant seems futile – just another pleading voice that is too small and insignificant to be heard over the storm. But I can’t give up. I won’t stop trying to make a difference: I’ll keep on ranting, and buying Eco products, and attempting to grow vegetables, and annoying people on social media by sharing petitions to sign, in the hope that other people are doing the same. And if enough of us stop burying our heads in the sand, and begin to take action, and stand up to the people in power and tell them that this is not the type of world we want to live in anymore, then maybe, just maybe, we will be able to adapt as a species, and our children and grandchildren will be able to find a way of surviving (and hopefully thriving) on this planet.

Here’s hoping!


Ps. If you want a good book to start the conversation about the environment with your kids, ‘The Wump World’ by Bill Peet is fantastic.






It is time we sorted our body image issues out – not just for us, but for those young girls (and boys) who are watching our every move and hanging on our every word. They deserve to grow up knowing it is okay to like themselves and accept themselves for who they are, but they can’t do that if we are setting all the wrong examples.

Summer is here, my holiday is booked and I should feel excited by the prospect of getting away, soaking up some rays and spending quality time with my family, but instead I feel anxious. I have to wear a bikini and I’m not ready yet. Once again, I’ve left it too late to get that perfect, lean beach body; my summer clothes don’t suit me anymore; my bikinis are all old and worn. Oh, and I ate loads of cake last week, which has left me feeling angry and upset.

I take myself off to the shops in the desperate hope of finding clothes that will make me feel good about my body. But the lights in the changing rooms are too bright and the sizings in the shop are all wrong, and as I stand there in the spot lights wearing an ill-fitting bikini, and just centimetres from my own reflection, I want to SCREAM!

Does any of this sound familiar to you? That feeling when you hate what you see in the mirror so much that all you want to do is throw yourself on the floor and have a toddler tantrum, and then curl up in a ball and cry? Even as I write this, it sounds like a pretty extreme reaction, and yet if you are anything like me, you’ve experienced this feeling countless times.

There was a time when I would have given into this inner turmoil: I would have cursed my reflection, told myself how revolting I was, and then I probably would have run off to the nearest café to punish myself with cake. But I have come a long way over the past few years, so instead I look down at my five-year-old daughter, who is beaming up at me from the corner of the dressing room, and I take a deep breath and smile back.

‘I don’t really like the fabric,’ I tell her in an upbeat voice. ‘I’ll find something another time.’

I hope I managed to hide the desperation in my eyes that day, and I hope she believed me when I told her the clothes were the problem and not me; because I don’t want my funny, intelligent, dynamic, beautiful daughter to think it is normal to look at her reflection and hate what she sees. I hope that she and her sister can grow up feeling comfortable and happy in their bodies, and enjoy discovering what their bodies can do for them.

I have spent a lifetime ‘fighting’ my body. It started early for me: I was still in primary school when I began to feel self-conscious about my tummy. I didn’t even know why I felt that way, but I remember going out one day in a tight top and a baggy cardigan, and I was so hot, but I wouldn’t take the cardigan off because I didn’t want anyone to see my tummy. My tummy! I was a tiny, skinny little dancer with no boobs and no tummy and not an ounce of fat on me, but I was embarrassed by my body all the same. I can’t pinpoint where this body shame came from, but I know I am not alone. From a young age, we hear women complain about their bodies, talking about diets, worrying about whether their bum looks big or their tummy looks fat or whether their arms jiggle when they move, and then we grow up and we begin to complain too.

How often do you stand back from the mirror, observe yourself as a whole and think, ‘Yes, I am gorgeous’? I hope you do this often, but I am guessing that like so many of us, you are more likely to stare at the part of your body you hate the most and tell yourself it needs to change.

But it is time we sorted our body image issues out – not just for us, but for those young girls (and boys) who are watching our every move and hanging on our every word. They deserve to grow up knowing it is okay to like themselves and accept themselves for who they are, but they can’t do that if we are setting all the wrong examples.

It was my husband who first pulled me up on this when our first daughter was little. Every time I said I was fat or complained about my body in front of her, he just gave me a look: ‘You can’t talk like that in front of her,’ he told me.

Until then, I hadn’t realised just how often I called myself fat or complained about my body or asked someone else for validation – it was constant. But being aware of it was the first step towards positive change and I am proud to say how far I have come. I still have my bad moments (like the dressing room incident) and I still want to look and feel good in my bikini, but what I have come to realise is that if I only ever focus on my flaws, I will never be happy, no matter what size or shape I am. My self-worth should not be inextricably linked to what size clothes I wear. I no longer workout and diet to ‘get thin’, but I exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet because those things make me feel happy and confident. I like feeling comfortable in my skin and in my clothes. There are still days when I want to be slimmer, and I don’t think these feelings will ever go away completely, but I can change the way I react to them both internally and externally. When I begin to beat myself up about my appearance, I pause, breathe and then rationalise: what does it matter if my shorts are a bit tighter this week? That doesn’t change who I am or what I have achieved; it doesn’t change how much my family love me or how much I love them. I can eat a healthier diet for a week and feel comfortable in my shorts in no time (and I usually do) but I know that will only help me feel better if I do it from a place of self-love rather than self-loathing.

Changing life-long thought patterns is not always easy. Sometimes it is so very tempting to just give in and settle back into the familiar, self-sabotaging habits, but I owe it to my daughters to be present and happy, and to have the head-space to be able to play with them and enjoy them. I hope my efforts will pay off and that they will grow up feeling proud and confident in their own bodies.

It won’t be easy bringing my girls up on this body-shaming culture, so I’m going to ask you for your help. Whether you are male or female, and whether you have your own children or not, I urge you to be aware of the messages you are putting out there. Stop hating yourself and telling yourself you are not good enough. Realise that you are not defined by the shape of your body, and for the sake of the younger generations (as well as for yourself), let’s make body-confidence the norm.

This is still a work in progress for me and I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are some of the things that work for me:

  1. Whether it is out loud or in your own head, be aware of your negative self-talk and begin to turn it around.
  2. Write a list of things you like about yourself that are not related to your appearance.
  3. Re-write and re-read this list as often as you need to.
  4. Take note of the things you do each day that you are be proud of: this could be something big like getting a new job or passing an exam, or it could be a small achievement like choosing a healthy salad over a chocolate bar for lunch.
  5. Try to look at yourself the way others would look at you – as a whole package rather than as a series of ‘close-up’ flaws.
  6. Think about the things that make you feel happy and good about yourself and work them into your daily routine: singing, dancing, drawing, sewing, reading, running, cooking, eating healthy foods, spending time with your family …
  7. Slow down, look up from your phone or your computer and breathe. Go outside, look at the sky and remember there is more to life than how good or bad you think you look in your bikini.
  8. Meditate. Just taking five minutes a day to sit and tune into yourself really can help you gain some perspective. I am new to this and still learning, but there are apps out there to help, or if you need a little more input, look for a good life-coach or therapist.

Do this for yourself, but do it for our children too. Good luck.


Whilst browsing the internet a few weeks ago, I came across the website of a weight loss coach. I am always interested in the work of other health and well-being practitioners so I started to read her introduction, but within a few paragraphs I was angry and upset and felt as though I was being personally attacked for being a personal trainer.

For the record, there was no real reason for me to take this woman’s comments personally; I don’t know her and I very much doubt that she has ever heard of me. She was merely expressing an opinion based on her own experiences and observations, but her words touched a nerve nonetheless.

To paraphrase: this coach stated that most personal trainers want to keep hold of their clients long- term and so they will purposefully confuse and misinform people to ensure they never reach their goals and never gain the confidence to go solo! In comparison, she – the weight loss coach – prefers to work with her clients for just a few weeks and get real results.

I couldn’t stop thinking about what she had written and I began to question my own practice as a trainer. You see, it is true that as a personal trainer, I prefer to work with clients on a long-term basis. Does that make me a bad person? Am I just in it for the money? Have I been sabotaging my clients all this time? No, of course not! Why would anyone go into this profession thinking, ‘I hope my clients fail’?

But here’s the truth: I really don’t care whether my clients are fat or thin. I want them to keep working with me for as long as possible because I love seeing them grow stronger and fitter, and because I love introducing them to new and different exercises, and because I know there is always something else I can teach them. Some of my clients lose weight when they work with me and some of them don’t, but that doesn’t mean the ones who don’t have failed in any way. We need to dispel this damaging message that the only reason you should take up exercise it to lose weight (or more accurately, lose inches). Exercise is about so much more than what size jeans you wear or whether your arms have definition or whether people are going to compliment you on your six-pack when you slip into a bikini.

My aim as a personal trainer is to instill in others the joy of moving. For me, my greatest success stories are when I see my clients learning to use and trust and enjoy their bodies in a whole new way. If people need or want to lose weight along the way, that’s fine and I help them to do that by encouraging them to address their diet and life-style as a whole, but first and foremost, I want my clients to realise that exercise can be fun and enjoyable and rewarding. I want them to witness first-hand how it can boost their mood and make them feel strong and flexible and alive. I want my clients to learn that if they start enjoying their bodies and tuning into how good it feels to get up and move, they will naturally begin to take care of themselves better in other areas of their life.

Exercising can be inspiring and energising and it can free your mind in ways you never thought possible. So, as a personal trainer, I feel it is my duty to encourage you not to have weight-loss as your main goal in life. Mental and physical health, strength and fitness, and a positive body image are much better life-goals and the likelihood is, when you start enjoying your body and appreciating everything it can do for you, you will begin to see positive physical changes anyway.

So let’s spread the word: love your body, nourish it, treat it well … and above all else, enjoy it!

Last week I was asked to present at the Banbury Women in Business Conference. They asked whether I might be able to give them some tips on how to fit exercise and healthy eating into everyday life. Typically, I found myself thinking of far too many ideas and tips, not all of which would fit into my twenty minute speech, so I promised to post the ideas up on my blog for people to read in their own time.

So, here it is – a shortened, slightly edited version of my speech from last week:

Fitness, Wellbeing and Balance: A Holistic Approach

Modern life is hard. There are only so many hours in the day, but the list of things that need doing seems to be constantly growing: bills need paying so we need to go to work, the house needs cleaning and maintaining, children or pets (if you have them) need attention. Then there are friends to keep in touch with, family to visit, Facebook, twitter and email accounts to keep up with …

And that’s all before you’ve even started thinking about keeping up with your hobbies, staying fit or cooking healthy, nutritious meals. It can all get a bit too much and when it does, things like keeping fit and healthy are often the first things to go.

Now obviously, given that I’m a personal trainer, I love exercise. Without my regular, high energy endorphin fixes, I get miserable and my body image begins to suffer. I become more lethargic, less creative and my motivation in all areas of my life begins to wane. Even if you’re not a ‘fitness fanatic’, I’m sure you can remember times when you have felt down and stressed and unhealthy, and the last thing you want to do is eat a healthy meal or do a workout. And then if you’ve been on a ‘health kick’, I’m sure you can relate to those feelings of pride and elation when you stick to a regime for a while. Your head starts to clear, you begin to have more energy, you feel good about yourself …

The problem with a lot of ‘health-kicks’ is that they are not sustainable. It’s great to go into a new exercise and diet regime all guns blazing, but it’s also important to be realistic about what you can fit into your lifestyle in the long term because that’s what’s important: having a healthy, active lifestyle that fits around your work, your family and your other passions in life.

Top tips

  1. Just keep moving
  2. Find something you enjoy
  3. Give it a chance
  4. Make the time and make it count
  5. Workout at home
  6. Be kind to yourself
  7. Eat well

1. Just keep moving

A lot of us just don’t move enough in everyday life. We drive everywhere, sit at desks during the day and then slump on the couch in the evenings. Sitting down is terrible for our bodies.

Try to think about standing up more often. If you work from home, you can create a little standing desk area so that you are not always sitting, and if you work in an office, try to get up and walk around as often as possible.

Move around in lunch breaks and walk places whenever you can. Do gentle stretches in front of the TV at night and sit upright on a cushion on the floor rather than on a couch.

Buy a pedometer if it helps to keep you moving all day.

Try to think about your posture throughout the day too. It’s easy to find yourself slumping in your chair or sinking into one hip when you’re standing. Whenever you catch yourself doing this, try to sit or stand up tall, lengthen your spine, draw your shoulder blades back and draw your belly button in towards your spine. The more you do this, the more natural it will become and you can actually begin to strengthen and tone your core and postural muscles on a daily basis.

2. Find something you enjoy

If you are after a full-on six pack or have always dreamed of doing an iron man triathlon, then you have to be bit more specific about your training regime; but if you just want to be fitter, feel healthier, and boost your energy levels, then the main thing is that you just do some sort of movement on a regular basis that gets your heart rate up, gets you sweaty and gets your muscles moving.

If you love going to the gym or doing boot camp classes, that’s great, but if the thought of that makes your heart sink and you would much rather go to a dance class or join a walking club, then do that instead! The key to keeping up an active lifestyle is enjoyment. If you can find a form of exercise that brings you joy, then you will keep it up. If you dread every single workout, you will eventually stop doing it and go back to sitting on the sofa feeling guilty!

That being said, you should still push and challenge yourself with exercise. Try new things and mix it up. Don’t always stick within your comfort zone: test your limits, set yourself short- and long-term goals … and this brings me on to my next tip …

3. Give it a chance

Most of my clients find that the first ever session I do with them is so much tougher than any of the rest because it’s such a shock to the system. However, once they begin to do regular workouts, they find it becomes easier and more enjoyable. When I say easier, I don’t mean that workouts don’t hurt anymore and that you don’t push yourself harder as you get fitter, but somehow it becomes mentally easier and your body begins to thrive on the feelings of moving and being pushed to new limits.

My normal advice is to try to establish a regular exercise regime (at least two to three times a week) and keep it up for twelve weeks, after which point, you should find that you have become hooked on the endorphin and will actually begin to crave exercise.

4. Make the time and make it count

I understand that half the battle for many people is finding the time to exercise in the first place! Obviously, this is something you need to work out for yourself, but even the busiest person can normally find the time to fit in a quick workout a few times a week if they really think about it

Perhaps you can cycle to work and back, or fit in a quick run at lunch time. Maybe you can get up half an hour earlier three times a week, or fit a short workout in between picking your kids up from school and cooking their dinner.

If you’re pushed for time (or even if you’re not) the best thing you can do is to workout as hard as you can for short periods of time. This is where intervals come in, and I’ve talked about this in previous blog posts: How to get a workout in 4 minutes and Motivational exercise. Working at a high intensities for short periods of time has been proven to improve fitness and boost your metabolism much more effectively than a slow, steady run for an hour.

You can use intervals when you go out for a run, when you cycle to work, on the rowing machine in the gym, or when you workout from home …

5. Workout at home

I enjoy going to the gym and doing exercise and dance classes, but at the moment I find that going to the gym is not a feasible option in terms of time, so I exercise at home and I do short, intense workouts.

You don’t need a lot of space or equipment and even if you have kids running around, it can still work. I must admit, I prefer to exercise on my own without having to rush, but if I don’t have much time, I will fit a short workout in between picking my daughter up from school and cooking her dinner. She is more than happy to join in (which makes it pretty funny and also teaches her good habits about staying active and building exercise into everyday life), and on the days when she is a bit grumpier or tired, I will put a film on for her. I used to feel guilty about this, but it’s only a short period of time and I find that if I’ve made time for myself, it makes me happier; and if I feel happier in myself – both mentally and physically – then I actually have more time and energy for my family the rest of the time. Just having that thirty or forty minutes to do something for me, makes me a better mum, wife, sister, daughter, and friend.

6. Be kind to yourself

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you’ll know this is a big thing for me!

Make time to exercise because it will make you feel better in all areas of your life. However, whilst it is great to be active and exercise regularly, you need to take rest days to give your body time to recover and you definitely need enough sleep to stay healthy.

Being kind to yourself sometimes means treating your body well by exercising, stretching and cooking healthy, home-cooked meals. But sometimes it means letting yourself off the hook – not beating yourself up about things; allowing yourself to sit and watch a good film or have a bath or turn off your emails and get into bed early and shut out the world! Being kind to yourself is about learning to listen to your body and getting the right balance in your life.

7. Eat well

Of course, a healthy diet is probably the most important part of staying healthy. I could ramble on about diet forever, but I’ve already written most of this on Cloves and Ginger so have a browse if you’re interested in finding out more.

Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain weight, feel healthier, improve energy levels or just improve fitness, here are some things to look into when improving your diet:

  • Eat as close to nature as possible. Pre-packaged foods are stuffed full of chemicals and rubbish that can barely be classed as food. Try to eat simple, fresh food as often as possible.
  • Try to include vegetables and healthy greens in every meal, along with healthy proteins such as eggs, high quality meat and fish, beans, pulses and legumes.
  • Don’t be scared of fats. Healthy fats found in things such as high quality meat, coconut oil, nuts and avocados will not make you fat – they simply nourish your body.
  • Cut out the refined sugar and refined carbs. They are bad for you, pile on the pounds and disrupt your body’s natural appetite, leading to over eating and unnecessary snacking.
  • Try not to think about what you are ‘not allowed’ to eat because this only leads to cravings and self-sabotage. Instead, think of all the delicious foods your body needs every day and look forward to nourishing yourself.
  • Try starting the day with a delicious green smoothie to get you off to a good start.
  • Try eating early in the evenings and giving your digestive system a break each night.
  • Don’t forget to stay hydrated.
  • And finally, never forbid yourself anything; just know that some things won’t make you feel very good and remember there is always a choice.

Once you get into it, health and fitness is such a massive subject and it is important to remember that what works for one person, won’t work for another person. I think it is important to try things out for yourself, keep notes on how you feel, do research … and, most importantly, try to enjoy the journey.

Find a balance between exercise, healthy eating, work, sleep, family and hobbies that works for you. And keep an open mind because something that works at one time in your life, might not work at another time, so you need to be willing to adapt and change.

I hope you find this useful. Please do feel free to email me if you have any questions about anything, and remember to check out my Online Personal Training page.

Stay healthy and happy, and have a lovely Christmas.


It’s that time of year again when temptation is all around – mince pies in the café windows, chocolates at the checkout, selection box biscuits in the office … Now, whilst I am definitely not against having the odd treat at any time of year, especially at Christmas, pigging out on bad food for an entire month is never going to leave you feeling good!

I find that one of the best ways to avoid giving in to all the Christmassy snacks that are being thrust under your nose is to be prepared and have your own snacks with you. That way, if it all gets too much, you know you have something with you that will fill you up, satisfy your cravings and nourish your body.

As my job involves a lot of odd hours, working through lunch and regular ‘jumping around’ sessions throughout the day, I often take snacks out with me to graze on rather than eating a big lunch in one go. I have become a master of healthy snacking, so I’ve drawn up a list of snack ideas that I hope will help and inspire you.

Simple, stress-free snacks

I’m a big fan of simplicity when it comes to eating. Although I do a lot of cooking and preparing of home-made snacks and meals, I tend to choose the quicker, simpler recipes because I’m always so pushed for time. These snacks don’t involve any preparation, are pretty basic, and are not at all ground-breaking, but they are healthy, nutritious and nice to eat:

  • High quality 90% dark chocolate

I find this is a great mood and energy booster, and because the chocolatey taste is so rich and the sugar content so much lower than in other chocolates, you only need a small amount to satisfy your cravings.

  • Fruit

Simple but effective. It’s easy to pop a banana or a satsuma in your bag and then when you want something sweet, it’s there waiting for you.

  • Dried apricots, prunes, dates and other dried fruits

Again, this is great when you want something sweet, but be wary of dried fruit – it is quite sugary and moreish so you don’t want to eat a lot of it in one go.

  • Nuts and seeds

Try to go for raw or (even better) activated nuts rather than roasted.

  • Nut butter (cashew, almond, hazelnut …)

OK, so you’re going to need to remember to take a spoon with you for this one, but when I’m really hungry and just want something to see me through and give me some energy, I always turn to a teaspoon of almond or cashew butter. Mmm!

Check out for a great range of raw nuts and seeds and for a wonderfully diverse range of dried fruits.

Make your own snacks

If you fancy something a little bit more interesting or filling, you might need to do a bit more preparation, but that still doesn’t mean taking up loads of your time. Put aside an hour or two once a week to prepare some snacks that you can then grab when you are in a rush:

  • Power balls

We always have raw energy balls in the freezer and then we just grab a couple to take out with us when we need them. There are loads of recipes out there, so it’s worth having a look around. Energy balls always taste really indulgent so they’re perfect for taking with you when you know there are going to be lots of chocolates and tasty bakes around.

This is the one I usually make: Raw Chocolate Energy Balls , but I’ll be trying this recipe soon as it sounds delicious: Healthy Vegan Chocolate Truffles.

  • Healthy muffins

Deliciously Ella always has some nice muffin recipes. Or how about trying these recipes from my blog: Healthy Apple FlapjackNaturally Sweet Apple Muffins?

I love this recipe from I Quit Sugar.

  • Crackers

If you would rather have a savoury snack, then these crackers from I Quit Sugar are fantastic.

  • Left overs

This takes even less preparation. Depending on what you have for dinner the night before, you can always take some left overs as a little snack or light lunch. I like to make healthy, gluten-free chicken nuggets for dinner and then take the left over chicken nuggets to munch on the next day. They’re so good.

Above are just a few of my favourite snacks and recipes, but there are loads of amazing ideas on a website I have just discovered called Check out their healthy snack page and let me know if you try any of the recipes out. I’m definitely going to try out their Cranberry Almond Flour Cookies this Christmas, and their Granola Bars sound lovely too.

Ready made snacks

OK, so you’ve taken this all on board but you’re still after something that’s just a little bit more exciting to ward off those Christmas cravings, and you don’t have the time to prepare your own. Luckily, there are more and more truly healthy snacks available these days; when I say ‘truly healthy snacks’, I mean made without refined sugar and gluten, and without long lists of unnatural sounding ingredients. So have a shop around and see what you can find.

I hope these ideas will help you get through the next few weeks feeling happy, healthy and good about yourself. Remember, just because something is good for you, it doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious, so get inventive, get researching and treat yourself to some delicious snacks this December.


for kindleA short while ago, I wrote a non-health and fitness related blog, telling you that my children’s picture book, Lilly Mae, had just been published. I hope you will all indulge me once again and allow me to tell you about an even bigger project I have been working on – my debut Young Adult Fantasy novel, Faces In The Water.

I started writing this story quite some time ago (over ten years ago, in fact) and it has taken me a long time to get to a point where I am happy to share it with other people, but I’m finally there and I’m really proud of it.

For a sneak peek at the first chapter, head over to my writing website here.

Faces In The Water is available now on Kindle  (US & UK) and in print.

Happy Reading.



If you read my last blog and have decided to go for it on a health kick this October, then good for you! Whether you have decided to go it alone or join my online club, the main things to keep in mind are EAT CLEAN and KEEP MOVING.

If the concept of clean eating is new to you, it may all seem a bit daunting but there’s really no need to worry. Clean eating is not about being hard on yourself and depriving yourself, it’s about treating yourself to real, natural and tasty food to give your body all the nutrients it needs. There are loads of amazing blogs and cook books out there to help you get started, and there are lots of variations of clean eating out there too – paleo, vegetarian, raw food vegan…to name just a few – but the one thing they all agree on is that you need to stop poisoning your body with over-processed food, unnatural chemicals and refined foods. If you can clear the junk out of your diet and load up on nutrients, you’ll be astounded how much better you’ll start to feel.

So, here are some of my favourite blogs and recipe books. Have a browse and see if you can find some really delicious recipes to look forward to over the next few weeks. Remember, healthy eating doesn’t mean ‘tasteless’, it means using fresh, high quality ingredients, plenty of herbs and spices, lots of healthy fats and the perfect seasoning. Concentrate on all the yummy foods you should be eating rather than worrying about what you ‘shouldn’t’ be eating.

My favourite cook books:

I Quit Sugar – simple, quick and easy to make recipes. I love this book and many of my go-to recipes like Paleo Veggie Bread and Coco-Nutty Granola come from her blog.

Honestly Healthy Cleanse – I especially recommend the broccoli, grain free pizza base from this book. Believe me, it tastes about 100 times better than it sounds and it will change your views on pizza forever.

Deliciously Ella – what I especially like about this book is Ella’s introduction. I really enjoyed reading her story and found it very inspiring. There are some nice, simple recipes and ideas in this book, although Ella is very keen on buckwheat, which doesn’t seem to agree with me. It’s always worth trying these things out for yourself though as everyone reacts differently to different foods.

My favourite blogs:

The Gracious Pantry

I Quit Sugar


Gluten Free Zen

Changing Habits

As I said, there are loads out there, so just google clean eating recipes and see what comes up. Oh, and of course, don’t forget to browse my blog too for recipes and information about healthy and unhealthy foods.

Good luck