From your camera roll to a book: Don’t let the memories waste away

By Shirin Tahmasebi

As another year passes with the world not being completely normal, we’ve found ourselves treasuring every moment that passes (that we are able to spend outdoors with our loved ones) making memories we won’t forget. 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself taking a heap more pictures than I normally would to cherish these precious moments as the world opens up again.

Liat Ken Dor is the owner of Designed Memories, a company that helps you capture your special memories and have them safely placed in a beautifully organised photobook.

Liat has been in the graphic design business since 2008 but found her love for capturing moments through a lens, during her early days in high school.

“I was always the one with the camera, you know, for high school trips, with the family, with friends and things like that, I was always the one taking pictures. I also loved going to the shop to get the film developed, printing them off and putting them into photo albums.”

Soon after Liat began working in graphic design, she came to the realisation that the digital world was taking over and that not many people were keeping printed photo albums anymore. 

“When I began working in graphic design, it just made realise everything was turning into digital. So, what I do now is a continuation of what I’ve always loved to do, except it’s a digital version rather than a scrapbook.”

However, printing photos never seemed to stop in Liat’s household.

“We moved to the UK in 2008 and then started creating photobooks more frequently to send to my children’s grandparents. It was a way to show them where we live and what we do. My first born was only 3 months old when we left and she was sick, so they wanted to see her and to see how she developed. So, I took a lot of pictures and I put them into books and sent it to them, so they can be part of everything.”

Liat wondered if she was the only one who savoured these memories in such a way and how many people were sitting there with undeveloped film in their cameras. In more recent years, the smartphone allows us to not only take pictures there and then but also post them online for others to see. 

However, a lot of these photos go untouched for years and are left on phones for no one to see. 

“In the age of Smartphones, we take 1000s of pictures a day and then we just don’t do anything with them, we don’t really enjoy them. I always say, ‘You take pictures for a reason, it’s because you want to remember that moment and you want to enjoy those memories.”

So why leave them in your camera roll?

I think as humans we look back on our photos to remember the good times and the fun we had, particularly when feeling down. It’s almost a form of self-therapy that can be easily accessed. 

“You don’t take photos of sad or bad things, you only take photos of good things, so when you look back, it’s almost like a gratitude exercise because it’s focusing on the good. So, I think if you’re in a bad mood or feel, you look back at memories and you think, ‘Oh, that was such a lovely day.’ It will make you feel a bit better.”

Liat sees photos as a way to remind yourself of all the good in your life and can create a safe place through the sadder moments. 

“When someone dies, the first thing you do is start to dig up all the photos and to keep hold of memories of that person and keep them close to you. That’s proof if just how important photos are.”

With Designed Memories, Liat offers multiple formats and themes that allow you to bring your book to life.

When working with Liat, the first thing a customer would need to do is choose a theme, like Back to School, Halloween, Christmas, birthdays and so on. They would then select the photos they want for the book, Liat can help with that daunting task too!

“If the theme was going to be summer. I’d say let’s talk about your holiday photos, maybe. Obviously, you want your favourite photos from the trip, but you want to try to tell a story. I always advice customers to take pictures of the journey as well, for example: getting ready in the morning, a picture of the suitcases, pictures of the journey to show if it’s a train, car or plane. You might like to have a picture of the hotel and the surrounding areas of where you are staying. Obviously, you’ll need pictures of when you visit places and significant points throughout the holiday. Finally, make sure you include the fun photos of the kids being silly and things like that.”

I’m sure we can relate to being guilty of having an extortionate number of pictures on our camera roll that we just don’t go back to very often.

A photobook is a more beautiful way to enjoy those photos in the moment with your family and friends. 

If you’re interested in getting your own photobook printed you can find the Designed Memories website and socials below:



If you would like your story to feature on Sparkle Up North, get in touch with us through our email 

or through our social media @SparkleUpNorth

Taking care of yourself, to take care of your children: preventative breast-cancer surgery

By Shirin Tahmasebi

After wanting to discuss nutrition and how important it is as women that we look after ourselves, with global mind body nutrition coach, Caroline Heaton, we found that there was so much more to her inspiring story that we just had to share. 

Braving a tough decision

Not only did Caroline make a massive decision to go for preventative breast-cancer surgery because she knew she didn’t want her children to have to go through what she did at their age. But from that brave move, she has created a supportive community, that helps other women experiencing the same tough times as her.

Caroline lost her mum to breast cancer at just 16 and made it her task to make sure she would be fit and healthy and there for her own children when the time came.

"My mum sadly passed away and I would give anything to have that time back for her to have with me and my brother. So it was a no brainer, I just made the decision that I'm not having somebody else dictate to me that I can't be there for my son and daughter.

Then at the age of 17, I was told that I would need to look into my own family history. I had just lost my Mum and I was too scared to do that. But I had recently split up from my children's father and, as a single Mum, I felt this huge sense of responsibility for my two young children."

Later, in 2015, Caroline discovered Preventative breast cancer surgery and then went on to have the surgery herself. However, while working in a school at the time, Caroline felt as though she lacked the vital support, she needed from her workplace with them pressuring her return to work too quickly. 

The process to look into her family history was not an easy one, it took 18 months of extensive appointments with a clinic and she had to do a lot of research herself. 

"It was a really challenging time, but it made me so much stronger as a person. It made me realise, I'm not here just to please everybody else, I'm here to be healthy and be with my children who mean the most to me."
This was the toughest decision that Caroline had ever made but she wanted to secure her children’s future with herself, worried about them going through what she had. 
“I did it because I lost my Mum when I was just 16. She'd been poorly since I was nine, so I'd grown up with the environment of visiting hospitals and developed anxiety around being there.
I would do absolutely anything to make sure I'm here for as long as possible for these two children. I'm not going to let them go through what myself and my brother went through. I felt like I hadn't had the chance of a normal life like my friends had at that age and I thought, ‘I just can't do that to my children.’"
Talking about her Mum: "I believe her breast cancer diagnosis is actually a result of her own stresses in life, she was a very much a very career driven person she was incredible."
After embarking on her own journey into her health, Caroline uncovered her own pre-existing health issues that she now had to look out for.
“It wasn’t until I did that that I actually took a step back and thought, ‘You know what? No one's invincible, let's enjoy life, it doesn't have to be so stressful’. At that point I thought, I need to learn and educate myself on how to be healthy and happy, but also to educate other people on that."
Caroline set up an online community to help others who had been through the same experiences as her. She found that a lot of the people she has spoken to haven’t quite ‘tuned into the body queues and the body symptoms that they’ve been receiving’ and unfortunately, are suffering with quite an amount of diseases within the body.
"I wanted to connect with as many ladies as possible who are going through what I went through, because there was no support for me. I didn't have breast cancer I was getting preventative treatments, so I wanted to help people that were going through the same thing.
I did quite a lot of work and connected with a lot of ladies that are going through similar. And, thanks to social media, I've been able to connect with people, globally, who are going through similar. As a nutritionist, to help them prepare their body for surgery, then to support them post-surgery too."
I think we can all appreciate that pre and even post surgeries can be quite a daunting time. Caroline’s aim was to show these overworked professionals and general workers that they shouldn’t have to juggle the work/life balance during this time that they should be taking for themselves. 
"They're learning that, by putting themselves first, they're showing up every day as the best version of themselves and they’ll be more productive at work."
Early career
Caroline was a teacher before she became she took on one of her roles as an eating psychology specialist.
‘I was so passionate about teaching children, but I was struggling with my own physical and mental health. I was a busy teacher, working all the hours was at the top end of the pay-scale it felt like I had a never-ending list to get through.’
Like many of us stuck in jobs we don’t particularly enjoy, Caroline felt the longer she was in the profession the more she was being taken from the real her, almost taking on that robot work form.
“I also felt I was failing the children, because the system wanted them to achieve a certain level by a certain age and if it didn't fit in that criteria, then it was going to create them some kind of problems further on down the line."
After being pressured into returning work too quickly after surgery, Caroline’s body disagreed with her decision and became infected not long after. Whilst taking that time off work, she experienced a much-needed appreciation and love from her children when staying at home.
"My children would say to me, ‘Oh mummy, it’s so nice that your home, it’s much nicer when we come home from school and you're in’. I just thought, ‘What am I doing?’ 
That's when my business was very first born, I stepped away from my full-time teaching career, I qualified as a nutritionist and invested a lot of time and effort into finding out how I can help children and their families in our community."

The Company

"My company's ethos is all about helping our children understand how to overcome stress and to understand that you might not actually fit in that particular peg. I look at the holistic approach to health and I have my own journey with my own health background.I want to help people be healthy, I want them to understand that they have choices in life."
She joined forces with her partner, Martyn, "He is incredible! He'd already been working locally and he's really passionate about helping people and to overcome obesity. He got our two businesses together and suggested we create a virtual farm job."
At first they focused on solely offering workshops in schools to educate children on how to live a healthy lifestyle. They then got involved with the Wigan programme, which helped children that weren’t eating healthy food throughout the summer holidays and perhaps weren’t eating a warm meal at all.
We know a lot of businesses have had to go through a lot of change over the past year from closing, to not knowing if they can carry on to thriving in our new world and after Caroline’s business still being new, the pandemic certainly pushed her back down. 
"When starting any business, you have to put in the momentum and the effort and lots advertising, which we did before the pandemic. We were finally feeling that we were getting our feet and actually getting somewhere. Then obviously the pandemic happened and the first thing to happen was everywhere went into isolation with schools and external agencies couldn't go into schools.
I thought, ‘We've made a huge sacrifice, I've given up my full-time teaching career and my income isn't coming in anymore. My partner put all this belief into me, we'd invested so much of our savings into advertising the website." 
Luckily, Caroline and her husband never gave up, they just took a different approach in the way they worked.
“We just thought creatively and really started to think about how we can help people. At first, started doing a bit of tutoring online to give us a little bit of time to mull things over and decide what we're going to do next.
I want to help busy professionals who are riding the wave of life and getting caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle, not actually looking after themselves."
This is where Caroline launched her community called ‘Release Your Inner Goddess’. The ‘Release Your Inner Goddess’ community is full of ‘like-minded women that are overworked, overstressed and have pushed themselves to the bottom of their own priority list for such a long time’
The company has now launched ultimate wellbeing packages for their clients such as corporate companies and schools and are now really excited to start going out into the community. They also offer workshops via zoom.

Here at Sparkle Up North, we fully believe that when amazing women come together, wonderful things happen – and Caroline absolutely epitomises that. 

We want to thank Caroline for sharing her truly beautiful and inspiring story with us.

If you would like to find out more about Caroline or are interested in her business, click on the link below!


If you would like your story to feature on Sparkle Up North, get in touch with us through our email 

or through our social media @SparkleUpNorth

Life after grief: losing and finding yourself through holistic therapy

By Shirin Tahmasebi

Life took its toll on Natural Transformation Founder, Diana Tyson, after she experienced two
heart-breaking miscarriages while working in printing.

When she started to recognise there was a link between her troubled pregnancies and the stress, anxiety, long hours and demands within her job, she decided that something needed to change.

“I pushed to be referred to the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) in Leeds, because I had questions. I wanted answers, why did I miscarry? Two is just too many.”

“I had various tests, which confirmed Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – meaning I have a hormonal imbalance. They were hopeful that having weekly injections early in my pregnancy would help maintain the correct levels of hormones to continue to full term.”

Diana wanted so much to be pregnant, but the stress of the miscarriages and juggling a demanding
job created a negative mindset. In turn, that affected her physical health and mental well-being.

“I thought to myself; why does my husband stay with me? I felt it wasn’t fair that he had to deal with my negative rollercoaster of emotions, it was my body’s fault!”

These negative thoughts intruded Diana’s mind and this is when she made a real change in her life.

“I decided to get my mind and body in tune, balanced and communicating positively together. My mum recommended reflexology and bought me gift vouchers for a session close to my home Cross Gates, Leeds.”

“Right from the very first appointment, I felt the amazing, positive effects of reflexology. I
immediately felt calmer, slept better and had significantly less symptoms of Premenstrual Tension

“I had increased positivity, motivation and energy. This was a major game changer.”

“I realised that time-out is so important to recharge and rebalance yourself, so I continued to have monthly reflexology and Reiki sessions. Self-care is a really important investment.”

Diana Tyson, Founder of Natural Transformation

Pulling through the challenging times

She found her way through her darker days, with the help of Holistic therapy.

The word holistic means: ‘treating the person as a whole, mind and body, not just one symptom’.

This helped Diana recognise that her miscarriages weren’t her fault and didn’t reflect on her
body the way she thought it did.

With the support of the doctors and nurses in the EPU Unit, plus the many benefits from Reflexology and Reiki, she felt mentally and physically in a better place.

She soon became pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and then, two years later, (with the help of the EPU and Holistic therapy again) her son was born.

Her son’s birth, however was traumatic and stressful. He was born six weeks early via an emergency caesarean section, after which he was placed into neo-natal care for the first month of his life.

Through all of this, Diana unfortunately did not realise that she was experiencing something many mums face after childbirth: Postnatal Depression.

“Once again, I turned to holistic therapies, particularly, Reflexology, Reiki and Crystal Therapy, for
my low mood and energy levels.”

“It helped balance my hormones but, on reflection, I should have spoken to health care professionals as well.”

The lightbulb moment

It was while Diana was demonstrating Reflexology to one of her friends, when a great idea come to mind.

“My friend said to me, ‘You have so much knowledge about Holistic therapies, particularly Reflexology, Reiki and Crystals, why don’t you train in it?”

“Your passion is clearly helping others gain the many benefits you’ve felt, so you could make this your business, to provide therapies for people.”

And so it began…

Students from Diana’s Natural Transformation Training school

From grief to work

Diana’s interest in Holistic Therapy began when she attended White Rose College of Health and Beauty, qualifying in Anatomy and Physiology, Reflexology, Swedish massage, Aromatherapy, Hopi-ear candle, gentle manual lymphatic drainage massage and many more.

Also during this time, Diana trained in the beautiful energy therapy Reiki One and Two with her Reiki
Master in Sandsend.

“I just absolutely found my passion. I realised that, emotionally, a lot of things manifest in your
body and you’ve got to relax the mind and the body at the same time.”

Two years of intensive training led Diana to become the on-site therapist for a large corporate bank
in Leeds, to date she has been there for 16 years and is still providing therapies.

Over the subsequent years, Diana really immersed herself into the world of holistic therapy.

She found herself hungry for learning and this is where her idea for her business, Natural Transformation, emerged: she decided provide training as well as therapies.

“I decided right then, let’s provide therapies and training for everyone, particularly women and
parents who are trying to juggle so many things.”

Even during the pandemic, and the stop-and-start of lockdown restrictions, she continued to grow, providing some
therapies on-line, due to not being able to provide physical therapies because she knew how important self-help techniques would be during these difficult times.

She also continued to develop in Holistic Therapies, becoming a Reiki Master and adding services such as Seichem One, Two and Three (Master), Crystal Therapy, The Five Awakenings Sequence and Egyptian Cartouche.

She then went on to intuitively create and develop her own therapy called Natural Transformation Therapy (NTT).

Finding ways to help more and more people

Diana had another idea to open the Natural Transformation Training School, providing courses for therapist’s to gain practitioner qualifications, or for anyone wishing to enjoy the therapies for personal development.

The training school, and all courses, are approved and affiliated with The Healer Foundation, The British Complimentary Medicine Association (BCMA) and Holistic Insurance.

“My own experience and also feedback from my clients and students shows that sometimes we don’t want to admit we’re struggling – and that creates vulnerability.”

“We feel we’re supposed to be superheroes, providing support for so many people, but this pressure becomes too much. We
become emotionally and physically tired, our batteries are running low. Asking for help is a strength,
not a weakness and this is what we need to understand.”

Diana is also aware how big social media has become and the impact it can have on our mental health.

“We live in a different world from our parents, even from when she was a new mum, times have changed and we have had to find ways to adapt to this.

“Recently all age groups have had to use social media so much more to keep-up-to date with communication for work, schools and family members.”

” I provide therapies to help people overcome the challenges they’ve faced to arrive at a solution. I’m
very much a person-centred therapist, not one-size-fits-all”

Getting back on her feet

While going through the menopause, Diana has recently lost four very close family members.

“Recently, I lost my amazing stepdad, who was really the Dad I would have chosen. And I lost my
lovely mother-in-law four months ago too.”

“Grief is a huge minefield and rollercoaster of emotions.”

While the menopause has been hard for Diana, grief has been harder, the loss has reminded her
how she felt so low after her miscarriages.

So, Diana is learning once again to slow down, reconnect with self-help, self-healing, self-care and taking valuable time out for holistic therapies, to help her through and recharge her batteries in these difficult times.

A lesson to us all that self-care is an ongoing journey.

“I am very lucky to have my family and friends for support and fortunately know some great therapists to call on.”

Diana also reflected on how she truly enjoys providing training, seeing the positive ripple effects on the students’ lives and all who they practice the therapies on.

“It is almost like there is a magnet, drawing like-minded people to me. My clients and students have said they really resonate and connect with me, which helps them get the best from the therapies and training. They leave feeling relaxed, rebalanced and calm.”

Natural Transformation provides both physical and talking therapies. People who have attended say that it is a calm and nurturing, safe space.

Finding the right therapy and therapist for you is so helpful, Diana will happily work with you to transform the challenges you face to arrive at solutions.

She understands first-hand the many struggles of juggling social and educational pressures on everyone, especially on women and children.

She knows this is a daily battle and believes it’s about how we transform these thoughts and free our minds – which is what her therapies and trainings are all about.

Her focus is helping you recharge your batteries and take time out for you because self-care is so important and, as Mums, we don’t do that often enough.

Diana shared this quote, which we loved: “A healer does not heal you. A healer is someone who holds that space for you, while you awaken your inner healer so that you may heal yourself” Maryam Hasnaa.

She has also shared some simple tips for us all to try:

If are if you are short of time to relax, a simple ten-minute meditation can do wonders. Try:

1. Walking in nature

2. Standing with your face in the autumn sun

3. Grounding, by walking or standing barefoot on the grass in your garden

Whatever helps you to relax!

Follow Diana’s social media’s to find out more about what she does to help herself and others:

Email :
Mobile : 07951 506407

We would also like to say a massive thank you to Diana for being so vulnerable with us and sharing
her beautifully inspiring story.


By Shirin Tahmasebi

Since 2011, local Leeds entrepreneur and author of The Built it Brilliant Blueprint, Zoe Thompson, worked as a full time therapist helping clients manage their feelings of stress, anxiety and chronic pain.

This was her world until 2020.

That face-to-face client time came to an end when the Covid-19 outbreak shook the world.

“The pandemic hit, and we shut our doors and all of that one-to-one, we weren’t allowed to do anymore.”

Zoe thought that her job would come to an end until corporate asked their employees to do online workshops which meant she was able to continue on in her profession.

Using her skills

Before becoming a therapist, Zoe worked as a learning and development consultant and conveniently specialised in e-learning. This allowed Zoe to adapt to her new online work with ease, making it less of a change – but more of a step backwards. 

Zoe recognised her skills and began helping her fellow co-workers, teaching them how the online services worked.

“People who are therapists have been saying, well how do you do that, how, how have you created that can you show me how to do this, so over the last three years I’ve been doing little courses and helping people.

I’ll do a little online course together showing you how to blog or going through resources together to help you do this.”

Throughout her life, Zoe had recognised her passion for helping others, particularly when working in hospitality services. She had worked as a manager at a Marriott hotel and had always found herself feeling as though serving was her purpose. 

However, serving in a hotel and through therapy became exhausting and Zoe wasn’t feeling the desired sense of impact she wanted.

“I became a ‘helping professional’ because I wanted to help people — way more people than I was able to reach by offering hourly sessions. I wanted to have a much, much bigger impact on the world.”

Eventually the co-workers, Zoe had been aiding, then put the question in her mind as to why she wasn’t teaching others like this full time.

It was then, when the pandemic started, that Zoe realised this could quite possibly be a very secure and ideal career path for her future.

“I would sit and really give it some thought. And then I thought, let’s not think about it. Let’s just do it. If not now, then when.”

The effect of the pandemic meant that many health professionals doors shut overnight, and many were out of a job, some even still to this day are looking for work. Nevertheless, Zoe used the pandemic as an advantage and eventually set up her own business ‘Build It Brilliant’.

“There’s a world of online technology here, how can we use that to help you in your business? How can we harness that so that your processes are set up for when your doors open?”

The Business

The online meeting platform, Zoom, was introduced into the world in 2020 for those who were completing their work online. Without guidance on the platform, many found themselves feeling confused and stressed about using it.

Zoe saw this struggle and created a Zoom course where she teaches you all about it and how to use it, which you can find on her website below.

Closer to home

As well as helping people online, Zoe found herself aiding someone closer to home, her husband.

After unexpectedly being made redundant at the beginning of lockdown, Zoe’s husband found himself in a bit of a rut and like many of us this time last year – no accepted job applications on the horizon.

It wasn’t until a family friend offered him a job that he found his passion in handy work and decided to set up his very own business. Zoe, being the supportive woman she is, encouraged him to buy all his necessities and give it a shot.

She then helped to create his website, business cards and many other sectors of his business, which is now thriving in present day.

Zoe feels as though her and her husband are equally not materialistic as a couple.

“If my mortgage was on the line, and I couldn’t put food on the table, I would work at Tesco’s, I would wash dishes, I would sweep floors, I would do any work that I needed to do in order to pay my mortgage and have some food. 

There is a world out there with so much, so many different jobs, so much help. As long as you’re willing to say who needs help, somebody will want to help.”

The career that Zoe has found herself in has allowed her the freedom to apply her skills and enjoy what she is really good at in the best way possible. 

Catching Covid

However, it wasn’t all fun and games during her time setting up the businesses. Both Zoe and her husband caught Covid-19 at the same time and spent 10 days of quarantine together but in the best way possible.

Zoe realised early on that because they had to self isolate, they couldn’t quite do anything at all and so they took the time to chill out and give their bodies the time they needed to heal.

“I’m very much I’m a very big believer in dealing with what’s in front of you. I thought, I can’t take away Covid, I can’t leave the house for 10 days, I can’t change the next 10 days.

I felt pretty lousy, but we just rang the people that had work booked in and said, I’m really sorry. 

And then we just bedded down and watched Netflix for 10 days”

That sounds like a dreamish nightmare to us.

After having to cancel workshops and appointments with clients, Zoe and her husband got right back to work, rescheduling everyone back in for upcoming weeks.

For Zoe, she found that her clients were incredibly understanding and were perfectly fine to schedule in another date to have their meetings, which Zoe has acknowledged can seem odd in our modern world.

“I think all the media and all the hype, makes you feel like you live in a world of fear and anger and that we’re not very nice people.

When I contacted everybody saying I’ve got COVID Not a single person said, ‘how dare you’ and ‘you were meant to run a workshop for me’ instead, everybody was like ‘oh God, hope you’re okay’ and ‘do you need anything’”

The change

Despite making the big career change only in this past year, Zoe finds herself feeling as though this new job has opened up so many new opportunities for her and has even allowed her to publish her own book. 

Nevertheless, despite her success, Zoe does often wonder where she would be if the pandemic hadn’t happened, if we hadn’t switched to online resources and believes that if it hadn’t happened, she would still be a 1-1 Therapist.

“I’m doing work that I absolutely love, helping people that I think genuinely want to go out and make a difference to people. 

We’ve got a world that’s suffering with a mental health crisis, and I’m helping more people to get out there, what could be more needed and rewarding than that.”

Zoe finds her work life the happiest it’s ever been and is in a place that she only wishes she had been in sooner. 

We most definitely see Zoe as an altruistic woman who turned her love for helping others into a full-time career.

I want to give a huge thank you to Zoe for sharing this story with us, it was very inspiring.

If you would like to find out more about Zoe and her business, see the links below.





If you would like your story to feature on Sparkle Up North, get in touch with us through our email 

or through our social media @SparkleUpNorth

From Meat based to plant based: how going vegan helped this mum start a community

By Shirin Tahmasebi

After delivering her first baby five years ago, The Superfood Bowl Cafe owner and vegan specialist, Amie Batow, felt undoubtedly insecure about her body and mind.

Being a mum wasn’t enjoyable with the shed load of insecurities pooling around in Amie’s head.

One day while scrolling through Netflix, Amie stumbled across the Plant Based diet docuseries and from that day onward, the food she put in her body, completely changed. 

“I just made the snap decision and I just cut everything out.”

I think many people look at veganism as an excuse to not harm animals but with the diet also comes health benefits such as losing weight, higher serotonin, which in the long run improves your quality of life notably. 

Amie is here to discuss how going vegan did just that for her and how she became inspired to open her very own café.

“My mood had lifted, and I was happier. I could get out of bed, get dressed, go out with my little boy and feel happy to do it.

Whereas before that I’d had a real black cloud over me and I wasn’t really enjoying being a mum, that that then became the main reason for doing it.

And, and the weight loss was like an added bonus that.”

Losing weight doesn’t come easy once you’ve had a child, and a lot of time it’s confusing enough figuring out how to start doing it. Mum of two, Amie found her switch to a vegan diet helped her lose an astonishing three stone but to her, it wasn’t just all about the weight.

“It’s not about fitting into a pair of jeans, it’s just about feeling happier.”

Amie found that the diet helped her mind as well as her looks which she described as an ‘added bonus’. Being vegan helped Amie so much that she began to want to spread the word for other mums or people out there who may be struggling as she was.

“Afterwards I thought, why aren’t people talking about this, mum’s in a position that feel like this, why aren’t we talking about this plant-based diet more, because to me it was just amazing.”

The impact the diet had on Amie is why she then set out to help other mums.

Selling from Home

Before opening her café, Amie had been cooking and selling foods from her house to neighbours and other locals who enjoyed the meals.

She found herself chatting away to mums on her doorstep for half an hour at times. The small home business she had started, grew and grew until Amie no longer had to return back to work.

However, selling from home wasn’t enough for Amie as she wanted to create more of a community between mums, and so while walking through her local town one day, she found the perfect spot for a perfect business. 

“I was walking through town and I saw a little shop for rent. So, I just rang the number, really flippantly and spoke to a lady and ended up going and viewing it and just falling in love.

I thought, this is the next section me to get out there a bit more.”

Not only did Amie want a place for her new community to grow, but she recognised the struggle for mums and where they go when they want to socialise, a coffee shop, a pub or even the dreaded play areas.

Her café would allow mums to eat well, feel better about themselves and also connect with other mums, much like themselves.

Shutting Down

During March 2020, Amie found herself in the hospital with her daughter who had suspected covid which thankfully turned out to be a chest infection.

Due to her focus on her baby girl, Amie struggled to pay attention to what the government were saying in regard to businesses shutting. Nevertheless, she shut her business eventually.

Lockdown became a difficult time for Amie as her landlord was causing problems with his expectations, while Amie struggled to pay rent due to the closure of her café.

These obstacles weren’t quite big enough to stop her.

Amie made the decision to keep her business alive by using her socials. 

“I decided that I was going to stay really present on social media. And so, I started doing Instagram, lives and ag TVs, and I was cooking, sharing recipes.

I was just really, really concerned that I would lose that connection with the group of women that I had built.”

At the same time, Amie’s sister had just shut her own business down and had planned to hibernate during lockdown. But Amie was so focused on keeping that bond with her customers, she couldn’t do what other business owners were doing. 

Looking towards delivery

In the café, Amie had been selling takeout boxes which were kept in a fridge, but some customers couldn’t come in to collect and so she made the decision to start delivering them herself.

However, after hours and hours of driving around, Amie soon came to the conclusion that it would be too much to do every day. 

“This isn’t an effective way to get these meals out, and I don’t enjoy being sat in a traffic parade, I was trying to find all these houses I was getting so stressed”

She then went onto exploring the idea of DPD, which is where the business is at currently. 

Post Lockdown

Amie finds herself at 90% deliveries with her business now, however, still encourages people to pop down and get a drink and some food in order to keep that bond.

“Although we could reopen our cafe. It never ever got as busy as it was before.”

Just before Christmas, Amie’s tenancy was up in the building and so she looked at moving, but the cost of somewhere else was too high. Luckily enough, Amie’s mum came to the rescue.

“If it wasn’t for my mum, I think at that point I might have had to stop. I think if there was a point where you would have had to just say, I need to close the business down it probably would have been at that point.”

Despite her struggles with her café, Amie still finds it within her to fight for that connection and bond she first started out with in the first place. The thought of how many people she has gotten to know and the community she built is what keeps her pushing through. 

She is proud to be the owner of an establishment where she is able to help other mums who may be feeling as she was, to feel better about themselves and to give them a place to gossip about their loud neighbours or scary in laws.

The Superfood Bowl café is now up and running, however, Amie finds herself still ‘fighting every month to keep it going’ so if you pass by on your daily walk today, why not stop in and show some support to help keep the doors to clean eating open. 

Thank you to Amie Bastow for sharing this very inspiring story, I think I’ll be taking a look at the vegan options on menu’s from now on.

To find Amie’s recipes and cafe updates, follow her socials below:





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self before help: Focusing on the woman before focusing on the mum

By Shirin Tahmasebi

If someone asked you to run a mile, I bet you would… in the opposite direction.

In hope of changing that, Emma Stott, wellbeing and parenting coach, believes that exercise and mindfulness, can improve your anxiety and stress levels significantly.

“I wanted to help other mums like me who were craving balance and lacking time and feeling lost as I have for many years without recognising my purpose or passion. I don’t think I ever knew that.

Lacking confidence and self-esteem, not coping well but doing everything for everyone else and leaving myself till last. Now I teach mums to put themselves first.”

Working in Education

Emma has spent most of her career life in schools, starting out as an assistant support specialist, to becoming a learning mentor, however, also trained as a personal trainer through her time in education.

This training is where Emma started to recognise her passion for exercise and how it positively impacted her wellbeing, but is also a time where Emma took the pressure of becoming a single mum.

Emma came to notice a common theme throughout her time working in schools; the parents always questioned her about ‘fixing’ their child rather than helping their child.

“I noticed there was a theme underlying, ‘fix my child’. They would say ‘there’s a problem with my child’ but then I remember I was thinking to myself, is it the child? It may be but I thought, we need to work with the parents, and then see if we can get them to regulate their emotions because children copy what the parents do.”

Emma soon took up a job in adoption as a family support worker and has worked there for the last three years. Here she deals with a lot of emotional dysregulation trauma, attachment difficulties and behaviours.

It was here, in April 2020 where the thought of parents found its way back into Emma’s head once again.

“That led me to think again about maybe how we need to do things a bit differently and maybe it’s the parents that need a bit more support, which came to this bit where I wanted to be where I am a parent, wellbeing and parenting coach, so I’m doing the job.”

After April, Emma decided to retrain as a personal trainer and life coach but found herself becoming sick regularly and was experiencing the worst burnout she has had up to this day and never understood why she felt so rundown and sick until recently, when she was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory arthritis. A mix of her being off sick and the pandemic meant that Emma couldn’t return to work until June of 2020.

It was only then that she recognised how much she overworked herself and decided it was time for change in her life.

Time for Change

Emma took on less hours at work to focus on herself, and to avoid the impossible of juggling equal time for her health and work. But balancing work and health also came with the responsibility of being a parent.

Having three children can be hard for some parents, but with one at University, one living with his mum and another being the dream child helping around the house, Emma is currently at that point in her life where she can mostly focus on herself. 

The Pandemic vs the business

Emma had hoped to be a one-to-one coach but was forced to revert to online coaching as the country faced a national lockdown last year. 

“Everything had to be on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, if you could do that. Then I was trying to work on three platforms at once which messed with my head because it was too much.

Then I realised that I was going to have to go live, so that means I’m going to have to be more confident in selling things and saying what I do.”

Tackling self-confidence became a prominent factor in the success of Emma’s business.

“I needed to be seen for my business, so that means I need to step out of the comfort zone, and I’m used to doing it at work and training and doing adoption, but it’s different than it is online, just feels a bit weird. I think I’ve gotten over that now.”

Emma found working online a difficult task as body language is an important element when it comes to figuring out and helping someone. Nevertheless, she adapted to the situation and has found a way to help her clients using her own personal experiences.

During her time coaching and helping people, Emma finds herself relating to many of the issues that come up with the fellow parents. 

“Lots of my clients are saying that they’re really grateful. I think because I’ve experienced what they are currently going through, I just get it. You just understand. So, you know when they’re talking and you say, ‘Oh, I bet you felt like that, didn’t you’ and they say, ‘Yeah, how did you know’ and I reply with; ‘because I felt it too’. 

You can’t tell them what to do, unless you’ve gone through it yourself. That’s how people know you’re genuine because they know exactly that you felt what they felt to or are feeling separately.”

Well-being and Parenting

Emma currently offers a one to one coaching and therapeutic programme which uses CBT and EFT and the tried and tested, personally by herself, techniques such as tapping, meditation and mindfulness.

The programme is targeted at mums who struggle with stress or anxiety or just general feel overwhelmed and hoped to calm them initially.

The process of the programme looks at the different stages your brain goes through when experiencing anxiety or stress. Emma discussed the stages with us:

“Your brain will go into fight, flight, freeze mode and it thinks that it’s under attack, so you have to come up first because that part of your brain will let you access the logic. Here, you’re in your primitive brain, and you’re just absolutely out there and you don’t know what the hell’s going on. 

So, we have to get them come first and into the next part of the brain, which is the limbic brain. This part is all about attachment, belonging, love, support, and then you move them into the logical brain, which is where you can process things and kind of help make sense of everything that’s happened.”

After these stages have been identified with the client, Emma intends to go through a time management plan and talk through what the client hopes to achieve within the time they have in the programme.

What Emma hopes they will achieve is being able to manage and discipline those intrusive thoughts of self-doubt and self-loathing and for mums to be able to go be at home with their kids and project none of those anxious feelings onto their children.

After the nineteen weeks of the programme are up, clients will then be offered a ninety-minute consultation where a plan will be made with scheduled actions then can do daily for themselves to keep up the positivity. For example, one of these actions may be the likes of mindfulness, meditation or tapping techniques, already taught within the programme. 

“My mission is to empower mums to create time and balance and find themselves again. I focus on the woman first then the mum.”

Thank you to Emma for sharing your story with us!

To find out more about Emma’s wonderful campaign, Follow her Instagram and join her Facebook group below:



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Self-Doubt to Self-Belief: Finding your way through a maze of doubt and reaching for the stars

By Shirin Tahmasebi

From cutting men’s hair in the middle of Liverpool to becoming a coach for self-belief and confidence, Jan Ockendon joined us to talk about her struggles with her own self confidence and a new coaching programme she is due to release this year.

With heaps of self-doubt going through her mind, the qualified psychodynamic therapist mum of four, thrives in the world of mental health as she fought her way up through her own struggles, to creating a programme to help others with theirs.

However, since the dreaded pandemic hit the world in early 2020, eager not to have someone else’s ‘targets and expectations’ on her back, Jan came to the realisation that her ideal work involved her being her own boss and so began to set up her own business, whilst working full time.

“I’m in the process of launching at the moment. I think working from home in the pandemic finally made me realise this is what I want. To work from home but as my own boss and not have someone else’s targets and expectations”

Jan told us while discussing her plans for her future launch of ‘Self-Doubt to Self-Belief’.

The start of self doubt

Jan has tackled many different types of jobs; one being working and riding horses. However, it seems a common theme that stuck with Jan throughout her working life, was that she was never good enough to pursue these as life careers. When talking about her time with horses, she told us:

“I know that I was a good rider, I know I had a really good seat, but I was so lacking in confidence, so I never did anything with it.”

This lack of confidence carried through into Jan’s eventual ascent into her mental health career.

Mum Doubt

When delivering her first baby, Jan experienced her first feelings of self-doubt as a new mum. Back in the 90’s, they had a group of professionals walk around the hospital, making decisions on which care would best fit each patient.

It is here where Jan was so cold-heartedly told she was a “failure”.

“I lay in that bed, very sore because I’d had a caesarean, then a baby who was not feeding and then when she didn’t feed, she would scream because she had bellyache, because they were stuffing me full of antibiotics. All I heard from the midwives was ‘Caesarean section, because she failed to dilate’.”

This left Jan with an overwhelming sense of defeat, right after she had gone through a tough time in delivering her baby girl.

“They often talked like that and it fired me up.

I thought, do you know what, it’s no wonder that women go home and get post natal depression and think that they’ve they’re failures because they’ve had a c section, or because they’ve had to have a forceps delivery.

Because that’s how we’re talking about them.

Dynamically that’s going to transfer into that woman’s head. It’s bit like manifesting. That was what started my self doubt as a mother”

However, Jan pushed through the doubt and continued her work as a nurse, but soon took an easy five years out of working as a nurse when her second child was born, but became a childminder during this period.

Finding her way

After the five years, Jan decided to return back to her job as a nurse and was back to working with a mental health service again, before settling down in primary care.

“I wanted to be in primary care. I wanted to work in a sector where I felt I could make a big difference. Particularly to people who self-doubt.”

Jan’s journey for her dream occupation working with people who suffer with self-doubt began as she was determined to not ‘do anything by halves’ and went straight for the top, Tavistock Clinic based in North London, to do her training.

“Eventually I did my degree. I managed to get a 2-1. Then I could go on and do a master’s level course and that’s where I got into therapy. I trained and did a foundation course in that, and I never do anything by halves, so I had to work at Tavistock Clinic.”

Despite the pass marks for the Tavistock test being significantly high, Jan managed to secure a spot on a training course with the clinic and start the process of qualifying as the psychodynamic personal therapist she is today.

Being a therapist is enough for her, but she wished she could experience the more ‘in depth’ areas of therapy, as she believes the sixteen sessions patients are given isn’t enough.

“It doesn’t go into that real in-depth stuff that I really like.

A slow getting to know somebody; getting to know how they think, being able to think about why this is affecting me the way it is and if it’s affected me like this, does that mean something about the patient.

You can do a bit of that but it’s not as extreme, just not as meaty, I suppose”

Nonetheless, the restrictions at her workplace didn’t stop Jan from getting those ‘meaty’ sessions with patients.

Though the pandemic has been a real struggle for some, Jan thrived during her time off from work as she has begun to branch out on her own, letting go of her own limiting beliefs as well as helping others with theirs.

Becoming her own boss

During lockdown, Jan started to complete a coaching course, this opened up a world of creation for her and who is now creating her own belief programme so that she can help other women let go of their own negative beliefs.

The programme is to last eight weeks for each individual that joins.

Branching out on her own has not only made time for Jan to kickstart her own business but to also work on her social media skills. She now runs her own blog in which she never thought she would do due to her self-doubt problems.

“It’s also allowed me to set up my own instagram, my website and do blogs on my website.

I would never have done that before, I would never have written blogs because I would have thought, who wants to listen to what I’ve got to say? What can I say that nobody else can say?”

Jan discussed the plans for her programme with us. It looks at how doubt starts in our minds and how identifying what is ‘poking’ these feelings into action and then separating said thoughts and feelings and how the voice in your head often pulls you down. In Jan’s words:

“I want to ask lots of questions; what does this mean to you, how it has affected you, how can we change that. What would it be like to be different? What are you looking forward to about being different? How’s it limiting your life? And what would it be like to change that? 

Getting people to imagine sitting in that different belief and then rewriting the story and saying okay well this is what I want to believe so.

Not, I am going to believe it just because I want to, but how do I get there.”

In due course, Jan hopes to help people either eliminate those feelings or at least start the process of getting rid of them.

The feedback she has received since putting herself out there has been phenomenal, her audience are as excited as we are to start Jan’s programme. It took the twenty-nine years after her daughter was born for Jan to start feeling more confident in herself, but she is now blooming in the world of social media, as her own boss.

Thank you Jan for sharing your wonderful and inspiring story with us.

If you would like to find out more or see when Jan is to release her programme follow her on Facebook and Instagram below.



Or visit her website:

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‘Mental health isn’t just something a magic pill will fix’: How one brave business woman is using her own difficult experience to help others


They say everything happens for a reason, that sometimes the hardest times happen because they are taking us on an unplanned, unexpected path in life – something Sophie Mei Lan and Amy Downes (Co-Founders of Sparkle Up North) can certainly attest to.

Holistic Healer Abi Fenton has been on one of those journeys: after 11 years in teaching, her own mental health problems lead to a surprise career change and now she wants to share her experience to help other people.

‘I taught mainly in a special needs school, helping children with multiple learning difficulties, and I really loved it. But as you’ll hear from a lot of teachers, the stress on the paperwork side became too much.’

Abi was invited by her managers to attend a leadership training course, learning skills that would prove to be worthwhile at a later date, but when she returned to her ‘day job’, her mental health had clearly shifted.

‘Something just hit me and I couldn’t leave my house, I couldn’t even go to the garden to put the washing out. I was breathless and I was dizzy. I just felt so low that I couldn’t do anything.’

‘One day in school, I was literally holding on to the handrail because I felt so ill, looking back I can see that was all down to my anxiety.’

Symptoms of anxiety were missed

Frustratingly, this wasn’t picked up straight away by her doctor. After various blood tests came back clear, she was told it was chronic fatigue syndrome and just advised to rest – something that isn’t so easy for an ambitious working mum who was a teacher.

It was at this point that Abi seems to have taken control of her own fate, for it was her that suggested to her doctor that it might, in fact, be anxiety and she was prescribed beta-blockers for this. She also began a course of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which began her on a journey of self-discovery that was to change the course of her career and, of course, her mental health recovery.

‘I found that really useful, just to help me understand what anxiety was. That also lead to me having counselling a bit later on, which really helped me find the root cause to my problems of anxiety and health anxiety.’

Meanwhile, she made a huge decision for her career: ‘I was finding there was no way I could manage my health while continuing in teaching. So I decided to leave that profession and it’s the best decision I’ve probably made for my mental health.’

Beginning to understand her condition a little bit more, she decided, understandably, that she didn’t want to continue with the beta blockers because it was impacted her health anxiety, she knew that something more in depth was needed to help her.

Alternative therapies for mental health

‘I’d been gifted a little treatment from a complimentary therapist, so I just decided to contact her and see if she could help me.’

Abi started having reflexology treatments, followed by reiki and hypnotherapy and immediately felt the benefit from them. But her interest and belief in them didn’t stop there, she saw an opportunity to help other women who were struggling, like her. It was actually her therapist that suggested she begin her own business in alternative therapies:

‘I was always asking her questions about the treatments, wanting to know more, and she said to me, ‘maybe you should have a look into doing these things yourself!’

Abi started training in reflexology and qualified in February 2018, which is when she went ahead with setting her business up, and went on to add all the other treatments that she had received herself.

‘I wanted to train because I’ve seen the amazing benefits that it’s brought to me in my life and I want to share how other people can benefit from it too.’

‘I want people to know there are other things out there, because so many people just go to their GP and get medication. I just think people aren’t aware of all these amazing other therapies to help them manage their anxiety.’

A long-term journey to recovery

She is keen to highlight that mental health is a long journey, a journey she takes her clients on to reach a better place in their life.

‘Mental health is a long term thing that you need to commit yourself to. It’s not something that you can just take a magic pill and solve everything. You don’t go to the gym and think you’re going to lose all this weight and be fit and healthy just from one session at the gym, do you?’

With the troubling times that we have all been through over the past year, Abi is conscious that this support is needed now more than ever before. The ONS (Office of National Statistics) recently revealed that one in five adults have experienced depressive symptoms in last quarter, compared to one in ten before the pandemic outbreak.

Stephen Buckley from Mental Health charity Mind said “We cannot underestimate the impact that the pandemic has had on the nation’s mental health – whether that’s bereavement, the devastating loss of life, the impact of lockdown, or the impact of the latest economic recession which may have affected our jobs and livelihoods.

Abi told us, ‘This past year has just made me realise I really do want to help as many people as I can with their mental health. I think it’s key to me, as well as through my work, to speak out about mental health and that’s why I feel more confident and comfortable sharing my story.’

‘If you’re struggling and all those thoughts and feelings are escalating, it can easily get out of control and start affecting things in your life. That’s when you know may need some support… to rein yourself back and teach you all the tools and techniques.’

‘Everyone has these struggles: I’m not perfect, I do have those bad days where I might be in tears and feeling rubbish, but it’s how you turn it around and I think it’s talking about it as well.’

‘I was in that sort of by the place that I needed that support and I saw the benefits of having all these treatments. I don’t think I’d be where I am now without the having those treatments.’

For Mental Health Awareness month, Abi is running lots of events to support Leeds Mind which we’d love to share with you:

  • She is running 75 miles to raise money (‘I can’t believe I’m doing that!’), you can support her here.
  • She is donating 10% of all her treatments
  • And she’s taking part in a challenge called Carry the Burden, where participants will carry an item with them for 24 hours to raise awareness that mental health is invisible and that we often carry these burdens without people noticing or knowing about it

We’d like to say a huge thank you to Abi for sharing her story with Sparkle Up North and wish her the very best of luck with her fundraising this month. You can join her Facebook group or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

If you’d like to be considered to be included in our online magazine, drop us a line on or follow us and

the real way women in business can protect their wellbeing


When you run your own business, prioritising your physical and mental wellbeing can be a challenge. Between looking after our careers, homes, families and social commitments – keeping fit and healthy can easily drop to the bottom of the to-do list.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, we’ve been asking guest speakers and our featured female entrepreneurs to share their expert knowledge on how we, as busy working women, can take care of our wellbeing. Today, it’s the turn of mental health and wellbeing coach Jane Etty.

Jane Etty is a health and wellbeing coach

As women, parents, partners and professionals, we juggle a lot of balls in life. Quite frankly we are amazing. However, there are times when it can feel like it’s only a matter of time before one of those balls drops. Our numerous responsibilities and roles we play in life can feel overwhelming.

Managing our mental health is an ongoing process and we are all vulnerable to the impact of stress, anxiety and overwhelm; the ongoing pandemic will only add to our worries. We all need a toolbox to help manage our wellbeing so today I’d like to talk a little bit more about some simple strategies that may help you with this. I will focus on managing wellbeing at work on a day-to-day basis.

When I was asked to write this blog on managing mental health and women in business, I looked back on my own journey.

Just under a year ago, I launched my own business. It has been quite the challenge exploring the business world whilst also being a mum, working part-time for the NHS and managing my own mental health during a pandemic.

I had all the skills I may need, holding various degrees, diplomas and life coaching qualifications, I had next to no business knowledge or experience. The challenge for me was to gain more business knowledge and experience, as well as
being brave and putting myself out there, whilst also juggling my other roles.

At times I felt frustrated, overwhelmed, and anxious. I wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew. However, I persevered and made it through to 2021 with a stronger mindset, more confidence and a great sense of achievement. So, here are some top tips I have learnt along the way.

Be cautious with social media and limit screen time

Using social media as a means of building a business is useful but time consuming. Due to many of us now working from home, and the multitude of online meetings that come along with this, it has created the need for more screen time. Whilst networking is great for connecting with others and gathering support, it can also be quite draining.

Streamlining what you do and when is very important to help you to use your time well. Use the apps on your phone to monitor your use and review how useful the time spent has been.

It is also important to avoid doom scrolling and consuming a large amount of negative news online, as this can be detrimental to your mental health.

Try not to compare yourself to others

Many women have reached out to me and said they can see others doing amazingly well, whilst they are just managing to keep their head above water. Whilst it is great to share our success in business and sometimes reading about others can be motivating, if you are in the midst of your own personal struggles it can be unhelpful.

It may be useful to talk to people and find out what they are doing in the hope of using other’s strengths and expertise to help you in your business and personal life. However, it is important to remember that you have your own unique style and creativity, and you need to take your own path.

It is easy to compare ourselves to our competitors, especially their financial achievements, but your journey is not going to be the same. Whilst it is good to have goals in mind, remember that you are exactly where you need to be.

Remind yourself of your achievements and allow yourself the time to develop at your own rate. We can all suffer from
imposter syndrome, and not feeling good enough, but it is important to recognise our own strengths and celebrate them.

Prioritise yourself

Working hard does not always mean working long hours, without breaks and with no time for yourself. Be sure to show yourself the compassion and kindness you deserve, know your worth and make time for self care.

To maintain a healthy mindset and prevent burnout, pay attention and listen to what your body needs, for example do you need to schedule in regular meals or factor in some quick nourishing snacks and water throughout the day?

It can be quite easy to forget to pay attention to your basic human needs and dehydration is a common cause of headaches. Schedule in some time to switch off, rest and recharge. Take regular breaks and do what you need to do to feel good.

Allow yourself to try different types of rest. Taking time out from work is a great reset button. Yes, this can be a challenge but the benefits to this are long lasting and will improve your overall efficiency at work. Perhaps take a mental health day or just a couple of hours for yourself to go for a walk.

Be sure to get that early night; remember, some things really can and do need to wait until the

Create a pleasant working environment

Try to have a clear workspace. Make sure it is tidy and organised as this will help productivity.

If you are working from home, perhaps light an energising or relaxing candle. Have some motivating or
comforting reminders around you to help centre your thoughts. It really does make a huge
difference to your mental health when your office space is feeling Zen.

This might all be a little easier for those people without school-aged children, but do the best you can with what you have.

Plan and prioritise

We can all quite easily feel overworked; it can seem difficult to master the art of work and life

If you often wake up first thing worrying about the day ahead and feeling overwhelmed, it could be time to think about how you organise your time. By planning the week ahead, you can set yourself up for success.

Start the working day by looking at the number of tasks that you have. Ask yourself what is realistic and achievable. To get the best out of the hours in your day, it is important to make sure that you prioritise your tasks and recognise what is most important.

You can use these four categories to prioritise your tasks:

— Urgent and important
— Important but not urgent
— Urgent but not important
— Neither urgent nor important

It is also important to plan in one thing daily that adds value and joy to your life. Small daily victories really do boost self-esteem and wellbeing.

Use time blocks during the day

Create and allocate time blocks throughout your day to complete your tasks. Be sure to include breaks! We often put unrealistic expectations on ourselves as to how much we can get done in one hour or in a day. By being realistic, you will feel a greater sense of achievement when you complete your tasks.

Allocate time to check emails and messages during the day; this may not seem important, but you can lose so much time by being on your phone, checking emails and responding to messages. Breaking off from a task in hand or multi-tasking is an ineffective use of time as it reduces efficiency and productivity.

Create no interruption zones in your day; turn off your notifications and emails. Without these distractions you will be much more productive with your time.

Use a brain dump sheet or a to-do list

This can be as simple as a piece of paper. Add any additional ideas, actions or details that come up throughout the day to your list. These can then be added to your priority list if needed, when you come to plan for the next day.

Take regular breaks

This sounds obvious right, but how many of you have found that you have unintentionally been sat at your desk for too long with an aching back, feeling thirsty or hungry. Working your entire day through without taking a break results in fatigue?

A few five-minute breaks and a longer break during the day will make all the difference to your concentration levels. When taking a break, be sure to change your environment and leave your working space. Physically move your body by standing or walking; try to move at least once every hour.

Go and make a drink; I drink herbal tea and make sure my water jug is readily available in the kitchen so that I have to break off briefly between meetings or tasks to grab a drink.

For your longer breaks try phoning a friend, having a shower, talking a walk, having a cup of tea with your partner or anything to create a real separation and break for yourself.

During this time, avoid looking at your phone and work station. Remember, it is counterproductive to work through your entire day without taking a break!

Learn from experience

Take time to review your week. Pick out the positives and do more of these. Identify the pitfalls or problems you faced; don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t achieve everything you set out to. Instead, ask yourself how you could manage a similar problem differently next time so that you are more prepared.

I hope you have enjoyed these top tips from me, Jane Etty, and found them useful. Good luck and let me know how you get on!

We would like to say a huge thank you to Jane for sharing these really practical tips and will be giving them all a try this week! You can follow Jane on Instagram and Facebook or connect with her on LinkedIn.

With lockdown easing, is there a risk it will be too difficult to stick to our quarantine diets?


It’s almost three weeks since the government allowed hospitality businesses to welcome customers back into their gardens and we’ve all been enjoying a return to freshly pulled pints and dinner out.

But what does that mean for our diets? Will all those promises to be healthy during lockdown now fly out of the window? We spoke to Nutritionist Lizzi Owiredu to find out how she is helping families to stay on track with their health goals.

Do you remember social media this time last year? It was filled with friends and family making a commitment to do more home cooking, bake banana bread and make the most of their ‘one exercise a day’.

I remember determinedly starting the Couch 2 5k training and knowing that this was a great chance to finally complete it (I’m up to Week 4 Run 3) and we swore we’d stop ordering takeaways to try and save money (this weekend we had 4 takeaways in 4 days). Whoops.

Lizzi Owiredu, AKA Nutri-Coach-Mumma, looks back on that time and explains why she thinks there was this nationwide health kick:

‘Since the first lockdown’, the mum of one tells us, ‘people have been more open to trying things like batch cooking, because they’ve actually had the time. They haven’t been out all day at work, so in the evening they don’t mind doing a bit of cooking, checking whether they’ve got room in the freezer.’

Some of her clients even had a kitchen-focused spring clean, allowing them to start from scratch with their health habits and work towards having a better diet. Clearing out the cupboards made room for them to add in items that would be better for them, to change up their old habits.

‘Normally, when people come to me, they have a ‘weight loss’ goal in mind. But I found that people were more open to looking at things like mindfulness and introducing intuitive eating into their lives. I think people did a lot of reflection and that allowed me to work with people through their actual eating behaviours, food education and relationships with it.’

Lockdown has increased the problems those with eating disorders face

Lizzi is keen to stress that she doesn’t want to tell people what they can or can’t eat, because she believes that can have a negative impact and the science backs this up too!

‘I would never say: don’t order a takeaway because I believe in ‘everything in moderation’ and that the more you restrict something, the more you want something.’ 

‘Lockdown has made people think more about what they’re doing with their intake and that’s had a knock-on effect: some people have been feeling quite guilty about eating the wrong things, they’ve beaten themselves up about it.’ 

Sadly, the link between lockdown and our health has not been an entirely positive story, when former Big Brother star Nikki Grahame passed away recently, the link between isolation and eating disorders was highlighted.

Her mother’s harrowing words have really hit home for us here at Sparkle Up North and we were shocked to learn that this is something Lizzi has come across a lot in her line of work:

‘I know from talking with other people and different Nutritionists from the industry that there has been an increase in eating disorders due to lockdown.’ 

So, as we come out of lockdown and have access to much more variety, let alone fat and sugar, it seems like this is a good time to examine our eating behaviours. This is a big part of what Lizzie does and she says how you view food can be influenced by events as long ago as your childhood: 

‘Babies are born as intuitive eaters, it’s something that’s biologically formed within us. But gradually, as we grow older, we’re given mixed messages, for example: ‘Oh, you must finish your plate or you’ve got to eat this thing you don’t like.’ 

‘When children get to the age of two to four, they suddenly have the power to say no to something, often something they’ve had yesterday and loved and now refuse to touch it! We often actually need to take ourselves right back to the beginning stages and learning to trust how we feel.’ 

Listening to your body 

It’s this theory of following what your body is telling you to do that Lizzi focuses on when she supports clients. 

‘My methods are all around intuitive eating: So, that means learning to listen to what the body is telling you, rather than going on a strict diet plan and having lots of restrictions. I’m more likely to recommend additions to people’s diets, than take things away.’ 

Lizzi works with a wide variety of clients, including mums-to-be or women who are trying to get pregnant and she will stay with them right until when the child is weaning. She also works with clients who have different conditions, like diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome.

And to allow her to help even more women, she works with brands as a Nutritionist, to advice on their products.

At the moment, I’m working with some Yorkshire-based brands, I put together a blog post for them, but also look at their product to explain things like what it does when it’s cooked, how it can react in your body and so on.’

Small steps to a healthier lifestyle

What we love most about Lizzi’s work is that she’s all about making small changes to your life, something we can all benefit from as busy, working women.

‘I look at a client’s current habits: where they normally shop and what their budget is, but also what they’re eating at the moment. It’s not like I’m suggesting something completely out of the ordinary, it’s just small changes that we could make.’ 

‘I will looking at introducing steps that are simple, so stuff like ‘cupboard staples’. ‘freezer staples’ that you can grab easily but will have an overall positive impact on nutrition.’ 

This is definitely a philosophy we can get on board and we hope that by sharing Lizzi’s advice we can help our readers consider their own relationship with food, something Lizzi works hard at doing too.

‘Being a Nutritionist is never just about food. For me, it’s about looking at people as a whole. One thing I would say is to work on listening to your body, not being influenced by what you see on your social media feed.’ 

‘If your body’s telling you that you’re hungry even though you’ve just eaten, have a little bit more. If your body’s telling you’ve got this massive plate of food in front of you and you’re feeling full, take a break.’ 

‘It’s all about what you and your journey.’ 

12 months on, we’re returning to some kind of normal for what will hopefully be the last time and the excitement of having someone else cook our meals and being able to drink a cold glass of wine in our favourite beer gardens is taking hold.

If you’d like some help creating and sticking to a healthy eating plan, Lizzie plans to release a new, online course very soon which you can access at a time that suits you.

‘It’s going to be really practical, it’ll have things like recipes and advice broken down into simple steps. It will be applicable for the whole family in terms of looking at eating relationships and behaviours and working on ‘fussy eating’.’

‘It’s all about changing those foods, beverages, and making life easier for the whole family.’

Lizzi is also available for 121 Nutrition coaching sessions which can be booked via her website or emailing . You can also catch-up with her life as a Mum on the socials @nutricoachmumma

If you, or someone you know, are struggling with your relationship with food or an eating disorder, here is some more information that may help you.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to Lizzi for sharing her story with Sparkle Up North and wish her the very best of luck in 2021.

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